3 Credit Card Mistakes to Avoid When You're Traveling

It’s common to take a credit card or two along with you when you travel. That way, you don’t have to worry about running out of cash or struggling to find an ATM. But if you’re going to use your credit cards while traveling, make certain to avoid these three big mistakes.

1. Not checking to see if there’s a foreign transaction fee

It’s not a given that your credit card will impose a foreign transaction fee. But some cards do. Always check the fine print before taking a credit card with you if you’re traveling abroad, because in some cases, you may be looking at paying more than necessary for your purchases.

Foreign transaction fees commonly amount to 1% to 3% of your purchase total. But let’s say you go to Europe for a week and spend $1,000 on food and entertainment. With a 3% fee, you’re looking at $30 extra.

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If you have time between now and your next trip out of the country and none of your current credit cards are free from foreign transaction fees, consider applying for a new one. You may especially want to look at travel rewards credit cards, which often waive this fee and also tend to offer money-saving perks like discounts on in-flight purchases.

2. Not informing your credit card issuer that you’ll be traveling

The fact that credit card companies are constantly on the lookout for fraud is a good thing. But you may run into some issues if you travel abroad or to another part of the country and you don’t loop your credit card issuer in.

In that case, your card might get flagged for fraud and you may find that you’re unable to use it. And while you can generally call your issuer to confirm that your charges are legitimate, thereby releasing that freeze, that hinges on you being able to place a call.

If you’re abroad, you may not have an international calling plan. And if you’re in a remote part of the U.S., you may not have reception. That could be a problem if you’re trying to fill up your car on a country road, it’s rejected at the only gas station within 80 miles, and you don’t have cash.

3. Not keeping track of your credit card spending

When you’re traveling, it’s easy enough to spend more freely because you’re in the midst of a whole new set of experiences. But don’t let that spending get out of hand. If you don’t track your purchases while traveling, you could end up with a costly pile of debt on your hands.

Let’s say you’ve only budgeted for $1,000 worth of spending while on vacation outside of lodging and airfare, and your total purchases reach $1,600. That’s a $600 balance you might have to pay off over six months. But on a credit card charging 20% interest, that’ll mean paying an extra $35. That’s money you could be putting toward a future trip instead.

A credit card can be an asset on your vacation. But do your best to avoid these mistakes, so you don’t pay extra or end up having to deal with the hassle of having your credit card denied.

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