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Taking your credit card on a holiday


Laine Gordon

By Laine Gordon

4 min read

It's now been half a year since the Christmas holidays. Those care-free days of lounging on the beach and escaping on excursions now seem a lifetime ago, as we've settled into the familiar grind of daily work life. Fortunately, the school holidays are here again and hopefully you'll be free to do a bit of travelling. 

Roy Morgan recently found that full-time Australian workers have an average of 21 days leave each, just in time for the holidays — in fact 28 percent have more than five weeks' worth. If you're one of this lucky percentage, you might be thinking about grabbing your credit card, booking flights and packing a bag.

In preparation, we've assembled a few top tips for using your credit card and keeping costs down when you're on foreign shores. 

Do the appropriate checks

Your credit card will not only allow you to make purchases overseas, it might end up being an emergency fall-back. You don't want to pull it out only to find that you can't use it for whatever reason. Check the expiry date and make sure it doesn't correspond to the date you're travelling. If your card doesn't have a PIN, you might want to add one before you go — they don't accept signatures everywhere overseas.

Additionally, make sure your card isn't prevented from making overseas purchases. Often, credit card holders will lock in-store international payments so there's no chance of it being used without their knowledge. If you took this step, then make sure to unlock it before you go, otherwise you might end up using more of the funds in your savings account.

Inform your credit provider

Before you leave, get in touch with the credit card issuer and let them know that you're going away, where you're travelling to and what the dates are. Ideally, you could simply print off your itinerary and give it to them. It couldn't hurt to provide a phone number as well. 

Most cards have automatic fraud detection systems that can put a block on the card if they detect anything suspicious. Doing this will prevent your card from being mistakenly blocked. Not only that, but if something suspicious does happen with your card, your provider will be able to better detect it. 

Be careful with fees

Whether it's a coffee in Prague or a pretzel in Cologne, whenever you pay for something overseas with your credit card, there's a chance you'll get charged a fee. This is because each of these transactions could require a currency conversion, which some providers add a charge on for, usually around 2-3 percent. It sounds small, but it can add up if you're swiping left and right. Same goes with cash advances, which have higher fees if you're doing them overseas. 

Try to limit how much you use your credit card when you're in a foreign country. Also, look for ATMs that are compatible with your particular card, so as to avoid an extra charge on top. Finally, consider carrying out a credit card comparison on some of the top cards for overseas spending to find a card that has low or even no foreign transaction fees — they do exist!

Use a special travel credit card

Taking more than one credit card — or at least, more than one form of money, such as travellers cheques and foreign currency — is a good idea whenever you travel. Look for cards that are specifically tailored to international purchases to really make the most of this strategy.

Travel money cards are a popular option for jet setters of all kinds. With this card, you pre-load spending money before you jump on the flight, choosing different amounts in different currencies and locking in the exchange rate. You just have to do some strategic spending — if one currency 'bucket' runs out of funds, the card will automatically transfer money from another, charging you a fee in the process. It just means you need to stick closely to your holiday budget. 

Additionally — or alternatively — compare the credit cards out there and find ones with travel perks that you can take along. A card with complimentary travel cover could be a useful thing to have.

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