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5 Tips for Traveling with Credit Cards

AJ Smith

Whether your passport needs additional pages to accommodate all your stamps or you are planning your first big cross-country trip, it's important to take care of credit card prep before you pack. Knowing the essentials for traveling with credit cards can help you avoid problems and enjoy your experience.

1. Choose Your Card(s) Wisely

Deciding on a card can be intimidating, but some options can help maximize your travel experiences. It's a good idea to find out what kind of travel perks you could be getting — from concierge services and free flight luggage check-ins to rental car or hotel discounts and medical travel insurance. In addition, it's good to know what emergency preparations are in place and if your credit or debit card will give you a fair exchange rate. Since you will likely be spending more money than usual, it's a good idea to use the cards that generate the most valuable rewards. Before you apply for a reward card, it's also helpful to check your credit score to see if you meet the issuer's requirements — and apply only for cards you're more likely to be approved for. (You can see your credit scores for free on Credit.com.)

2. Call Ahead

Just as you tell your loved ones before you head out on a trip, it's important to let your credit card issuers know of your plans. Most companies regularly monitor your spending for fraud and if they notice several purchases that do not align with your normal location or behavior, they might shut down or suspend your card. Give the 800 number on the back of your card a ring and share your destination and travel dates so you don't get stuck without credit when you need it most.

3. Learn the Fees

Traveling abroad can open you up to a whole new set of bank fees so it's a good idea to get educated. See if your card incurs foreign transaction fees or excessive ATM fees so you can avoid them or build them into your budget. With a little research, you'll know how you can shop smartly abroad.

4. Research Restrictions

Some issuers have restrictions on cards being used outside your normal purchasing pattern. This especially affects travel outside the U.S. and can include daily spending or withdrawal limits, so call ahead to ask about these rules and how to lift them for the duration of your travel.

5. Have a Backup

While you are out of your normal routine, it is important to be prepared in the event of a declined card. Not all cards are universally accepted, and your card may not work even if you called ahead. It's a good idea to have some options for paying – credit cards from more than one issuer, a debit card, travelers' checks, some cash, etc. It's a good idea to keep a list of customer service phone numbers for your card companies so you can respond quickly and effectively in case something goes wrong.

Traveling can be stressful enough. Don't waste time on expensive calls to your credit card company because you didn't prepare for your trip. Think ahead, follow these tips, and get ready to enjoy traveling while racking up some serious rewards points.


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