When traveling abroad, one of the most frustrating situations can be dealing with payment issues, either related to credit cards, debit cards, or incorrect currencies. You have numerous options when it comes to payment options traveling. It’s generally ok to carry cash. However, in today’s world, the use of credit, debit, and prepaid cards has become one of the safest and most convenient ways of traveling with your money. If you’re visiting Europe, you need to know a few things about using your credit card and avoiding any extra charges that come with it.
What to Remember
There are a few tips on using your credit card in Europe that you need to always keep in mind to ensure your trip is a success. This knowledge will help make your visit to Europe as smooth as possible. Here’s what you should remember:
Have a Card whose Network is Accepted Globally
There are many credit-card companies out there, but not all of them are recognized and accepted internationally. Before you leave for Europe, you must understand that Visa and MasterCard are the most common credit cards. However, you can also use American Express, but the chances of running into merchants who do not accept an Amex card are high. Discover Card network is also not used widely in Europe. Do not panic if you feel overwhelmed about getting information about your card network and whether it is accepted worldwide. Other than contacting your bank directly to ask about your card’s acceptance in the specific European countries you plan to travel to, this article is also helpful: Which Credit Cards Are Most Accepted Worldwide?
Don’t Forget to Bring Some Cash Along
Carrying some hard money is essential, whether you’re traveling to Europe or anywhere else in the world for that matter. Cash remains a popular mode of payment throughout Europe. Cards come in handy because of their safety and ease of use. However, you will likely still need cash to eat at small restaurants, go shopping in the local market, or if you plan on getting off the beaten track. It’s wise to have some backup cash ready, especially when you intend to visit places you think may not be setup for modern banking.
Contact your Bank or Card Provider before the Journey
Informing your bank or credit card issuer that you’ll be using your credit card in a foreign location is essential, considering the plethora of card fraud. Inform your card provider that you’ll be traveling to Europe, which countries, and on which dates. The importance of this is to prevent your card from being blocked or limited when your bank notices an unusual usage. Additionally, check regularly with your card provider to ensure that the contact (email, phone, text) details they have for you are correct. This comes in handy when their customer service needs to contact you in case there’s anything suspicious with your account.
Have an Extra Card with you
Carrying one card can be enough, but it can also be risky. It’s advisable to bring along at least two cards from different providers in case one is not acceptable by whichever country or vendor you happen to be using. However, you have even a better option – opening a Wise multi-currency account and linking it with your MasterCard. This allows you to convert your money at the mid-market rate and make purchases while on your journey without incurring any foreign transaction fees.
Take Advantage of Rewards Programs
Certain credit cards offer fantastic perks for travelers. These can include:
- Travel insurance (for trip cancellations, late flights, lost baggage, or medical costs)
- Rental car insurance (to save you from buying insurance from the car company directly)
- Rewards in cash or points for travel-related purchases like flights or dining
- Extended warranties on purchases
Check with your card issue(s) to see what they can offer you, then assuming you have multiple cards to choose from, use the best card for each situation.
If you’re in the market for a new travel rewards credit card, here’s an extensive review of the 15 Best Travel Credit Cards. Also, make sure you consider any annual fees when determining if a new travel card is worth it.
Take Care of your Cards
Finally, the precautions you take with your cards at home to ensure their safety and security should also be practiced when you travel abroad, if not even moreso since you’re so far from home and will have more difficulty resolving any issues remotely. Ensure you keep your cards safe and secure (if you have a PIN card, hide your hand while entering it) to avoid losing them or having them stolen by pickpockets. That can ruin your European vacation quite quickly.
How to Avoid Unnecessary Hidden Charges
The convenience that comes with using your Visa or MasterCard when you travel abroad cannot be overlooked. You don’t waste time carrying or exchanging too much cash, you don’t need to stress out over currency exchange rates, and you can conveniently pay for things without much hassle. However, you have to remain vigilant of any extra fees that you may be charged when using your card. Here are a few ways you can avoid such charges:
Avoid Card Cash Withdrawals
Say you might need to make a purchase with cash, but you have none on you. So, you decide to find an ATM and do a cash advance using your credit card. That’s okay, but you’ll be required to pay cash advance fee, interest, plus any necessary foreign transaction fees. Additionally, you’ll be required to pay the interest on any unpaid credit card balance. As you can imagine, such expenses can skyrocket fast!
Use the Local Currency to Make Payments
Solving currency conversions in your head can be a daunting task, especially if it’s your first time overseas. However, as hard as it may seem, converting your home money into the local currency in your destination can help save you a substantial amount. Dynamic Currency Conversions (DCC) has become a real bother to many people. In this scenario, you are asked to choose whether to make payments using your home currency or the local currency in the place you’re visiting. Chances are, when you use your home currency to pay for things abroad; you will not get the standard rates given by your card provider. You will likely pay more. So it’s typically advisable to use the local currency.
Avoid Foreign Transaction Charges
If you’re a cardholder, you should be fully informed of any foreign transaction fees that your card company may utilize. If it’s stipulated in your card’s Terms and Conditions, then the best option is to get another card that does not have foreign transaction charges. Cards with foreign transaction fees added may mean that you have to pay 1 to 3% more when spending your money abroad. That can add up!
Taking a vacation to Europe can definitely be exciting. However, to ensure that you’re safe financially while abroad, it’s essential to understand how to use your credit card. Financial planning is not a critical part of your journey. However, being well-informed about credit card usage in Europe can help save you a substantial amount of money and time. Bon voyage!
If you’d like even more advice on using your credit card while traveling, here’s 5 tips for using credit cards while traveling.