It’s summer – school day are coming to a close, and summer vacations are getting ready to start. No matter where or how you’re planning to travel this year, you’re probably going to use your credit cards while traveling. Here’s some smart travel tips when using cards.
Notify your Credit Card Companies
Before departing, call all your credit card companies and notify them of your destination and dates of travel. Identity theft is rampant these days and companies have become hyper-vigilant. If you use your credit cards while traveling to an unusual location, the company may phone you to authorize payment or worse, completely freeze your account and prevent you from using it. Most of the major credit card companies allow you to notify them online as well. Call the company or log in to their website before you go and save yourself some serious headaches and embarrassment.
Protect Yourself from Loss or Theft
When using your credit cards while traveling, you need to take some extra precautions to protect your accounts from loss or theft. A stolen purse or misplaced wallet can be devastating while away from home. Follow these tips to make sure your trip isn’t interrupted by the loss of your credit cards while traveling.
- Keep a list of the phone numbers to each credit card company separate from your wallet or purse. Consider giving a copy to friends or family that won’t be traveling with you.
- In the event of loss or theft, call and notify your card company immediately.
- Take two different cards with you. One functions as your backup card should you lose the other.
- If you have the option of having a credit card with a chip, take advantage of it. These “cyber chips” are embedded into the card and are designed to slow down hackers. They are standard issue in European countries, but many US companies don’t use them. There may be some overseas vendors that will reject a non-chipped card.
Take Advantage of the Perks
According to expert travel advisors, most people are not aware of some great perks that are offered with their credit accounts. Many of the major companies attach member benefits to their cards. These benefits can be extremely convenient and useful when using credit cards while traveling.
- Referral Services. If you are in need of a physician or attorney during an overseas trip, many credit card companies offer no-cost referral services. You will still be responsible for the fees for the professional services.
- Hotel Upgrades. Dependent on the hotel and the card company, you may be eligible for a room upgrade.
- Luggage Coverage. You may have up to $500 coverage if your luggage is damaged or lost during your flight. Many of the US based airlines cover a certain amount, but often exclude cash or electronics. It may not cover the full value, but it may replace some of your belongings.
- Delayed Flight. If you used your credit card to book your flight, you may be eligible for compensation for delayed or cancelled flights.
- Rental Car Coverage. One of the biggest benefits is coverage for rental car damage. This is especially helpful when traveling overseas, where standard US auto insurance isn’t effective.
Take some time before your trip to familiarize yourself with the benefits of your credit account. Read your account agreement, check the website or call the company. You may get some extra benefits using your credit card while traveling.
Save on Fees
When using your credit cards while traveling to foreign soil, you may encounter currency conversion fees, even if paying in US dollars. These fees can tag on an extra one to three percent to your purchases. Some of the major companies have eliminated these completely, but it’s smart to find out before you go. Some other fees to be aware of:
- ATM Fees. These can go as high as five dollars for each transaction. Know which machines your company uses or use a debit card which usually carry lower fees. Make one larger cash withdrawal, rather than several small transactions to save on repeated charges.
- Currency Exchanges. Experts recommend avoiding offices or kiosks that offer currency exchange services. Their fees are generally higher that those charged by the card companies.
Check Before You Leave
Before leaving home or if you are on an extended trip, pay off your balance or set up automatic payments for your credit card bill. Doing this can help you avoid late fees or penalties. Know the credit limits on your credit cards while traveling to avoid transaction denial or expensive fees. Be aware of the limits and either limit your spending or request a credit limit increase to cover anticipated expenditures during your travels.
Following these simple and easy guidelines can make using your credit cards while traveling hassle-free, and help you avoid unpleasant surprises during your vacation or on your return home.