Using your credit card while traveling abroad requires planning and forethought in order to avoid high fees, fraudulent charges, and other challenges that may come your way. In this post, we’ll break down all of the strategizing into five, easy-to-follow steps for your convenience:
1. Keep your Card Issuer Informed of your Plans
Even if you don’t realize it, your bank uses sophisticated security software to prevent fraudulent purchases from being made without your knowledge. That’s why your bank will put a hold on purchases that it finds suspicious, such as if your card is being used at a distance thousands of miles away from where you usually use it. This is why it’s essential to call your card issuer before you begin traveling and let them know your plans, otherwise you run the risk of your credit card being declined.
2. Look into your Foreign Transaction Fees
If you’re not using a travel credit card, then there’s a good chance that you’ll be charged a steep foreign transaction fee for every single purchase that you make abroad. Depending on the credit or debit card that you use, that fee could be as much as 5% of your purchase, which can add up to a lot of money wasted on unnecessary fees. The way around this is simple—sign up for a travel credit card which eliminates foreign transaction fees, so you’ll be able to spend abroad just like you do at home.
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3. Bring a Debit Card to Withdraw Cash
Withdrawing cash from a foreign ATM using your credit card can result in wildly exorbitant fees that nobody should ever have to pay. Make sure to bring along a debit card—also call your bank in advance and provide them with a travel notice—so that you’ll have access to cash. If you have more than one debit card, then the best choice is to pack the one which has the lowest ATM fees. The best scenario, if you travel frequently, is to choose a bank which will reimburse your ATM fees, since these can add up quickly when traveling abroad.
4. Consider Raising your ATM Withdrawal Limit
If the debit card you’re packing has sizable ATM fees, then consider calling your bank to raise your ATM limit. This will allow you to withdraw from the ATM fewer times, reducing the amount of fees you’ll have to pay. However, depending on the safety on the region where you’re traveling, you should be wary of walking around with too much cash in your wallet.
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5. Keep an Eye on your Statement
It’s not uncommon for travelers to be charged twice for the same transaction, such as if you’ve unknowingly paid for your hotel room via credit card and then repaid the hotel in cash when you checked in. Keep receipts and make sure that you’re not being double charged for any of your purchases. Additionally, paying attention to your credit card activity will safeguard you against a foreign merchant billing you for purchases you haven’t made.
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