Are you travelling this summer? I’ve got some tips on using credit cards abroad. I wrote these to a reporter that is writing an article about travel, and I thought it would be nice if I’d share it here with you firsthand.
1. Call them.
First off, call your card company and let them know you will be travelling. Without doing this, you will probably not be allowed to even use your card, so any other tip will be useless. Call them IN ADVANCE. Bonus tip: give them a way to contact you if anything weird happens.
2. Know Your Credit Card
Use the opportunity to ask about the travel perks your card offers. Know what kind of insurance you already have attached to your card and how you can use them to save money. Paying your rental car with your card can give you auto insurance, and paying your plane tickets with it can give you baggage insurance.
I’ve wrote about the Amazon.ca Credit Card before, and this is a nice card to use when travelling abroad.
3. The B word
Budget! Budget! Budget! Ok, you don’t need to budget for every expense you will face (although it’s a good idea), but at least have a broad idea of how much you will be spending during the trip. This way you minimize the chances of being surprised back home when the credit card bill arrives.
Foreign currency can be a b*tch. Have an idea about how much of the local currency one dollar can afford. Do some research and take note of some key values, like “$10 in local currency is the equivalent of something like 3 dollars”. Try to have key values in mind, as 5, 10, 20 (or 50, 100, 200, 1000). It will depend on where you are going. With this knowledge you can do some quick math before feeling guilty to accept that offer from the souvenir shop (that will most of the times be bad anyways).
5. Conversions? Meh.
Once you have a budget in place, stop converting everything to dollar value. If you know a good meal costs R$100 (one hundred Brazilian Reals) and you have a budget of R$400 a day to eat, go ahead and enjoy this R$100 meal, it does not really matter how many dollars it is after conversion. But only do this if and only if you came up with a travel budget. See tip #3 above!
6. Pay less for money
Avoid withdrawing money using your credit card. Your debit card will usually be less expensive. Find alternative ways to get money, like those pointed out by fellow blogger Barry from MoneyWeHave. Be creative. On my last trip to Brazil the ATM wanted to charge me $5 to withdraw $20 (a 25% fee, no-thank-you). I went to the restaurant at the airport and ordered a quick lunch. Then I asked the waitress if the she could charge $20 more on my card, giving me the money. Some will accept the deal, some will not. All you have to do is ask.
How do you use your credit card when travelling? Do you pay attention to these things or you just go and hope everything goes well? Let us know in the comments, I love when you comment!
* Photo by Martin Cathrae