May: The school year is winding down; summer travel
plans are revving up. Whether itís a road trip on the
nationís freeways or a jet flight across the world,
chances are youíll be using a credit card on those
you depart, hereís a roundup of some good-to-know
credit card travel tips.
BEFORE YOU GO: Especially if youíre traveling
overseas, itís always wise to alert your credit card
company. Otherwise, if you leave Lodi and start charging
purchases in Canada, your credit card company will
likely flag those transactions as suspicious. They might
try contacting you by phone to verify the transactions.
Or they could simply freeze your card, playing havoc
with travel plans.
avoid those scenarios, pick up the phone and call your
issuer, using the number on the back of your card. Many
card issuers let you do the same thing online. Log onto
your account and look for "travel
notification" or a similar tab, where you can fill
in the dates and countries where youíll be traveling.
strongly encourage our customers to contact us when
traveling, whether theyíre in the middle of a trip or
about to leave," JPMorgan Chase spokesman Rob Tacey
said in an email.
some cases, he said, the company notifies its frequent
travelers that itís not necessary to notify the
company in advance, because itís already aware their
card is often used far from home. But generally, it canít
hurt to call your credit card issuer and alert it of
THE NUMBERS: Keep a copy of your cardís toll-free
customer service numbers with you, separate from your
wallet, in case you need to report a loss or theft. Bury
one in your luggage; send a copy to a friend or family
member, just in case itís needed.
many travel experts recommend carrying two credit cards,
keeping one as your backup in case your main card is
lost or stolen.
YOUR FREEBIES: Many consumers arenít aware of
little-known benefits that come free with their credit
cards, said Ed Perkins, a longtime SmarterTravel.com
writer, based in Ashland, Ore. Depending on the card and
the issuing bank, the perks can range from free
referrals if you need a lawyer or doctor in a foreign
country (the referral is free, not the professional
services) to hotel room upgrades.
the best freebies: Coverage for lost or damaged checked
baggage, up to $500 beyond what you might receive from
the airline. Most U.S. airlines will cover up to $3,400
in cases of lost baggage, said Perkins, but certain
items are excluded, including cash, family heirlooms or
expensive technology, such as computers.
you packed an expensive camera in your checked baggage,
some cards will cover up to $250 per lost item. Ö Itís
not a lot, but it can make a difference," Perkins
biggest benefit, said Perkins: Coverage for damage to a
rental car. If the damage occurs in the U.S., the
credit-card reimbursement is generally secondary
coverage that kicks in after you first file a claim with
your insurer. If itís an overseas rental car, which
usually isnít covered by U.S. insurance, the credit
card coverage may be your only option to recoup the cost
one really big-dollar benefit. It can amount to hundreds
of dollars," he noted.
card issuers also offer small amounts of compensation
for delayed flights.
all cases, to find out what your card covers, read the
fine print in your service agreement or look it up
FEES: Most credit cards add a 1 to 3 percent currency
conversion fee to the cost of any purchase outside the
U.S., even when you pay in dollars. Some cards however,
like Capitol One, have eliminated it entirely. If you
have more than one credit card, you might want to check
the fees and use the one with the lowest foreign
traveling overseas, you will likely be hit by ATM fees
when youíre getting cash withdrawals in local
currency. There are a couple ways to minimize these
fees, which can be as high as $5 per transaction.
your card issuer to ask if it has partnerships with bank
ATMs in other countries.
a debit card from a credit union, which tends to have
lower fees than a bank card.
doing ATM cash withdrawals, get large amounts so youíre
not making frequent ATM stops and incurring fees.
said he typically uses a Bank of America debit card,
which charges no fees for ATM withdrawals at its partner
banks in France (BNP Paribus), Germany (Deutsche Bank),
Canada (Scotiabank), China (China Construction Bank),
Mexico (Banco Santander), Italy (BNL díItalia) or
general, Perkins recommends using a debit card to make
cash withdrawals (because of lower fees compared with
most credit cards). For large purchases, like hotel
stays, car rentals, shopping, etc., he says, use your
Perkins noted: At all costs, avoid going to a currency
exchange office or airport kiosk, which typically charge
high currency conversion fees.
OR NO CHIP? If your credit card has been around a while,
itís probably not imbedded with a microchip, a
security feature that makes it harder for cyberthieves
to steal your credit card info. These so-called
microchipped cards are standard in Europe, but many
Americans donít yet have one (although theyíre
becoming mandatory by October 2015).
most cases overseas, "a standard old American
(magnetic-) striped card will work most of the time, in
most places," said Perkins, who uses both chipped
and non-chipped cards and rarely encounters a problem.
He said certain situations, such as trying to use a
self-service gas station or ticket kiosk, may cause a
card to be rejected.
"If your bank offers the option of getting a
chipped card, I recommend it because it decreases the
chances of running into a problem."
BILLS IN ADVANCE: Donít forget to pay off credit card
bills before leaving, so you donít come home to
unanticipated late fees or other penalties. Especially
if youíll be gone for an extended period, you can pay
your monthly bill ahead of time or set up an online
YOUR LIMITS: If youíll be charging lots on your trip,
be sure youíve got enough available credit on your
card. Letís say your card has a $1,000 limit and you
exceed that while renting scuba gear: Your card
transaction could be denied or you could get hit with
penalties on your next bill. To avoid those unpleasant
surprises, contact your card issuer now about raising
your credit limit. Otherwise, monitor your travel
spending so you donít go over the card limit.