Traveling abroad means that you’re exploring areas you’ve never been before – and perhaps spending more than you usually do. That’s why credit cards are your best international traveling companion. But which ones should you take along? The options are endless, and you want the top value for your card loyalty.
1. A card with no foreign transaction fees
Foreign transaction fees are normally attributed to purchases made from merchants outside of your home country. In essence, the privilege of buying something abroad will incur a fee.
If you plan on traveling abroad even one time, these fees can add up, especially if you’re making expensive purchases, such as hotel rooms and pricey souvenirs. Apply for another credit card if foreign-transaction fees are associated with your current account.
2. A chip-enabled card
The best credit card to have during international travel is a chip-enabled type. Most U.S. card issuers provide chip cards these days, but you may still have an old magnetic black-bar card in your wallet.
Chip cards are the norm across the rest of the world, so your old card may not be usable at many merchants abroad. Plus, chip technology protects you. With today’s card forgeries becoming more advanced by the minute, it’s relatively easy to clone a card with the black bar. You might end up with no credit abroad if someone uses your account to the maximum charge limit.
Chip-enabled cards are incredibly difficult to forge. All of your information is on that embedded chip, and it’s encrypted with advanced technology. Always insert your card chip-first into any reader during a purchase. Avoid the swiping mechanism, even if one is available. You want to keep your information secure throughout all of the countries that you’re visiting.
3. A card with airline-loyalty perks
Long-haul international flights may not be comfortable, but airline-loyalty cards can improve the journey. Most offer early boarding (getting you on the plane with the first general-boarding group). High-end airline cards offer lounge access.
Plus, if you purchased your airfare with such a card you can use any accumulated points on subsequent trips. When you pay off the card each month, there’s no interest or other negative aspect that dilutes the value of your rewards.
5. A card with hotel perks
Hotel and resort chains also have their own credit cards. Some hotel chains include several brands, so you have a lot of options around the globe. Marriott, for example, now includes Starwood hotels, Renaissance hotels and more.
In addition to giving you rewards on your stay, hotel cards often offer perks like upgrades (when available), free breakfast and late check-out.
Be sure to pick a card tied to a brand that’s well represented world-wide.
6. A card that provides unusual-activity notifications
Most card providers have unique systems that track your spending habits. When a purchase appears unusual, you’ll receive an email, text or call that notifies you of the concern. Some cards go a step further, allowing you to sign up for text notifications if, say, a purchase is made that’s over a certain dollar amount – or even every single time the card is used.
Select a card with these features, and you’ll have a safer time moving between different countries. Traveling abroad means that you’re using your information in many different places. Being vigilant is critical so that no one runs up your credit limit. Just make sure you’re aware of the costs to your phone data plan of receiving frequent text notifications from your bank.
7. A card with late-payment forgiveness
Time seems to fly when you’re traveling abroad. It’s incredibly easy to forget when your bills are due and, if you don’t have auto-pay set up, you might miss a credit card payment. Choose a credit card that waives late-payment fees – Citi and Discover both offer cards that do this.
Even if your card doesn’t have a specific policy of waiving late fees, many card issuers will waive the late fee if you call and ask – especially if you have a record of paying on time.
8. A card with a good reward bonus
Some cards offer sign-up bonuses that give you tens of thousands of points after you spend a few thousand dollars in the first few months. If your everyday spending won’t meet that threshold, your vacation spending might (hotels, taxis, meals out, souvenirs). So a trip is a good way to earn a sign-up bonus. These bonuses are essentially free money at your disposal.
A few notes on security
Remember to secure your credit cards on your person as you travel. Ideally, place your cards in separate areas so that any loss is only a partial one. If you have a card in your purse and another one in your pocket, you’ll still be able to function abroad if one of those cards is lost or stolen. Also, call your bank and tell them where you’ll be and when. You won’t want your card shut down or declined when buying train tickets overseas because your bank doesn’t know you’re traveling.
Planning your card strategy as well as possible will give you peace of mind and an extraordinary experience.
Jessica Kane is a professional blogger who writes for Documents International LLC, a leading apostille service for individuals and businesses.