Back when I took my first international trip, most people took traveler’s checks, and converted them to local currency. While the traveler’s checks were protected, in the event of theft, once they were turned into cash, you became vulnerable.
Now, though, many people prefer to travel with credit cards. It’s easier than carrying cash, you can rack up more rewards, you have theft protection, and many establishments overseas will accept various credit cards (especially Visa and MasterCard). If you decide to travel with a credit card, here are 6 things to keep in mind:
1. Let Your Credit Card Issuer Know
One of the best things you can do before you leave is to contact your credit card issuer and let them know that you will be going overseas. You don’t need an exact itinerary, but you should let your issuer know where you are going, and the approximate dates you will be gone. Otherwise, you might find yourself cut off as the credit card issuer attempts to “protect” you from suspicious activity.
2. Understand the Fees Involved
Find out what fees are charged before you leave. Some credit cards charge foreign transactions fees, as well as currency conversion fees. Understand what fees will be charged, and whether there are ways to waive them. You want to make sure that you are prepared for fees that might be charged. With the right credit card, though, your fees shouldn’t be much more than the fees/commissions you would be charged for changing traveler’s checks and cash.
3. Limit Which Cards You Take
As always, when you travel it’s best to limit what you take with you. Figure out which cards you want to take, and then empty your wallet of other cards. Reconsider the idea of taking a debit card. Providing someone else access to your checking account, and trying to fix it while halfway around the world, can be difficult. Pare down what you take, and limit your credit cards to two or three.
4. Know How to Contact Your Credit Card Issuer
If your card is lost or stolen, you want to know how to contact your issuers. Keep the information about your credit card account numbers, phone numbers and more separate from your credit cards. Some people like to leave that information with a trusted relative back home, and then call for the information if something happens.
5. Try to Choose the “Local Currency” Option
When possible, ask that your transactions be completed in “local currency,” rather than in dollars. You’ll still pay a foreign transaction fee, but you won’t have to pay a currency conversion fee on top of it.
6. Don’t Completely Shun Cash
You should still carry some cash in the local currency with you. In some cases, you might not be able to use a credit card, so having a little cash on hand is helpful. Before you exchange your money, find out ahead of time where the best places to change your money are. Commissions/fees sometimes vary, depending on where you go.