Credit cards have a natural advantage on the competition when it comes to making quick and convenient payments, especially overseas. Let’s explore some important things you should know about international travel and shopping with a credit card.
Credit cards are insured, even abroad. Using your credit card is a great way to make sure that you have the best protection from liability from a lost or stolen credit card. By law, your liability is limited to $50 per event.
Foreign exchange fees can be avoided. Many credit card companies charge a foreign exchange fee for purchases made in other countries. This fee can range from 2-5% of the total charge amount. Always call your credit card company before you travel to have fees waived or reduced, if possible. Some credit cards intended for frequent flyers have zero foreign exchange fees by default, saving potentially thousands of dollars over the card’s life for frequent flyers to foreign countries.
Not all credit cards are accepted internationally. In the United States, shops frequently accept every single credit card brand in existence. Overseas, Visa and MasterCard have much larger networks compared to a predominantly American credit card company, Discover. Ideally, always have a “back up” card from another card issuer or network so that you won’t get turned down for payment. (This is a great idea even for people who do not frequently travel.)
All in all, credit cards are a much better alternative to cash or debit cards when traveling overseas. Before you travel, be sure to check for discounts or waivers for foreign exchange fees by calling ahead. Calling your credit card company to make them aware of your travel plan is always a good idea – some card companies quickly disable credit cards when they see overseas purchases indicative of theft.