Money Matters Overseas

Our Top Tips For Using Credit Cards and Currency!

1. Bring a widely accepted credit card

Visa and Mastercard are widely accepted worldwide. If an establishment takes credit cards, it’s a good bet that your Visa or Mastercard will work. American Express has an international presence, too, but it is accepted by fewer merchants. If your primary card is an AmEx, bring a Visa or Mastercard as a backup.

2. Bring more than one card

If your card is declined, you’ll be glad you have a backup.

3. Have some cash

Just as in the U.S., some places overseas don’t take credit cards. Or your cards might get compromised and become unusable. In such cases, having some local currency can be a lifesaver. We always recommend bringing some US currency as well which is easily exchanged in pinch.

4. Tell your issuer you’re going

If your credit card account suddenly shows purchases thousands of miles from your home, your card issuer might decline them as suspicious. To avoid confusion, let your issuer know your travel itinerary in advance so it doesn’t freeze your account.

5. Avoid foreign transaction fees

Some credit cards charge a fee on every purchase you make outside the U.S.; 3% is a typical rate. Check with your credit card company in advance.

6. Understand chip-and-PIN

Most U.S. credit cards now have EMV chips, but you still verify the transaction with a signature. Chip-and-PIN cards, in which you enter a code to verify your identity, are more common outside the U.S. You can still use chip-and-signature cards many places, but self-serve kiosks in Europe and elsewhere commonly require chip-and-PIN. This is common with gas stations. See if your issuer offers chip-and-PIN, or at least keep this fact in mind when planning.

7. Say no to dynamic currency conversion

Dynamic currency conversion allows you to have a transaction conducted in U.S. dollars rather than the local currency, so you have a better idea what it’s costing you. This may seem convenient, but it’s expensive. The exchange rates for dynamic currency conversion are typically much worse than what your card issuer will use when it converts the purchase for your statement.

So, when offered the chance to “see your total in dollars,” decline and pay in the local currency.