Choose The Right Credit Card When You Travel

April 10, 2009 | By | 1 Reply More
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Having just returned from a lengthy trip to a foreign country, I had the opportunity to access my ‘every day’ credit cards to be sure we were bringing cards that would save us the most money while providing the best coverages.  Let’s be honest, all cards are not created equal – some are good for auto insurance coverage, some for currency conversions and others for their frequent flyer points.

Here are my tips for making sure you bring the best credit card on your next trip.

#1 Let’s discuss Chip and Pin authorizations.  About 2 years ago Europe changed from signature verifications to pin authorizations for credit card transactions.  Unfortunately the USA did not follow suit, so our credit cards are not fully compatible with the European system.  In most instances you won’t have a problem, but we did encounter some difficulties when buying from smaller merchants.  Plan ahead, and be sure your card has a four digit pin assigned to itWhen your transaction is processed, you will be asked to enter the pin number to proceed.  If you don’t have a pin number, just press OK again – but we found the sale did not always go through.  Next time we’ll be better prepared!

#2  Call Your Credit Card Company in advance to verify fees and coverages and let them know you’ll be out of the country.  I was totally surprised to find my major airline credit cards had very different coverages for rental car insurance and foreign currency conversion fees.  Visa and MasterCard charge a 3% fee on every foreign currency conversion, while American Express charges 2%.  Traveler’s favorite, Capital One, charges NO conversion fee – but their rewards program is not as good as the airline’s cards.  My strategy has been to pay for my tour arrangements with a credit card that earns airline frequent flyer miles, and then use a Capital One card for purchases while traveling.  Check the rental car insurance coverage carefully, I’m sure you will find significant differences between cards.  From my experience, American Express had the best overall coverage for all sizes of vehicles.

#3 Just Say No to Dynamic Currency Conversion! Some merchants, rental car agencies and hotels may offer to calculate your bill and process it in US dollars.  This is usually a bad deal.  You will be giving the merchant control over the exchange rate instead of the “interbank exchange rate” used by banks and credit card companies.  And it is likely that your credit card company will still charge you a 1% (or higher) fee for processing the foreign transaction even though no conversion is involved.

#4  Be sure to bring at least two credit cards on your trip, and be sure you and your spouse are carrying different cards.  If one of you has your credit card stolen, the other will still have an compromised card available for use.

So plan ahead and you’ll keep more money in your pocket instead of in the hands of the money changers!!!

Category: Family Vacations, Featured, How To, Money & Technology, Money Saving Travel, Traveling With Pets, Trip Planning