Credit & debit cards are a convenient way to have money on hand while traveling internationally. But before you take your plastic on vacation here are some helpful travel tips.
1. Prior to your trip, check the international exchange fee charged by your credit and debit card companies. Some credit cards charge as high as 3% of the purchase amount. Bank of America Amex currently is offering a low 1% fee. Debit cards generally charge 1%. Some debit cards, such as some of TD Bank's debit cards currently do not charge an exchange fee. So it is a good idea to shop around. Note: fees are subject to change, so it is advisable to call all credit cards before deciding on which ones to bring.
2. Once you have booked your trip and selected your cards, BE SURE to notify your credit card company and the issuing bank of your debit card as to where and when you are planning to travel. If you neglect to do this your credit card company may suspect fraudulent activities if overseas charges appear unexpectedly, resulting in a hold on all transactions.
3. Make photocopies of all credit cards and important documents. Leave copies at home with a family member or a friend. NEVER send credit card info via email. So if your credit cards are lost or stolen you'll have access to your credit card number and other info. Keep emergency contact telephone numbers for cards in a separate place in case cards are lost or stolen. NOTE: 1800 numbers do not work out side of the USA, unless you have a US cell phone in which case you will be charged international calling rates for the call. If not printed on the back of your card, ask your financial institution for number that can be dialed from abroad.
4. Bring more than one card. The cards you bring should be from by different institutions. Sometimes there may be problems with networks and your card might not work for no apparent reason, so it is a good idea to have a back up. If traveling with your American Express card remember not all establishments accept American Express.
5. If renting a car you will not be able to use a debit card, you must have a credit card with you.
6. Request transactions in local currency. Some places will offer the courtesy of converting charges to USD, for which the exchange fee can be as much as 3.5% of the transaction amount. Be especially careful of this in Ireland since many establishments automatically convert charges to USD.
6. When using cards always be sure your card is returned to you after each transaction.
7. To prevent theft, keep all cards and money either in a money belt or security pouch worn under your clothes. Never keep your wallet in you pocket. If you use a shoulder bag wear the strap across your chest so it cannot be grabbed from you.
8. If your credit/debit cards are lost or stolen be sure to notify both the local police and the financial institution right away.
9. When you return home, check your statements carefully and if you notice any suspicious activity contact your credit card company and/or bank.
If you have other travel tips related to using credit cards while traveling we invite you to share them.
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The Wanderwoman Travel Team