Going on vacation? Congrats! You’ve earned it. To maximize your enjoyment during your time away, you’ll want to make a few essential preparations. The last thing you need is the credit card company freezing your account while shop-hopping in Soho or guzzling Hefeweizen in Munich. Here’s a quick checklist of easy steps you can take to ready your accounts for a trip abroad.
- Call the credit card company
- Make a list of essential info
- Get up to speed with your rewards program
- Get a better travel card
- Know your holds and limits
- Pay your bills in advance
Call the credit card company
Creditors take active measures to detect theft and prevent fraud–for both your and their own sake. When they notice an aberration in spending patterns, they often freeze the suspect account to stop potential criminal activity. If your credit card hasn’t left Ohio in two years and it suddenly starts making extravagant purchases in Seoul, the issuer will likely deactivate the account until you verify your identity and location. This can result in major inconveniences abroad, especially if you don’t have easy access to a phone line. Call your credit card companies a week or so in advance to tell them your travel plans.
Make a list of essential info
When traveling, you put yourself at greater risk for losing a card due to theft, negligence or silly mistakes. When this happens, you need to act fast to close your accounts. Before you travel, make a list of your account numbers and the phone numbers for the corresponding credit card companies. Give one copy to a trusted friend or relative, and stash the other deep in your suitcase. You can put this information on a mobile device as well, but it will be compromised if you lose your phone. The ability to connect quickly with customer service will minimize the damages of theft or displacement.
Get up to speed with your rewards program
Before you travel, remind yourself of your credit cards’ reward features. Maybe you have one card that offers 2 points on dining and a another card that kicks back 5 points for entertainment purchases. Strategize your purchases to maximize your earnings. A lot of credit cards also offer extra perks that you might not know about. You might be eligible for complimentary hotel upgrades, priority boarding, rental car discounts and more. Visa Signature cards, for example, offer free travel insurance just for booking transportation with your card (excludes airfare). Take a few minutes to familiarize yourself with your card’s full range of perks.
Get a better travel card
If you’re still a couple of weeks away, you have time to get a new travel card. Remind yourself of your current card’s features and see if there’s a better deal out there. When traveling internationally, you absolutely must have a card that does not charge a foreign transaction fee. Otherwise, you’ll likely pay a 3% fee on every transaction. Make sure you also have a solid rewards program in place. The Barclaycard Arrival World MasterCard, for example, offers 2.2 miles on every $1 spent. Serious globetrotters may want to consider a card with an implanted EMV chip for greater compatibility with international merchants. This feature is now offered with a handful of American credit cards, including the popular Chase Sapphire Preferred.
Know your holds and limits
You don’t want to hit your spending ceiling halfway through your trip. Verify your available credit for each open account. Don’t forget to consider holds. Hotels and other travel services will often put holds on your card in case you incur additional charges. If you have a $5,000 credit limit and $2,000 in holds, you only have access to 40% of your available credit. Calculate these numbers and carefully monitor your spending during your trip.
Pay your bills in advance
You may have to pay a credit card bill while you’re traveling. Late payments can result in penalty fees and hurt your credit score. When you’re traveling, it’s easy to forget your pesky day-to-day responsibilities. Maybe you just prefer not to be bothered with them at all while vacationing. Either way, you can pay your credit card bills in advance or set up automatic payments to avoid falling behind.
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