Using Credit Cards Abroad

Using Credit Cards Abroad by Natalie Parker

Last week we chatted about how we use money abroad.  We try and rely on credit cards as much as possible.  That can be tricky so below is some great info about using credit cards abroad.

Get a card with no foreign transaction fees.  Many cards will charge a percentage of every purchase you make abroad, which can add up quickly.  The good news is there are a lot of cards out there now that don’t charge foreign transaction fees.  Call your credit card company if you aren’t sure about fees.  It’s worth getting a new card if your current card has fees.

You can’t use your card in machines.  Make sure you have cash to use in machines to buy train tickets, pay tolls, etc.  Foreign credit cards use a chip and pin system whereas American cards use a magnetic stripe and signature.  Signature cards cannot be used in machines.  If you need train tickets or to pay a toll, make sure to look for a human in a booth that can help you or use cash.

Chip + PIN ≠ Chip + Signature.  American cards are slowly changing over to chip technology.  But, they’re still signature cards.  Chip + Signature will not work in machines abroad.  I find this whole thing really annoying because now I have to explain to waiters that it’s still a signature card.  To my knowledge, the Barclaycard Arrival Plus Mastercard is the only real Chip + PIN available in the US.

Call ahead of time.  Make sure to call your credit card company before you leave to let them know where you are traveling.  They’ll also tell you what to do if you have a problem with your card while you’re away.

Don’t charge in dollars.  Sometimes stores abroad will offer to charge your credit card in dollars instead of the local currency.  Don’t do it.  It will give you a horrible exchange rate.