Travelling With Credit Cards: Trap or Freedom?

Technology has made payments abroad easier than ever. However, the great debate between whether to use cash or credit when travelling still exists. Each side has its arguments and reasons, and it’s only fair to hear them both out.

cardlaptop

So let’s talk about why you should or shouldn’t use credit cards while travelling, and then we’ll discuss some ways to use credit cards responsibly while abroad.

The Pros

A better exchange rate

Let’s say you want to exchange your US Dollars for some Euros. Most likely, you will go to a change bureau in the airport or nearby to exchange cash for cash. However, the exchange rate that they charge you will not be the best rate. In fact, they are charging you a fee just for changing your money! Granted, some credit cards also charge conversion fees. However, credit card fees will be much lower than what you would pay at a change counter. And some credit cards don’t charge any fee at all!

Earning points

Would you like some free money? Many credit card companies offer very appealing bonuses and points upon signup.

credit-card

Also, when you spend money with you credit card, you are automatically racking up more points! These points can later be used to purchase flights, hotels, travel gear, and more!  In fact, you can even get cold, hard cash back from these points. 

Other Rewards

Check carefully when choosing a credit card to travel with. Some may offer you discounts on travel health insurance, rental cars, late hotel checkouts, and more. And some cards offer these perks for free!

The Cons

Cash only

Since it is so common to use credit cards in the US or the UK, many people assume that while travelling in Europe or other places around the world, credit cards will easily be accepted.  However, this is not always the case.

euros

In many convenience stores, small restaurants, cafes, and even some hostels, credit cards are not accepted. Europe is a very cash-friendly continent, so it’s good to keep an amount of local cash on hand.

Inexperience

If you do not already have some experience in using a credit card, it is not recommended that you use this method of payment for travel. It is easy to get confused or frustrated when you don’t know the credit card process, and you may get stuck with unexpected fees.

How to Use Credit Cards Responsibly While Traveling

#1 Check for foreign transaction fees

Make an informed decision about which credit card you’ll use when travelling. Seeing a list of the best travel credit cards can give you an idea of which card will fit your needs and goals.

#2 Don’t check your balance on public computers or WiFi

These places are high traffic areas and hackers use them to their advantage.

dollars-and-phone

If you need to check your balance, do so on your smartphone with you own separate connection, or in any other place where you can trust the connection is secure.

#3 Inform your card issuer of your trip

If you don’t inform the company beforehand, they may put a block on your card when they see it being used in a foreign country. This is meant to protect you from fraud, but can end up in frustration. Avoid the hassle of calling the company from another country by calling them before you leave.

#4 Be sure of the exchange rate

Some merchants try to take advantage of credit card users by presenting the final bill in the currency of your card, and secretly charging more for the exchange rate than they should. To avoid this Dynamic Currency Conversion, make sure that whatever receipt you sign has the local currency on it.

money in jar

Also, keep up with the exchange rate by checking online or downloading an app on your smartphone.

#5 Carry identification

This is a good idea when travelling for a number of reasons, including the fact that some merchants will not accept credit card payment unless there is positive proof of identification. 

#6 Avoid American Express and Discovery in Europe

These cards are mostly unknown in most European countries, so it’s best to avoid using them to ensure that the payment will go through.

#7 Stick to a budget

Just because you have credit, does not mean you have the cash to pay off your bills at the end of the month. Use your card judiciously by setting a budget before you go. That way you won’t have to worry about paying off debt at the end of your trip.

Travelling abroad is a fantastic experience that shouldn’t be weighed down by concerns about money. Spend wisely with whichever method you choose, and you’ll be sure to have a great trip.

And you, do you prefer travelling with cash or credit card or maybe both?

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3 Comments

  • Yes, a travel blogger that gets it! Nomadic Matt loves to try to strong arm people into getting travel rewards credit cards but not everyone knows how to use credit cards. I personally have never had one. Here in Honolulu so many places only except cards if you’re buying more than 10 dollars worth of stuff.

  • Credit cards are great for reserving hostels/hotels, and for paying for expensive plane tickets … otherwise, I use cash almost exclusively on the road.

  • credit cards are getting more and more used for travel. as long as you keep track of what you spend and still stick to your budget, and put your card in credit before you leave, they are incredibly useful when travelling!

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