5 tips for using credit cards while traveling

Use a credit card while traveling

Your long awaited overseas vacation is coming up. It’s going to be expensive, and you just know your wallet will take a hit. In a new country, dealing with ATM fees and currency conversions can be incredibly frustrating. At this point, your credit card is likely a better option. It’s both safe and convenient. Considering things like currency exchange fees, foreign transaction fees, and the risks of carrying cash or traveler’s checks .. you have to make smart decisions. The following five tips can help you when traveling with your credit card.

1. Inform Your Credit Card Company Before You Travel

Before you set off to that exotic, new destination, there’s one important thing to do. Let your credit card issuers be in the loop. Tell them specifically where you’ll be traveling to. If possible, tell them when you’re planning to head back home, too. Why bother, though, you may wonder?

Well, as I’m sure you’ve heard … there’s a lot of credit card fraud that’s rampant all over the world. So most credit card companies use security software and other fraud detection systems to combat this. By informing them of your travel plans, you can reduce the risk of your transactions being flagged as “suspect”. This should prevent you from having your credit card declined or suspended.

Imagine going shopping in a new country. You find an awesome souvenir for your aunt. You pull out your card, proud of yourself for being such a great relative. Only to have the merchant tell you that your card is rejected. That’s both embarrassing and depressing. So, to avoid such drama, do yourself some good by updating your travel plans on your credit card issuer’s website.

Additionally, you should inquire whether there’s a limit for daily spending or an ATM cash advance. This knowledge can prevent other hiccups in your otherwise perfect holiday.

2. Avoid Extra Fees

Being in a new, unfamiliar country, there could be some hidden fees that you might face. Luckily, you have your Visa or Mastercard with you. Going shopping or paying for services doesn’t have to be a hassle. It can be very convenient since you don’t have to carry cash. Plus, you can avoid being pick-pocketed or dealing with the confusion of converting currencies. As you can see, these are some of the benefits to traveling with a credit card. However, is that all?

Unfortunately, you will have to be aware of certain fees. For instance, as a traveler, you could be faced with dynamic currency conversion (DCC) rates. Perhaps you don’t want to go through the struggle of calculating these rates (which could be exorbitantly high). Good news! You can opt for making payments in your home currency rather than the local currency. Often the DCC can include extra charges, and the rates used by your card’s providers might not apply. In most cases, it’s advisable to avoid being charged in the foreign currency.

Nonetheless, you can avoid extra fees by checking if your card provider charges a foreign transaction fee for transactions when you’re outside of your country. If these fees apply to your card, you should consider using another card whenever you head overseas.

3. Have Your Passport

With an increased dependency on technology today, there’s also an increase in digital fraud. Therefore, it’s no surprise that many credit card issuers have implemented extra security measures.

When you’re shopping overseas, the merchant may want to verify that you’re authorized to use your credit card. Proper identification is important. So, what should you do? Have your passport on you at all times. Not only is this a legal requirement for tourists in many countries, but it’ll come in handy when you need to prove your identity while making purchases. Plus, there could be less chance of theft than if your passport is left behind in your hotel room.

4. Know Your Credit Card’s Rewards and Benefits

Different credit cards offer different perks and rewards to their clients whenever they’re traveling. For example, one of your cards might offer double points for airline ticket purchases. Or, maybe your card offers free access to airport lounges. In order to take full advantage of the rewards offered by your card, you should logon to your issuer’s website and review the details of its benefits.

On a normal day, you’re used to using your credit card for pretty typical purchases. Buying groceries, paying for your Netflix subscription, purchasing gas, and so on. However, when you travel, you often need to make new and unusual purchases, which might be very costly. Therefore, you should do your homework before going on vacation to find out if your credit card company can offer you discounts on services you might use while on vacation. One such example is rental cars. Often certain banks have relationships with rental car companies, and gave give you a fantastic deal.

We spoke with David Boyd, a frequent flyer credit card expert and co-founder of credit card comparison site CreditCardCompare.com.au, who stresses the strategic use of credit cards while travelling:

“Traveling opens up many opportunities to maximise your credit card rewards,” Boyd notes. “Reviewing your card’s perks, such as double points on flights or complimentary airport lounge access before you travel, is important. This due diligence extends beyond typical daily transactions to include significant savings on travel-specific expenses like rental cars, where your card issuer may offer exclusive discounts through partnerships like branded hotel chains, airline lounges and many more.”

5. Always Be Alert

Whenever you’re carrying your credit card, you need to very careful. Taking care of it so that it doesn’t get lost is a necessity. Be aware of your surroundings. You might not know what the person next to you is up to. It’s better to be safe than sorry. If you already take such measures while in your own country, why not when you’re overseas?

You’re in a new country and possibly confusing environment. Your daily routine has been thrown out of wack. You’re dining at new restaurants, staying at new hotels, and checking out the hottest local attractions. Although it’s easy to get distracted, you should be extra careful with your credit cards, cash, and identification. When you’re at an ATM, for example, always take note of your surroundings, hide your PIN, be on the lookout for thieves, and try to do so during the day and in a safe location, preferably with a friend or family member.

Keep your cards in a safe place. You should consider a money belt to make yourself less of a target for pickpockets. It’s a great way to safely store your cards, ID, cash, and even coins. Plus, it can be more convenient than worrying about what’s in your pocket, wallet or purse.


Traveling can result in some of the best times of your life. You meet new people, buy new things, and have amazing, new experiences. However, you should be prepared in advance of all the purchases you undoubtedly will be making. Rather than relying on cash, a credit card gives you convenience and safety. But, when using your credit card, you don’t want to overspend on unnecessary fees. You also want to take full advantage of whatever bonus points or rewards you are eligible for. These tips can help you stay safe and save the most money possible when using your credit card in a new country. Bon voyage!

Picture of Kenneth James

Kenneth James

As a money transfer expert at Transferly, Kenneth strives to help people navigate the world of money transfer companies and bad exchange rates. He’s seen everything this industry has to offer, and he is more than happy to share that knowledge with our readers.

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