Traveling, Finances and Credit Protection

Kellam T. Parks
Managing Member of Parks Zeigler, PLLC

Summer is on its way, and many people are eagerly planning their summer vacations. If you are going overseas, here are some tips concerning handling your finances.

Before traveling, go through your purse or wallet and remove any unnecessary items. You won’t need your library card in Europe. A slimmed down wallet will make a less obvious target for pickpockets.

Inform your credit card companies where you are going and what dates you’ll be gone before you travel, otherwise they may put a hold on your card for suspicious activity and you could be left stranded with no access to finances. Ask them for a number you can call from overseas, as most 800 numbers on cards only work in the US.

Research the area you plan to visit. See if credit cards are widely accepted and, if so, which ones. Also look for the availability of ATMs that you can use. We are complacent in America that an ATM will always give us cash, even if it’s not our bank, but this isn’t always the case in other parts of the world.

Using a credit card is usually a better and safer option than using strictly cash, especially when traveling overseas. A credit card is small, takes up very little room, and therefore is easy to hide. If it’s lost or stolen, it can be canceled and replaced. If you lose a wallet full of cash, you're done.  If taking your credit card overseas makes you nervous, you could opt for a prepaid credit card instead. This gives you the ease of canceling it if it’s stolen and the peace of mind that it can’t be connected to your information back home. Also, using a credit card abroad almost always guarantees a better conversion rate. Be cautious though, as some companies charge transaction and conversion fees. Check with your card companies before traveling, so you’ll know exactly what it will cost to use your cards. Some companies offer special travel credit cards that give points for money spent on items like hotels and airfare and do not charge conversion fees. That being said, they often have higher interest rates, so do some research first.

Although using credit cards is advised, it is always a good idea to travel with some cash for emergencies. You should already have a small amount of the local currency before you get there. You may need to grab a meal at the airport or a taxi to the hotel and not all places accept credit cards. Also, while we use magnetic strip cards here in the US, most of Europe and Asia use chip-and-PIN cards. These cards have an extra layer of security by requiring a PIN, which our magnetic strip cards don’t have. This sometimes causes problems at automated payment machines like gas stations and train ticket kiosks. You may need to use cash or have an attendant help you. Most merchants will want to see your passport, too, to verify that you are the person who is supposed to be using that card. 

Be sure to keep a routine check on your credit reports to catch any problems early!

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