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We know that preparing for a trip abroad contains many questions about foreign currency and credit card usage. We have gathered some information from top financial companies like NerdWallet as well as some of our own thoughts to help give you five tips for using your credit card abroad . While we may have some favorites that work for us, none of these tips are promotions for companies that we have partnerships with.
1. BRING Cards that are widely accepted
One thing you'll want to keep in mind is the type of credit card you bring abroad. While it may seem that all credit card companies are the same, you're going to have much more luck carrying your Visa or MasterCard abroad than you will a Discover or American Express card. Discover and American Express are working on amending this dilemma, but we advise taking a more widely accepted card and making sure you bring multiples. No one wants to be stranded at a shop with a card that gets declined and this can happen for a multitude of reasons. To put your mind at ease, diversify the types of cards you bring and embrace the unexpected.
2. Bring Some Cash
We may think we're living entirely in the digital age, but we also know the value of having cash on hand. You get to that toll booth, or that restaurant doesn't take credit cards, or that bookstore's credit card machine just went down--but you don't have any cash. The rest of the world is a lot like here, where there isn't a guarantee that every place you go will have a credit card machine or form of contactless payment. We advise bringing some cash along and even pulling out some extra cash when you get to your destination. It's helpful to do a bit of research before as some big companies are starting to buy up the ATMs at airports, making the exchange rates worse with added transaction fees. Going straight to a bank or asking your hotel what their currency exchange rate can be a helpful tip when making a cash withdrawal--just make sure to check with your own credit cards limitations and fees.
3. Call Your card Issuer before LEaving
It's best to call your card company before leaving on a trip to let them know your date of travel. If your card issuer suddenly sees a few purchases across the globe from where you normally purchase your groceries, your card may be frozen. This has become a much easier process with automated options when calling in (look for the number on the back of your cards), or even alerting your card issuer within the applications on your phone.
4. Preload contactless payment options
While the United States were just starting to add contactless payment options and chip readers to their check outs during the pandemic, much of Europe and other parts of the world have been using chip readers and contactless payment for much longer. Double check that at least one or two of your cards are prepared with for the chip readers. Another easy way to make payment is adding your credit cards to your Apple Wallet or Google Pay can help you check out expediently and help you continue on in your adventures for the day.
5. Avoid Foreign Transaction Fees & Dynamic Currency Conversion
One thing you will definitely want to keep in mind are foreign transaction fees. There are a lot of cards on the market that wave these pesky fees and they can add up fast, so we like to make sure we carry those credit cards abroad. And don't mistake a 0% foreign transaction fee as only a high-end luxury card--a lot of companies with no annual fees are now offering this as a travel perk, so take a look around at the market and find something that works for you.
Another thing that may be offered to you abroad is something called a 'dynamic currency conversion,' where the amount being charged will be done in US dollars as opposed to the local currency. This may seem helpful as it can tell you a more accurate representation of the cost, however these instantaneous conversions come with worse exchange rates than your card issuer. It's better to pay in local currency and we will often confirm with the seller before purchase to ensure that the right transaction occurs.
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