Most travelers enjoy using credit cards when traveling due to their convenience, security, and benefits; however, without proper caution you could end up incurring unnecessary fees and charges.
NerdWallet provides seven strategies for using credit cards while traveling that may help to alleviate fees such as foreign transaction fees and keep track of spending habits while staying out of foreign transaction fees.
1. Keep track of your spending
Many travelers no longer carry cash or travelers checks when traveling overseas, yet many don’t realize the many advantages credit cards can provide when used abroad. From having peace of mind knowing your wallet won’t disappear to redeeming rewards quickly and conveniently – credit cards allow travelers to enjoy traveling more freely while saving money at the same time!
An essential reminder when traveling is the need to monitor spending. By staying aware of how much you’re spending, you can avoid overspending or incurring unnecessary fees. Furthermore, make sure not to miss any payments while out and about; failure to do so could result in late fees being assessed against you.
Before departing for your trip, make sure that you research which cards are widely accepted in your destination country and region – for instance, Visa and Mastercard credit cards tend to be widely accepted, while American Express and Discover cards may not be as readily accepted. Also keep in mind which cards do not impose foreign transaction fees as these costs can quickly add up when making purchases overseas.
2. Make a list of your expenses
While vacationing, it can be easy to rack up credit card charges quickly and end up with an unexpected balance when you return home. To prevent this from happening, create an expense list before your departure in order to easily keep track of expenses and stay within your spending limits.
An efficient credit card that offers easy expense tracking may also prove helpful, such as one offering detailed charges on monthly statements or offering travel rewards without foreign transaction fees – both of which can help manage and minimize spending during trips abroad. This way you can better monitor spending patterns while saving more on future travel arrangements.
Some cards make booking travel expenses easier through rewards portals of their issuers, with booking flights, hotels, and rental cars easy through rewards portals of issuers – further simplifying travel expense management. When traveling it’s also wise to remember your billing due date as missing payments may incur late fees; while it is also wise to bring some cash as some retailers or rural areas don’t accept credit cards and certain countries restrict exchange rate restrictions for foreign currencies – having access to an international ATM network comes in handy in these instances.
3. Let your card issuer know you’re traveling
Credit cards can be invaluable travel companions, providing rewards that offset any risks related to cash loss and currency conversion when abroad. They may even come equipped with features like trip cancellation insurance, lost baggage coverage and car rental insurance for added peace of mind.
Before embarking on your travels, however, it’s a good idea to inform your card issuer of where and when you are going – this reduces the likelihood of your first purchase being flagged as suspicious because it doesn’t fit with your usual spending pattern.
Notify your bank and card issuer of your travel dates either by phoning their customer service line, using their app or online account or adding them yourself via their rewards portal. In some cases you can even book airfare, hotel and car rental reservations using either points or credit card payments!
Once your travel plans have been informed to your card issuer, if possible it is wise to bring multiple cards with you during travel – this gives you peace of mind should any of them become lost, stolen, or temporarily frozen overseas; furthermore it ensures you won’t rack up large expenses on one card before having time to repay its balance.
4. Don’t leave your wallet unattended
Though Internet warnings about pickpockets can sometimes be exaggerated, it’s wise to stay aware while traveling. Leaving your wallet unattended in tourist areas or when strolling can make you an easy target if a place you visit has a history of such thefts.
To protect your cards and cash, consider wearing a money belt or sling bag on your front side rather than back to reduce its chances of being grabbed by thieves. When dining out, always place the purse/sling bag over your shoulder – that way a waiter or another individual in the background cannot easily remove it to steal your cards and money! If carrying either, be sure it has zippered pockets. Don’t hang your purse/sling bag from back chairs as that opens it up to being easily stolen by them waiting in the background to take action against thieves who attempt to grab it while dining out!
Some travelers find it beneficial to carry small amounts of cash in addition to credit and debit cards while traveling, as this will limit any losses should your wallet get stolen, plus help save on fees and exchange rates associated with carrying too much currency. For those who would rather forgoing cash entirely, U.S Bank Altitude Reserve Visa Infinite cards or mobile payment apps offer contactless payment solutions as a convenient alternative.
5. Check your card’s activity
No matter where or how you use your credit cards, keeping track of spending can help prevent overspending and make spotting suspicious activity easier. Furthermore, keeping tabs can help ensure that purchases don’t slip past you or that cards remain unattended – both potentially dangerous scenarios when travelling.
To stay on track with your spending, it can be useful to use a credit card that offers contactless payments like the U.S Bank Altitude Reserve Visa Infinite card which allows for quick purchases using phone or watch tap-and-pay technology. Furthermore, any U.S Bank card can also be linked with Apple Pay, Samsung Pay or Google Pay for even easier mobile payment solutions.
While traveling, it’s also wise to keep your card limits and PIN in mind. While increasing your limit may tempt you during a vacation, this could lead to overspending and put you at risk if you lose it. For any queries on these matters, contact your bank immediately; additionally, only conduct online banking from secure networks like your hotel Wi-Fi connection or secure wireless hotspot rather than public ones like Wi-Fi hotspots or computers in cafes.
6. Keep a backup card on hand
No matter how frequently or briefly you travel, here are a few key things to keep in mind when using credit cards while abroad. Cash and travelers checks may no longer be needed but multiple cards will come in handy!
Maintaining a backup credit or debit card can be invaluable should your primary card become lost or stolen, and can also help shield against excessive foreign transaction fees (be sure to ask if your cards contain these).
Consider carrying multiple cards from different card issuers when traveling abroad, in case a card issued by one issuer gets declined due to suspicious activity during your journey. Carrying multiple cards could prevent being stuck stranded when one card becomes invalidated for suspicious use while you’re out.
Consider carrying some cash with you in case your card is lost or stolen; having this can save time from having to wait for a replacement from its issuer and allow you to avoid having to trust random strangers with “help.” Therefore, investing in a money belt or tamper-proof wallet could prove especially helpful in this scenario.
7. Pay off your balance
Just when you return from a dream vacation, the last thing you want to worry about is an overwhelming credit card bill. Make sure to settle it as quickly as possible once back home so it doesn’t weigh heavily on you for months afterward; often by paying only the minimum payment (often lower than total amount owed), interest payments will not exceed what’s owed and will save money over time by doing this. Some credit cards even feature “minimum payment warning” warnings to display how long it would take and how much interest incurred if only making minimum payments each month compared with making only minimum payments (often lower than total amount owed).
Travel is an invaluable way to broaden your horizons, create memories and escape the stressors of daily life. However, while using credit cards may seem tempting when planning for a getaway, it is essential that you consider how much it will cost in total and whether or not the benefits outweigh interest charges. With careful planning and an effective financial strategy you can have your cake (and getaway!) all at once. Find the top credit cards for travelers here.