Travelling abroad with credit cards

I have friends who believe in not using credit cards at all in order to control their spending. I say to them, you must carry a credit card when traveling abroad. You never know when you get into a situation when you need extra cash (such as when all airlines stopped operating due to the volcanic ash from Iceland last year) or when you get stranded in a foreign country against your wishes.

Here are some tips I have listed that will help you in better managing your credit cards while on your next trip overseas:

Research the country you will be traveling to and find out what are the acceptable cards there. Some countries, such as India do not accept Discover cards at most outlets. You can easily find this out by visiting a local hotel web site and looking at their reservation page.

Make sure you carry the same card that you use to make your travel reservations with. Sometimes, the airline or hotel would ask you for it.

You don’t need to carry all your cards with you. Carry only 2-3 credit cards, plus your debit card with you. I find my bank offers me the best conversion rate on foreign currencies and no ATM fees anywhere in the world. Therefore, I just withdraw cash as and when I need it.

Most credit cards offer a transaction fee when using the card outside US. Call your credit card company and ask them their rates before deciding on which one to carry with you.

If you are planning to go outside the country for a longer period of time (1 month+) call your credit card company and ask them to issue you another local card so that you are not paying a transaction fee every time. If they say no, call their local office in the country you are in once you get there.

Call your credit card company and let them know where and when you will be travelling. If you fail to do so, you may find that your card has been put on fraud alert and you no longer have access to it.

Make sure you make a photocopy of each card or write the card number and customer service number. This will be handy in case your card is lost or stolen. You will be able to call the bank and cancel your card immediately.  

To avoid scams when travelling abroad, I recommend using credit cards only at reputable facilities. Use cash at restaurants, smaller shops, tours, etc. If the establishment does not have a web site, it will be hard to dispute any false charges later on. Do not give your card to individuals under any circumstances.

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