Definitely plan to take credit cards with you when you travel.  Even when you travel abroad.

It’s a good idea to let your card company or bank know when and where you’ll be traveling.  Identity theft is such a problem these days, that if your card company sees unusual spending patterns they may grow suspicious.  They might block charges on your card to protect you from fraud…  You know, like a lot of charges from London when you live in Des Moines.  Notifying your card company isn’t required, but it’s a good idea to protect yourself and ensure that you can use your card on your trip.

Travel with only a couple of charge cards in addition to your ATM card. You don’t want to have a whole pocket full of cards at risk, but you do want to have more than one type of card.  It’s a good idea because if something happens and one card can’t be used, you’ll have a backup.

Some places only take Visa; some only take MasterCard.  Pick one or two of each and leave the rest at home.  American Express may say “Don’t leave home without it,” but there are many places that won’t take their card.  It’s a good card to have, but it’s also good to know the limitations.

If two of you are traveling as a couple, consider carrying different credit cards.  This will give you even more options.

If you rent a car, sometimes car rental companies will put a large charge on your card at the beginning as a deposit, leaving you less on your credit line.  Your back up cards will make sure you always can use a card.  You do want to charge the car on a card that will cover collision damage waiver… that’ll save you money.

Credit card companies have started adding international transaction fees. Visa and MasterCard have charged a 1 percent fee for years, but now some banks that issue the card also tack on a 1-2 percent foreign transaction fee in addition to that.  Quiz your bank or card company.  There are a handful of cards which don’t charge any fees at all.  To date, Capital One Card charges no fees, so you might want to carry one of those.

Don’t let foreign vendors charge that bill for you in dollars.  It seems nice, but you’ll probably end up paying more. The dollar amount you’re charged may be at a crummy exchange rate (way worse than you’d get with your credit card or ATM), and you’re card company will still likely charge you a foreign transaction fee.

Credit cards are accepted in more places all the time…. most now in fact.  But there are still many little B&Bs that take only cash, some small restaurants too.  And in some less developed countries you may find you need to pay in cash.  If you want to pay with your card, they may add 3-5 percent onto your bill to make up for the fees that they’re charged.  So take those credit cards traveling, but change plenty of money and be prepared to pay cash in many places too.

Which is your favorite credit card to travel with?

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