Using credit cards when traveling overseas can be very convenient, but to do so safely you need to know some basic information about your cards and your destination country. Different countries and banks have different protocols for credit card usage, so make sure you can answer the following questions prior to your departure:
– Does the country use chip and PIN technology? Chip and PIN (or EMV) technology is widespread outside the United States. A chip and PIN credit card has a special microchip inside. To use the card, the cardholder plugs the card into a reader and enters their PIN number to validate the transaction. While chip and PIN card readers can still read the older magnetic-strip cards in use in the United States, some automated machines cannot, and some businesses refuse to take magnetic-strip cards for fear of fraud.
– Does my bank know where I’m going? To prevent fraud, some credit card issuers block transactions overseas unless they know the cardholder is going to be in a country during a certain period. Make sure to tell your bank where you’re going and on which dates you’ll be there, so that the bank doesn’t block your card.
– Will I be hit with foreign transaction fees? Some banks levy extra fees on transactions outside the cardholder’s country of origin. To save money on your trip, make sure you use a card from a bank that doesn’t do so.
– Do I have a backup? Carrying multiple cards on a trip is always a good idea, in case one suffers a technical glitch or gets stolen or lost. It’s also wise to carry a little cash around in case of emergencies.
– Do I know my bank’s contact numbers? If something goes wrong with your credit card while you’re abroad, your only recourse will be to contact your bank to get things sorted out. Make sure you have the contact numbers for your bank with you in case you need them.