Getting ready for an international trip means taking some time beforehand to get your affairs in order. While it may not be at the top of your list, your credit card requires some attention before you leave the country. After you’ve made your packing list, it’s time to attend to your wallet, making sure that you won’t have any problems using your credit card while you’re gone or once you arrive home. These four steps will help ensure smooth sailing — and spending.
Get to know EMV
You should already be aware of what EMV means and how it affects you as a credit card holder. If you don’t, EMV stands for Europay, MasterCard and Visa and refers to the small metal chip in your credit card. Since October of last year, these chips have started to become a commonplace in the U.S., and we’ve become accustomed to dipping our card in a chip-reading machine (at least at most retailers). EMV actually originated overseas, so when traveling internationally, you’ll likely encounter chip-and-pin technology more often than the chip-and-signature technology that’s commonly used in the U.S. This means if your credit card doesn’t already have a PIN assigned to it, you’ll need to call your card issuer and ask for one. Keep in mind that your issuer will likely mail your PIN, which means you’ll want to request one at least a couple of weeks before you plan to leave.
Contact your issuer
Credit card issuers have your back, which is great until they protect you from spending your own money. Issuers keep an eye on your spending habits, and if they spot purchases that are being made far away from home, it’s likely that they’ll cancel or block your card immediately. To keep yourself in the clear, make a call to your issuer well before you leave for your trip to inform them of where you’ll be traveling to and how long your trip is set to last. Speaking to a customer service representative for a few days or weeks before to your trip is much more reasonable than having to make numerous frantic, international calls when you need your credit card to work for you in a pinch. It should be noted that this is something you’ll want to do regardless of whether you’re traveling to another country or across state borders.
Skip foreign transaction fees
If you’re traveling overseas, you’ll want to be mindful of foreign transaction fees. These fee (usually 3% to 5% of the transaction total) are tagged onto every transaction processed overseas, which may not seem like much, but since you’re purchasing everything (food, lodging, souvenirs, last-minute purchases and etc.) on your trip and using your card for multiple transactions, those fees can really add up, making an already expensive trip even pricier. The first step to knowing if you’ll have to fork up a foreign transaction fee is to call your card issuer and ask. If your card charges the fees, you’re likely going to want to open a credit card with no foreign transaction fees, as it can save you a lot of money in the long run. There are a number of travel rewards and cash back credit cards that don’t charge foreign transaction fees, making your overseas trip a lot more affordable. Visit our list of the best credit cards without foreign transaction fees to find a card that fits your needs.
Have a backup plan
No plan is foolproof, which is why it’s always wise to have a backup plan. This same idea goes for traveling with a credit card. While it may seem like overkill, there is always a chance that there will be an issue with your primary card, whether it be an issuer problem, a merchant who won’t accepted it or your card is lost or stolen. That’s why it’s a wise idea to bring a backup credit card along with some other form of payment like cash or traveler’s checks. Something to also be aware of is where you store these payment methods while you’re traveling. Although you may be tempted to keep all of these payment forms in your wallet, it’s safer to divide them up, meaning storing one credit card in your wallet and the other credit card in your sock, for example, so if your wallet or purse is stolen, you still have access to your other forms of payment and not left money-less overseas.
To learn more about anything and everything related to finance, follow our personal finance blog.