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Credit Card Tips for Foreign Travel

If you’re travelling overseas, there are some things you should know when using your credit card. Luma gives you credit card tips to make your travels easier.

Brush Up on Your Card Speak

Just as you’re reading guidebooks and practicing a few key phrases, you should also take a moment to brush up on your credit card’s terms and conditions relating to overseas transactions. Many cards have different fees and interest rates that apply to foreign transactions. Knowing these before you go will help you budget for your trip and avoid surprises when you get your bill upon your return.

Alternatively, some credit cards have special benefits when you use them for travel. Certain credit cards offer a small amount of travel cover when you book arrangements using your card or rental car cover if you rent a car and pay with your credit card, as two examples. Be sure to brush up on your credit card’s features and benefits before you go.

Cover Your Cash Needs

Credit cards are fairly commonplace around the globe. You can use them to pay for meals, lodging, rental cars, and other overseas purchases. Because they are so widely accepted, credit cards help you avoid carrying large amounts of cash with you.

Even though credit cards are accepted almost everywhere, it’s still a good idea to exchange a small amount of money into the local currency before you leave just in case, on arrival, the bureau de change is closed or a cashpoint doesn’t work. The Post Office is a good place to get currency before you leave the UK as they don’t charge commission. Wherever you are in the world, avoid changing money at an airport, train station, or port as you’ll get less favourable exchange rates and higher commission charges.

Steer Clear of Credit Card Cash Withdrawals

When you use your credit card for a cash withdrawal, most cards charge interest immediately and at a higher rate than your standard interest rate. Special foreign transaction fees may also apply when you withdraw cash overseas using your credit card. That’s why you should only use your credit card to get cash if you really have to.

Buy Souvenirs the Savvy Way

Using your credit card to buy things abroad can offer you certain protections under the Consumer Credit Act. If you buy something with a value over £100 and it is faulty or “not as described,” you can recover costs from the retailer or your credit card provider. Some debit cards may offer this protection, but that’s not a guarantee when using a debit card for an overseas purchase.

Go Local with Your Bills

Converters are useful when you need to plug in your hair dryer, but converting your currency into sterling as you buy something is a bad idea. When you’re overseas, shops, restaurants and hotels will sometimes propose converting your bill into sterling on the spot as a service. Don’t do it. Having a retailer or service provider do a conversion when you’re making a payment is the most expensive way to change currency. Always ask for the purchase to be totalled in the local currency.

Avoid Rejection

Before you leave, give your credit card provider a call and tell them exactly when and where you’re going to use your credit card overseas. Many credit card providers will freeze your card if you haven’t contacted them as they’ll assume your card has been lost or stolen. If that happens, you’ll be in the embarrassing predicament of having your purchase rejected in a shop or restaurant and have the added hassle of needing to call your credit card provider from overseas.

Add Your Credit Card Provider to Your Address Book

Your card provider won’t need a postcard, but this information comes in handy if you have a problem with your card or if your card is lost or stolen. Most credit card providers have special telephone numbers for customers to use when calling overseas so you can call for free and get more instant access to a service representative.

Ferret Out Fraudulent Activity

If your card is lost or stolen, be sure to call your credit card provider right away so they stop any unauthorised purchases before they add up. (You may be liable for fraudulent purchases if you don’t notify your provider so take action the instant you realise your card has been lost or stolen.) If your card is lost or stolen, your credit card provider can generally issue you a replacement, even when you’re overseas.

When you return from your trip, take some extra time to review your statement for any fraudulent activity. Though it doesn’t happen often, using your credit card number to reserve a hotel in an unsecured channel (like email or over the phone) can leave you susceptible to fraudulent activity. Booking things online through secure Web sites can help you lessen this risk.

Enjoy Your Trip!

By following these tips and with a bit of forethought, you should be able to get the most out of your card when you use your credit card overseas.