colorful travel credit cards and foreign bank notes

Credit Cards Abroad: Chip and PIN

Are you thinking of traveling but trying to decide between credit cards, cash, debit, or traveler’s checks? Being prepared will save you a lot of time and trouble, leaving more space for fun and relaxation. In many ways, traveling with credit cards to foreign countries will make your trip so much easier than traveling with a large amount of cash that needs to be exchanged, or even traveler’s checks. It also makes tracking your purchases easier; simply log into your account wherever you are in the world. Even though it might be easier than cash, you still need to take precautions, especially with credit cards. Here are a few steps that will get you on the right path to focusing more on your trip and worrying less about how to do your spending.

Notifying Institutions

You need to make sure that you call your bank and credit card company ahead of time. Notifying them of the countries which you will be traveling to will prevent them from putting a hold on your cards for fear of unauthorized activity. Companies can also warn you if unauthorized purchases show up from countries that are not on your itinerary. You also need to keep an eye out for foreign transaction fees charged by some cards. Those charges can be expensive when you add up hotel stays, restaurants, and other expenses. You may also be charged foreign transaction fees even in countries that accept U.S. dollars as payment, because card issuers are assessing the fees for transactions made outside of U.S. states.

Chip and PIN

Another thing you may want to know about is a type of credit card, often called a "chip and PIN" card, or a "smart card," that is becoming extremely popular in Europe. They are designed with an extra layer of security, such as microchips that can be programmed with user information and a four digit Personal Identification Number or PIN, which must be entered when making a purchase. Even though many European countries’ establishments accept U.S credit cards, there are some exceptions. Some European automatic vending machines require consumers to use a credit card with smart chips or PINs.

Contingency Plan

In case of emergencies of any type, always have a back-up plan. You can either carry an extra card or a small amount of cash that can also be used to cover transaction accepted in U.S dollars to avoid the fees. It is important that you keep toll-free numbers for banks and credit cards in a separate place, so if the cards are lost or stolen, you have access to the numbers to cancel your cards and have new ones issued. You can even carry credit card information and other important documents in digital form. Some USB flash drives let you encrypt data, protecting your information from others until you decrypt your files on a computer if the need arises.

Credit cards are great and easy for travel, and one doesn’t need a specific travel credit card for an easier payment option, and even though you earn and exchange reward points for merchandise, airline tickets, and hotel stays, terms and rewards for these cards vary widely. So all you need to do to prepare yourself for your trip is to follow these precautions for peace of mind, and have a great time.

Last Updated: March 14, 2016