NORTH PALM BEACH, Fla. (7/7/10)--Travel can be tricky, particularly when it’s overseas. Don’t leave home without taking measures to prepare and protect plastic cards--and your ability to use them (Bankrate.com
June 29). These simple tips could save you hours of frustration and hundreds of dollars or more:
* Give card issuer your itinerary. If the company knows you’re traveling overseas, it won’t place a hold on the card when you try to use it outside the U.S. And if someone uses your credit card number in a country that’s not on your itinerary, you’ll be notified of possible fraud. * Call ahead. Contact the hotel before you leave home to make sure your credit card will be accepted there. Some Europeans have adopted chip-and-PIN cards that include a computer chip and require you to enter a personal identification number (thestar.com June 29). If you’re carrying a card without this feature, your card might be denied. When shopping, ask a salesperson before you get to the cash register if your card will be accepted. And consider printing your train tickets at home, before departure, to avoid kiosks that require chip-and-PIN cards. * Ask about transaction fees. Some cards assess a foreign transaction fee, which can run around 3% and add up quickly if you charge hotel, restaurant, and other expenses paid for in a different currency. Be aware that even if a transaction involves U.S. dollars, some card issuers assess the fee if you conduct the transaction on foreign soil or with foreign entities. If your card charges a foreign transaction fee, take a little extra cash with you and take precautions to keep the cash safe. * Clean out your wallet. Only take the plastic you’ll need, but make sure you have a backup in case your primary card is lost, stolen, or cancelled. And, keep toll-free numbers of your card issuer in a separate place so you immediately can cancel plastic that’s been compromised. Keep all plastic in a secure location, such as a wallet tucked into an inside pocket. * Plan for loss. Consider carrying a USB Flash drive with your credit card information and other important documents in digital form. Make sure the flash drive allows for encryption, which protects your confidential information from identity thieves. Then if your card is lost or stolen, simply decrypt the file on a computer.