In times past, traveling to another country meant keeping your credit card in your wallet and bringing along enough cash to fund your trip. You might be able to find a place that would accept an American credit card if you needed more money, but there was no guarantee.
Nowadays, though, thanks to technological advancements and the widespread presence of many financial institutions, you can use your credit cards in many other countries as easily as you’d use them in the United States. However, there are some things you should know about using credit cards internationally that will help you avoid any unpleasant snags in your trip.
Pack a Credit Card That is Widely Accepted
If you plan to use a credit card abroad, make sure it’s either Visa or Mastercard. These two companies are accepted throughout the world, and you have a better chance of either one being accepted by a merchant than companies like Discover or American Express.
This doesn’t mean that American Express and Discover have no international presence, though. Both companies are working hard to raise their acceptance rates throughout the world. However, if your main credit card is through American Express or Discover, you should also carry a Visa or Mastercard credit card as backup.
Speaking of which…
Have a Backup Plan
In addition to having a backup credit card, you’ll also want to carry some backup cash. There are always some merchants that won’t accept credit cards as payment, and in those situations you’ll be glad you had some money on you.
Of course, cash has some disadvantages when compared to a credit card, namely that there’s no way to recover money if it gets lost or stolen. Make sure you divide your cash and keep it in different secure areas, like a locked pouch in your suitcase, a hidden pocket or a money belt. You’ll also want to carry small bills so you don’t tempt thieves by waving around large sums of money.
Let the Credit Card Company Know Where You’re Going
If your credit card company suddenly sees a bunch of transactions in one or more foreign countries, you could forgive them for wondering if someone has stolen your identity. You can set your credit card company’s mind at ease by contacting them before you leave. If you don’t, your credit card company might freeze your account to stop your card from being used for any additional transactions, and you’ll have to contact them anyway to get your account unfrozen.
It's worth pointing out that if you use a First Alliance credit card, you can also use the My Cards controls to put limits on the geographic areas you can use your credit card. This is an ideal way to not only let credit card companies know where you are using your credit card, but also to keep identity thieves from using your credit card information simply by stopping your card from being used overseas after you return.
Get a Card With no Foreign Transaction Fees
Some credit cards charge an additional fee if you make a purchase outside of the United States, usually around 3% of each transaction. This might not seem like a lot, but it can add up quickly.
Before you travel to another country, make sure that any credit cards you bring along won’t charge you a fee on foreign transaction. If all your cards have foreign transaction fees, you may want to sign up for a card without them before you go on your trip.
Ask About Your Cards Travel Protections
Some credit cards, especially ones that offer rewards for travelers—also offer travel insurance that can potentially cover anything from delayed flights to car accidents. Check with your credit card company to see if they offer any travel protection, and if they do what that protection covers.
Have a Great Overseas Trip With First Alliance Credit Union
Most of the time, you can use your credit cards when you travel internationally. However, before you travel you’ll want to make sure you have a Visa or Mastercard that doesn’t charge foreign transaction fees. You’ll also want to carry cash just in case merchants don’t take credit, and let your credit card company know where you’re going.
If you plan on traveling internationally, become a First Alliance Credit Union member today and sign up for a uChoose Rewards credit card. In addition to having no annual fee and a low interest rate, you also won’t have to pay any foreign transaction fees, and you’ll earn rewards on every purchase you make.