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What You Should Know Before Using your Credit Card Abroad

What You Should Know Before Using your Credit Card Abroad

Whether you are moving across the pond or just taking a vacation to a far-off exotic locale, it is imperative that you fully understand how international credit cards work before you do. This can help you to avoid excessive fees, credit card fraud, and having your account needlessly frozen.

1. Read the fine print – Make sure you read your cardholder agreement before you use the card overseas. The agreement should clearly state what the terms of use are and what extra fees you will be expected to pay if you violate them. If you don’t have or can’t find the agreement, call the credit card company’s customer service to have one sent to you or be directed to a copy available online.

2. Ask questions – Compile a list of questions to ask a service representative regarding using the card in a different country. Ask about extra fees that can be incurred or what can be done if your card is lost or stolen. Ask as many questions as possible – they are trained in answering all your questions and will take the time to do so.

3. Ask about the foreign transaction fee - Many credit card companies charge what’s known as a foreign transaction fee. This means whenever your card is swiped abroad, you are charged an additional percent of the total transaction cost to cover the exchange rate. For example, if your card imposes a 3% fee on all foreign transactions, a $100 purchase will really cost you $103.

4. Check your statements – Most major credit card companies offer paperless statements that can be accessed online. These statements are up-to-date and transactions are posted typically just a day or two after they check place. As soon as you arrive at your destination, routinely check your online statement to see if there are any suspicious or unauthorized transactions and make sure you are being charged correctly for the foreign transaction fee, if applicable.

5. Switch cards – You may find that your credit card company charges a higher rate on foreign transactions than other cards. Shop around to see who offers the most favorable fee structure and switch to a different international credit card if needed.

6. Inform the card issuer of your plans - Before you leave, make sure you contact your credit card company to let them know you will be out of the country. Oftentimes, a card used in a foreign country can be flagged for fraud and will be frozen, leaving you without a viable payment method. Letting the company know your travel plans will ensure this doesn’t happen to you!

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