How to use your Credit Cards when Traveling / Living Abroad

If you’re moving or just travelling abroad, you need to understand how credit cards work and if they do. When you’re first starting off in a new place, you might need the little ‘wiggle room’ that they offer, but also don’t want to see any excessive fees for using them when you should not have. In order to navigate this question, here are some tips:

Watch out for hidden fees!

  1. Read your cardholder agreement – Before you even think about using your credit card in another country, see what your fine print has to say about it. If you don’t have a copy of this agreement, you should be able to call the customer service line to get one sent to you or be directed to an online copy. This agreement should spell out in no uncertain terms what you can do and what you can not do.
  2. Ask a lot of questions – Try to think about all of the circumstances that you can when using a credit card in another country, write down your questions and then call a customer service representative. They should be trained in answering your questions and will be able to take the time to assist you with your queries. No question is too small and no question is too big – ask them all.
  3. Check your statements – When you get your first statement from your credit card after moving, see what it says and compare it to what you thought it would say. This will help you understand the fee process more easily or see when you might not get fees, even if you thought you would.
  4. Switch credit cards, if needed – If you find that the fee structure for your credit cards is higher than you thought it would be, try to switch to another card from the company or find another credit card that is friendlier to international situations.
  5. Learn about the exchange rate – When you’re charging items to your card, be sure that you understand what the conversion is so that you’re not charging over your limit, and racking up huge over the limit fees. This is a common mistake that many international travellers and expatriates can make.
  6. Let your company know that you area moving or travelling – Sometimes, companies will put a hold on cards that seem to be used in areas where the cardholder does not live.

Credit cards are widely accepted in most places in the world, so the problems that you may face may be minimal. But it never hurts to be prepared either.