Top Tips For Travelling Overseas With Credit Cards
Finally thinking of taking that overseas vacation you were looking forward to? Well you might want to consider signing up for a travel credit card if you haven’t already.
While yes, you definitely want to still carry some cash on you just in case, a credit card to supplement your spending needs can significantly simplify overseas travel. For one, you won’t really have to deal with currency conversions, and with the right credit card, you won’t have to pay excessive foreign transaction fees.
Regardless, the act of simply using a credit card does not in itself make overseas spending any cheaper. Here are a few tips and tricks you can make use of before you leave and while travelling that can help make your vacation hassle free, and maybe even save you a pretty penny.
Maximise your travel credit card benefits
The main purpose of using a travel credit card is to get more travel-related rewards that most travel cards offer.
Travel cards are reward based cards which allow you to earn points or air miles from different frequent flyer programmes when used for purchases. Some also offer discounts on travel packages or flight tickets.
How do you get more out of your travel credit card?
- Make sure to accumulate travel miles if your card offers them as rewards
- Take advantage of any travel insurance coverage that comes with your travel credit card
- Claim your discount benefits on flight tickets, entry tickets to attractions, and travel experiences, which travel credit cards usually offer as part of their benefits
- Lookout for special offers that some travel credit cards offer for online bookings on travel sites
Utilise cards with low foreign transaction fees
Many credit card issuers, though not all, will tend to charge fees for purchases made overseas with a foreign seller. These fees typically range from 1% to 3% of the total cost of each purchase. This might seem insignificant at a glance, but can result in you paying significantly more than the listed price. Not to mention the fact that multiple purchases can easily add up over time. By the end of your trip, you might be left with a bill that is much larger than you expected.
Before taking off for any trip overseas, do the following:
- Whether your credit/debit card issuer to see if your agreements include any foreign transaction fees
- Apply for cards with no foreign transaction fees or go for the ones with the lowest fees possible
- Use debit cards that do not charge extra for ATM withdrawals in foreign countries
- If you use your debit cards while travelling, try not to use them for online purchases overseas
- Apply for any cards early to allow enough time for get approved and register your new card properly before heading off
As a little side note, foreign transaction fees can also apply to purchases made online from your home country where the merchant is foreign and processes the transaction in its local currency. You should keep this in mind when making your hotel and accommodation reservations before going on your trip.
If you are still unsure as to which card you should apply for, the Maybank Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer American Express Platinum Card is a great example, offering plenty of benefits when travelling with Singapore Airlines and spending overseas. Another good example would be the Alliance Bank Visa Infinite Credit Card that offers a 0% Flexi Payment Plan for 3 months for flight ticket purchases, hotel bookings and Overseas spending. It also allows you to collect up to five times more points from overseas transactions.
If you are still unsure as to which card you should apply for, the Maybank Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer American Express Platinum Card is a great example, offering plenty of benefits when travelling with Singapore Airlines and spending overseas.
Another good example would be the Alliance Bank Visa Infinite Credit Card that offers a 0% Flexi Payment Plan for 3 months for flight ticket purchases, hotel bookings and Overseas spending. It also allows you to collect up to five times more points from overseas transactions.
Stay clear of dynamic currency conversion (DCC)
Dynamic currency conversion is a feature that allows you to make credit card purchases in a foreign country using your home country’s currency. This conversion takes place at the merchant, and allows you to immediately see just how much everything costs in RM – regardless of where you are in the world.
Sounds good right? Just leave the currency conversion math to the card and just spend with peace of mind.
Unfortunately, the exchange rate for dynamic currency conversion tends to be unfavourable for card owners.
If a foreign merchant asks if you want to pay in foreign currency or that of your home country, it is almost always a better deal to go with local currency. If you really want to be sure to avoid DCC transactions, then you could always fall back to using cash. Foreign currency exchange rates offered by your local bank and currency converters are likely to have better rates than DCC can offer.
Keep your money safe
Security is another area where credit cards have an edge. Not only are credit cards easier to conceal and keep safe but also because even if your card is stolen or lost, you don’t actually lose any money.
While many people dread the idea of some random person using their credit card, all you need to do is to remember to make an official report if your card is stolen or missing, and you’ll be off the hook for any unauthorised purchases.
At the same time, if you use your debit card while travelling for easier access to ATM withdrawals, try not to use them for online purchases overseas.
Let your issuer know about your trip
Preparing the right cards for your overseas vacation is one thing, but letting your issuer know where you are going is just as important. Alert your issuer of your travel plans and ask for an emergency contact number that you can use to call for assistance while you are overseas. This not only will ensure that your cards do not get suspended in case of loss or suspicious activity, but also will give you a way to contact your issuer free of charge if something unexpected does happen.
Interestingly enough, certain card issuers no longer need cardholders to notify them for upcoming travel. Be sure to check with your credit card company if your card has such features built in.
Wait a minute, weren’t we talking about credit cards? Yes, while credit cards offer safety as you do not need to carry a wallet full of cash as you travel, and the convenience offered allows you to make hassle-free payments, going on vacation to a foreign country with just your cards is not a great idea. And if you play your cards right, cash can even help save you some money.
Cash will help you to avoid some of the transaction fees that are placed on cards, especially if you do not have a card with zero foreign transaction fees. However, its main strength is that cash is undoubtedly the most commonly accepted form of payment.
Yes, there are some places that are aiming to become truly cashless. There are also locations that do not accept credit or debit cards at all. Therefore, you should always carry cash while you are travelling as a safety net.
Top up your eWallet
We have talked about utilising cash and credit cards while travelling overseas, but what if you only want to use them both as a last resort? What if you just want to use your handy eWallet that you have grown accustomed to over the years? Well, you might just be in luck, your eWallet may be usable in some overseas countries.
Take Touch ‘n Go eWallet for example. The TnG eWallet now allows you to make QR payments via the Alipay+ digital payment system. With it, you can seamlessly make payments with your device in select countries such as Singapore, Japan, Thailand, South Korea, and more. So make sure you check to see if your favourite eWallet supports overseas payments. This will allow you to top up your eWallet while on the move if you don’t feel like using your credit card too much.
Minimising the hassle
Overseas travel is never a simple endeavour, not to mention it tends to be rather expensive. That being said, there are always little things you can do to help minimise the cost and hassle of spending while abroad.
By simply notifying your credit card issuer of travel plans, paying in local currency, and having a travel card with no transaction fee, you should be able to avoid any nasty surprises once your next card statement arrives.
An overseas vacation should be something to enjoy and remember, and not spent worrying over conversion rates and handling foreign money.