|Credit Card Travel Tips: Some Do's and Don't's
Most people would never think of traveling without credit cards - and for many good reasons. Credit and charge cards can certainly give you an edge while on the road: You do not have to carry as much cash - a definite security advantage - and you WILL receive a record of all your transactions when your credit card statement arrives.
If your credit cards are stolen and used by a thief, and you report the loss promptly, you generally cannot be held responsible for more than a specified dollar amount in fraudulent charges (usually $50). You also stand a better chance of getting your lost credit cards replaced promptly...and this certainly cannot be said for losing cash!
Most major credit cards are accepted worldwide, and in many countries, are preferred as currency over travellers checks. Most people carry at least two types of cards, ideally from two different financial institutions; if one card does not work, the other one is usually accepted. Make sure to keep the cards in separate places.
Keep in mind that in some countries, one type of card is preferred over all others. Consider these examples: in Germany, Mastercard is the card preferred by most businesses; in fact, many stores refuse to take any other card. Note also that some fine restaurants will take only American Express cards - an unpleasant situation if you find yourself having polished off a gourmet dinner with nothing else but a Visa card to pay for it! When in an unfamiliar place, it is a good idea to ask about credit cards accepted before ordering.
When you make a purchase overseas, make sure you check the bill to ensure you are being charged the correct amount. In many countries, periods are used instead of commas in numbers, so 1,000 may appear as 1.000, 45.00 may appear as 45,00. Familiarize yourself with the local currency and its approximate value in your country of origin's currency before you finalize a purchase.
Credit cards also make it easier for the holder to handle certain types of problems that may occur when paying for purchases. Although there is no guarantee that you can secure a refund on goods purchased abroad based on unsatisfactory quality or delivery of merchandise, it is possible your credit card company may allow you to withhold payment while they investigate. It is a good idea to research policy before you leave. Also keep in mind that if you are purchasing goods that are disallowed in your country of origin, your credit card company many not be able to secure a refund for you.
Before you leave, make a list of your credit cards and the international phone numbers to call in case they are lost or stolen. Keep in mind that the toll-free numbers that are normally accessible from your home country may not be valid from the country you are travelling to. Ask your credit card issuer for the appropriate toll free numbers.
Leave one copy of your credit card list with a trusted friend or relative and keep the other copy with you, in a safe place, separate from your cards. You may want to encode the credit card numbers to make them more difficult for a thief to guess. Give yourself every opportunity to contact your credit card companies easily for replacement cards in case you lose your cards.
Also make sure you have checked your credit cards' expiry dates and their credit limits. You may want to pay down the balances or request an increase to the limit, to ensure you have enough to draw on while you travel.
Lastly, here's one really simple but often forgotten tip: After paying for your purchase, make sure you take your credit card back.
Credit cards can make - or break - a trip. Do your homework before leaving. It will be worth your time!
About the Author
Raquel Manuel, incurable traveler, compiles resourceful travel tips on credit card use, air, cruise, train and land travel, women's travel, and other topics on the subject.