Tips about Credit Cards When Traveling Abroad

credit card graphicFirst of all, I prefer writing about fun stuff, so I will apologize right now.  This is kind of boring stuff but at the same time it is important to add to your travel planning.

There are three important things you need to do regarding your bank and your credit cards.  Don’t put them off.  Do them way ahead of time so you have one less thing to do right before you go.  Item #2 needs to be done several weeks ahead of time.

  1. Notify your bank ahead of time when you go abroad. You must call or go online and let your bank know where and when you will be traveling. It is a requirement for security purposes. If you do not do this, your bank will close your account when you try to use it in a foreign country. It is the world we live in now. This cautionary step actually is a good thing, unless of course, you didn’t inform your bank. So take care of this before you go.  Oh, and don’t forget this includes travel to Canada!
  2. Global Chip Credit Cards. Europe is ahead of us when it comes to providing better and more secure credit cards. They have a global chip in their cards which protects their customers more. Credit card companies in the US are slowly switching over to this type of credit card, however, if you are going on a trip to Europe, I highly suggest that you call at least 4-5 weeks before your trip and ask that your bank issue you this kind of card. You will keep the same credit card number; you’ll just get a new and improved one in the mail, at no charge. Usually takes up to ten days, but I suggest doing it sooner than later. Why have a bunch of loose ends to clear up at the last minute?
  3. Find out what bank fees will be charged when using your debit or credit cards in a foreign country. While you have your credit card company on the phone, find out what charges you will incur while using your card in a foreign country. Banks will charge you a fee for your cash advance at an ATM machine and also a conversion fee for individual purchases. Usually, the ATM fee is a flat fee. (In our case, it was a $5 fee.)  The conversion fee ranges from 1% to 3%.   If you have more than one credit card, you may find one card is better for ATM withdrawals and the other better for purchases.

Just know what the charges are so you aren’t surprised when you get home and start looking at your bank statement.  Keep in mind that you will always need some cash.  Restaurants and small shops sometimes don’t take credit cards.  Some places don’t take American Express because they charge higher fees to vendors than other credit cards.  Be prepared and be careful with your credit cards.