7 Tips for Using Credit Cards When Traveling

Vacations and vacations are about relaxation, so you're less likely to keep an eye on your credit card balances and bills.

But if you're traveling, "checking your balance more often is probably good advice," said Nessa Feddis, senior vice president of consumer protection and payments for the American Bankers Association. By keeping tabs on your credit card activity, you can avoid potential overspending, extra fees and security risks while abroad.

"Thanks to mobile banking apps, verification has become easier," she said.

Do you want to keep your plastic safe even on slopes? Here are seven strategies and some bonus tips you can start using right away.

1. Let the card issuer know you are traveling Notify your card issuer before you travel to avoid your first purchase being incorrectly flagged as fraudulent.

"If you're outside of your usual job range, be sure to let your card issuer know," says Susan Tiffany, who was the president of the consumer magazine for the Credit Union National Association for 17 years. "Even if you just go into a different state, it doesn't hurt." The same goes for credit and debit cards, she added.

If you usually buy shoes on Michigan Avenue in Chicago and suddenly buy a croissant on the Champs-Elysées in Paris, your card will most likely be declined or frozen.

Extra travel tip: When you contact your debit card issuer by phone, ask if you have a daily spending limit or a daily ATM withdrawal limit, says Tiffany. Not every card has it, but here's what you want to know before you leave home.

2. Check your travel allowance Typically, you'll use your credit card primarily for cash back or point rewards. However, many cards also offer additional services that can make planning your trip easier.

Some common travel benefits are: rental car insurance. concierge service. Hotel offers free breakfast or late check-out. Free or discounted travel health insurance

Emergency Evacuation Insurance When you travel, make sure to collect rewards for your spending. Your restaurant rewards cash back card can come in handy when you're dining out, and your travel rewards card can help you save money on last-minute car rentals or excursions.

Extra travel tip: When traveling, don't keep all your cards in one place, says Eva Velasquez, president and CEO of the Identity Theft Resource Center. That way, if some cards are lost or stolen, you can also use other cards.

3. Watch your spending It's easy to forget about your holiday shopping if you're not careful. But when your monthly statement is due, you'll still have to pay any balance you've accumulated.

Set a budget or spending goal before your trip and use it to control spending throughout your trip. You can always make adjustments, but having a plan to limit your spending can help you stay on track. That way, you won't be surprised with sky-high bills when you get home.

4. Limit ATM Fees Carrying cash is a smart idea, both in emergencies and for businesses that only accept local currency.

However, if you go to a new location, you may not be able to find an ATM online that accepts your debit card. And those "foreign ATM" and "off-net" fees can be high -- sometimes $5 and $6 per transaction. Depending on your bank, you may be eligible for an ATM fee refund even if you're overseas, but it's best to check with your bank first.

5. Stay alert One of the joys of any vacation is changing up your routine.

If you're visiting somewhere you've never been, keep an eye out for the card-swiping device before using an ATM, Velasquez said.

Just like any other time, explore your surroundings with your personal and financial safety in mind. Using a belt or duffel bag to keep your belongings safe can also make life easier on the road, says Velasquez.

Make sure you choose a credit card and not a debit card for your purchases. "They have more protection," Velasquez said. If something goes wrong, dispute the line of credit instead of actual cash.

6. Do your research

Some card issuers are more widely accepted around the world than others, and you don't want to end up in another country that doesn't have payment facilities.

It may be helpful to ask your card customer service about the acceptance rate at your destination, but consider other sources as well. Also, check with your travel agent (if you have one) and your hotel, innkeeper, or concierge before you leave. Look online for posts by other travelers or locals sharing their experiences with the same type of card.

Even if you primarily use one card at home, it can be helpful to have several cards with you when you travel, especially cards from different issuers. Plus, you have a backup in case a card accidentally closes you or suspends permissions.

7. Practice security
For credit data collectors, public Wi-Fi is an all-you-can-drink buffet. The same goes for public computers in Internet cafés and hotel business centers. Avoid doing anything other than reading the morning paper or checking the weather.

Check balance? Use your own cellular network to try out your bank or card issuer's app or mobile website, Feddis says. Or go old school and call the agency's toll-free number.

Never enter your card number on a website without a secure connection, Velasquez said. "My rule is that I use my secure network (your own computer) for sensitive transactions - and only use my phone if there is an urgent need and I am sure the transmission is secure," she said.

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