Are you traveling internationally this year?
Chances are that if your year does involve trips abroad you are going to be running your money through debit cards and credit cards. After more than 25 years of traveling around the world I have come up with 11 tips for using credit cards and debit cards while traveling internationally.
|image via ClarkHoward.com|
1. Choose Your Cards Wisely
Before going on a trip you need to research the company that holds your card, and find out their international policies. Many cards have as high as a 4% foreign transaction fee, which means you lose an additional 4 cents on every dollar you spend.
For a list of the best credit cards to travel with, check out this post on NerdWallet.com
2. Take More Than One Card
Travel with more than one card, and keep your cards in separate places. If one card gets lost or stolen you can cancel it and move over to your second card, which means you are never without access to money.
You should also keep your cards’ international telephone numbers in a safe place, so that you can make the call as quickly as possible
|pickpockets in Paris|
3. Use A Debit Card To Pull Cash
The best way to access cash when you travel overseas is via your debit card. Using a debit card will stop you from overspending, but you should only use it to pull out cash. Debit cards are very easy to clone, and if your card is fraudulently used it can take time to get money credited back to your account. Don’t use your debit card to make purchases – either purchase with cash or with a credit card.
4. Only Use Bank ATMs And Only Use Them During Bank Hours
Preferably use an ATM that requires you to go inside the bank, as it is much less likely to have a skimmer attached, allowing thieves to clone your card and steal your money.
If the ATM eats your card and you are inside the bank, or using a bank ATM during bank hours it is much easier to have the situation remedied. A few years back a friend of mine had her ATM card eaten by a machine in Paris the night before her tour left for Spain. She had to leave with no money and no card.
5. Find Out Your Bank’s Fee Schedule Before You Leave
Banks’ fee schedules vary widely, so you need to find out ahead of time what your bank charges. My bank has a ridiculous list of fees for international transactions, so I use my credit union ATM cards instead. You may find it worthwhile opening an account at another financil instituition just for foreign travel.
6. Withdraw The Maximum
There are fees charged each time you make an ATM withdrawal. One for out of network transactions, one for using your card overseas, and one from the bank whose ATM you are using. You can lessen the hit you are taking by withdrawing the maximum – take out $500 once every 5 days instead of withdrawing $100 every day.
7. Don’t Use A Debit Card That Is Linked To Your Main Accounts.
Most of us have payments that withdraw via ACH from our bank accounts. Accidentally withdrawing too much money, or even worse having your debit card cloned or stolen can leave you with a series of bank fines for mortgage payment not going through, car payments not processing etc. Instead have debit cards that don’t link to your main accounts but are solely linked to travel accounts.
8. Don’t Keep All Your Cash In One Account
Again, if your debit card gets cloned or stolen you want to have your money split across two accounts. This way you minimize the damage and also make sure that you have access to money
9. Tell Your Bank Where You Are Going (and bring back up cards)
Your bank needs to be notified that you are traveling overseas, and they will generally want to know exactly which countries you are traveling to, and within which days. Most of the time this works well, but sometimes they get it wrong. Again, I have had friends who’s cards have been suspended by their bank at home, even though they notified the bank that they were traveling. Have a backup card in case this happens, and make sure you have an international number to call your bank on if thre is a problem.
10. Spend Like A Local
Some merchants will give you the option of charging items in your home currency rather than in theirs, which is also known as “dynamic currency conversion”. This is always a more expensive choice.
You will invariably get a better exchange rate through your bank or credit card company than you will through local merchants. You will still pay the same transaction fees at home regardless of whether the purchase was made in local currency or your home currency
11. Be Vigilant.
Just because you are on vacation, don’t let your guard down when it comes to fraud. In fact you should be more alert.
Don’t access online banking from public wifi – you’d be amazed at how many people do! If you need to check balances in your accounts use your bank’s telephone banking instead.
Don’t leave the ATM without your receipt and your card. Some ATMs hold your card until the transaction is complete.
Don’t keep all of your cards together – split them up amongst different bags.
Don’t bring everything that is in your wallet at home – take a separate travel wallet that only has the cards and information that you need. If you do lose your wallet you want to limit the information that thieves can access about you.