Travel Smart: Money Management Tips When You’re Overseas

When you’re planning a big trip, you’ve got a lot on your mind. What clothing should you pack? How much should you budget for a hotel? Which museums and historic sites are on your must-see list?

But there’s something you absolutely shouldn’t forget to make a plan for: your money. Namely, how you’re going to pay for all those souvenirs, meals, and admission tickets once you get there — and what happens if you lose your card while far from home. Here’s a few money management tips for when your traveling overseas.

1. Use Your Debit Card at the ATM

It’s a good idea to be prepared to use both cash and credit while you’re traveling. If you’re going to a foreign country, use your debit card to withdraw cash from an ATM once you arrive. You’ll pay a small fee for this, but it’s way cheaper than a credit card cash advance (where you use your credit card at an ATM for cash and the interest begins racking up immediately instead of when your bill is due).1 Cash is helpful to have around for small purchases and cab fare.

2. Avoid Foreign Transaction Fees

Most major U.S. credit cards are accepted overseas, and many now offer no foreign transaction fees, which will save you a lot on purchases. Make sure you look for a card that waives foreign transaction fees or you could end up pay an additional 3% every time you swipe. Chip and PIN technology (unlike the magnetic stripe you’re probably familiar with) is the standard in Europe because it lowers the risk of credit card fraud. While European vendors can still swipe your card, more U.S. cards are offering this technology and replacing old cards for free.2

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3. Know How You’re Protected

It’s smart to use your credit card to book your travel in the first place. Your cards may offer insurance and reimbursements for things like rental car collisions, vacation injuries, canceling your trip due to illness, losing your cell phone, and more.3 See what benefits are included with your credit card.

4. Tout Your Travel Plans

If you don’t alert your credit card company that you’ll be traveling, they might assume your first charge on your trip is the result of your card getting stolen — and they’ll lock your card down. Not very convenient when you’re on a trip! Call the toll-free number on the back of your card to tell them your travel plans. Many credit card websites also have an online form, too.

Usually you specify in advance which countries you’ll be visiting, but what if your plans are flexible and you veer off your original itinerary? You can alert your credit card company online (just like you would from home before your trip), or call the international collect call number on the back of your card.

5. Keep Your Cards Safe

Losing your credit card when you’re in your home city is annoying. Losing it while on a trip? Annoying times a million! Bring a second backup credit card and store it separately from your main card. Before you head out of town, write down the customer service numbers on the backs of your cards, as well as your credit card numbers and expiration dates, and take that list with you. (Or take photo copies and keep them in a separate spot).4

If you carry your wallet in your pocket, keep it in your front pocket to make yourself less vulnerable to pickpocketing. If you carry a purse, keep it close at hand at all times. And don’t forget the old standby: a money belt hidden under your clothes.

6. Plan for Worse Case Scenario

If you lose your card or your wallet is stolen, take these steps as soon as possible:

  1. If you know it was you who misplaced your card, some companies like Discover offer a feature where you can temporarily freeze your credit (and quickly unfreeze it once you realize you dropped the card on your hotel room floor).
  2. If you know your card was stolen or you misplaced it in a public place, call your credit card company to report the card as lost or stolen. Do this the second you realize your card is gone! Many credit card companies will overnight you a replacement card for free.5
  3. If you have internet access, place a fraud alert with each of the three credit bureaus: Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion.
  4. Continue to monitor your statements carefully before paying your bill to quickly catch fraudulent charges.
  5. You can get one free credit report per year from each of the three credit bureaus. Read through those reports to make sure no one else tried to open any accounts under your name.

If you take the right precautions, pick cards with traveler-friendly features, and keep a bit of spare cash on hand, you’ll be ready for any money-related issue a vacation throws at you. Happy and safe travels!

1http://www.nerdwallet.com/blog/tips/bad-credit-cards/what-is-a-cash-advance/

2http://www.nerdwallet.com/blog/top-credit-cards/nerdwallets-best-emv-chip-credit-cards/

3http://www.creditcards.com/credit-card-news/credit-card-insurance-coverage-1273.php

4http://www.creditcards.com/credit-card-news/8-ways-keep-cards-safe-vacation-travel-1264.php

5http://www.creditcards.com/credit-card-news/emergency-credit-card-replacement-1267.php

Legal Disclaimer: The articles and information provided herein are for informational purposes only and are not intended as a substitute for professional advice. 

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