Tips for Travelers Using Credit Cards

Whether headed out for business or for pleasure, use credit or debit cards wisely to avoid getting burned.  Consider this advice:

1. Share your Plans.  Banks look out for purchases that vary from your usual spending pattern.  Whether you are renting a car in Buenos Aires or paying for your hotel in Iguazu, your action could trigger a fraud alert.  This will freeze your accounts until you contact your bank’s fraud department and prove that you are yourself and are indeed spending your own money.  This can be very complicated depending on several factors such as the time difference, access to a phone, the cost of the call, and how long you have to wait on hold.  If there is no other alternative you may have to use your mobile phone and pay outrageous roaming charges.  To avoid such hassles and unnecessary expenses, notify your bank or credit card company of your travel plans.

2. Factor in Fees.  Before deciding which cards to take on your trip, study how much each charges for cash advances, ATM withdrawals and foreign transactions.  A little homework can save you money.

3. Slim Down Your Wallet.  Decide which cards to leave behind and lock them up.  You’ll eliminate bulk and secure your cards.

4. Say, “Local Currency Please.”  When abroad you may be asked if you would like to have your card transaction processed in your home currency.  You should always decline and ask to be charged in the local currency.  Why? Merchants may tack their own currency conversion charges on top of your card’s foreign-transaction fee.

5. Make Copies and Store Them Safely.  If your cards are lost or stolen, you’ll need your card and bank contact information handy so you can act promptly.  Scan or copy both sides of your cards, but don’t keep the copies in your luggage, wallet or purse, in case of theft.  Instead, leave them with a trusted friend or relative you can contact immediately if necessary.

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