Summer is over and travel deals abound. Maybe you’re planning a blow-out end-of-the-season international trip before the cold weather arrives. But before you head to the airport, make sure that you’ve completed your credit card prep.
That’s right: Before you travel out of country, you need to take certain steps to protect yourself from credit card fraud or denied purchases. The good news? These steps are all simple ones that will pay off big while you travel.
Decide Which Credit Cards to Take
You probably won’t need all of your credit cards on your vacation. It’s best to leave behind those that you don’t plan on using. There is no reason to bring an entire wallet full of credit cards on your trip. The more cards you bring, the more hassle you’ll endure should you lose your wallet or fall victim to a pickpocket.
What cards should you leave at home? The odds are that you won’t need any credit cards aligned with specific department stores or gas stations. It’s best to bring only all-purpose cards on your trip, cards that you can use at most locations. And be sure to bring those cards that generate the most valuable rewards points. If you’re spending big on your vacation — and it’s not always easy to stick to a budget when traveling — you might as well boost your rewards.
Call Your Credit Card Issuers
Before traveling out of the country, it’s a good idea to call your credit-card issuers to inform them of your travel plans. Many card issuers actively monitor your credit cards for fraud. If they notice several charges in Paris when you’re a resident of New York City, issuers might shut down your card, leaving you in the lurch when you need to use your cards for purchases.
Before traveling, call the 800 number on the back of your card. Visa recommends that you tell an operator where you are traveling, when you are leaving and when you’re scheduled to return. This will prevent any unwelcome surprises when you’re ready to charge that expensive restaurant meal.
Learn the Fees
Many credit-card issuers charge hefty foreign-transaction fees. Be aware of these fees before you travel. You can either use other cards that don’t charge fees or build the transaction fees into your vacation budget.
Also, before you leave for vacation, it might make sense to stock up on the currency used at your destination. This way, you can use cash for more purchases, eliminating those foreign transaction fees. You can order currency for many destinations at U.S. banks and credit unions. Just make sure to leave enough time; it can take a week or longer for many financial institutions to acquire certain foreign currencies.
Some card issuers might place daily spending or withdrawal restrictions on your cards. Before traveling call your card issuer and ask about these restrictions. You don’t want to accidentally trigger a shutdown of your card, especially if you’re short on cash during your trip.
Store Your Numbers
Wells Fargo recommends that international travelers store their financial information — including account numbers and toll-free customer-service phone numbers — on encrypted USB flash drives. This way, if travelers lose their cards or have their cards stolen, they can quickly report them missing.
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