Credit Cards

Credit CardCredit cards are an excellent way to pay while you are away. They offer a virtual bounty of money at the blink of an eye (assuming you don't already have your card maximized) to cover any financial emergency. But today's credit card programs offer much more than just accessible money.

The Power of Plastic
Credit card companies can serve as a travel assistance service. You can call a toll-free number provided by your credit card and receive information that will help you plan your trip. These benefits can be real time-savers, and the money transfer features that are offered can save you money.

One of the most useful aspect of these services is that the card travel service center can serve almost as a secretary and message center in an emergency. Credit card assistance centers will pass along emergency messages to friends, family and business associates. This allows you to make only one call to the assistance center - they do the rest.

Card companies can also help if things go wrong during your trip. In case of arrest, an automobile accident or need of other legal assistance, they can save you a lot of time by offering easy access to worldwide legal referral assistance, referrals to English-speaking attorneys and contact with embassies and consulates.

They also offer emergency transportation and medical assistance. If you become ill or are injured during a trip, most credit card assistance centers will help make arrangements to bring you home or transfer you to another hospital. If you are traveling alone and have a travel emergency, they will also assist in making travel arrangements to bring a family member or close friend to you. The credit card companies in most cases will not pay for any of the charges to change flights as all expenses are paid for by the card member. Both Visa and MasterCard Gold cards will also assist in filling prescriptions. If the prescriptions are not locally available, they can arrange for delivery.

And Money Too
Besides all of the benefits mentioned above, credit cards are great for the real reason they were made - making purchases. But there are many things to learn about this method of payment that will help save yourself some money and make it convenient for you:

  • contact your credit card company in advance to let it know which countries you will be using your card in. Your credit card company, suspecting something is amiss when you're overseas, may cancel or put a hold on your card when charges from some distant country show up on a card that previously had been used only locally.
  • if you plan on taking a card that you haven't used in a while, use the card several times in the months preceding a trip to a foreign destination or the credit card company may get suspicious and cancel it in mid-trip.
  • take two credit cards with you as well as your bank card. That way if one doesn't work (as sometimes happens) you will have a back-up.
  • don't keep both credit cards together while traveling. Keep them separate so if you lose one or get mugged, you will have a backup card in another location.
  • write down the phone number of the credit card company to report a lost or stolen card immediately
  • check the expiration dates of your credit cards before you leave and give yourself at least a couple of months leeway before they expire
  • don't leave your credit cards in the small safes offered by some hostels and hotels. Staff have keys to these so-called security devices and could 'borrow' your card to either make purchases (which you probably wouldn't find out about until you got home) or make a copy of your card which could then be used over and over. Putting your cards in a signed and sealed envelope before locking them in the safe is an excellent preventative measure.
  • when you make credit card purchases, don't let your card out of your site for more than a couple of minutes. It takes very little time for someone to make an extra charge or two while you are waiting for your card.
  • be sure to write the currency beside the final cost on your receipt.
  • when you are bargaining over the price of an item, keep in mind that you are, more often than not, expected to pay in cash. Proceeding to pay with your credit card may void the deal or cost you more.
  • using a credit card may provide you with some sort of insurance policy for theft, loss or breakage, depending on your card company.
  • make sure that you have a four (or five) digit PIN number for your credit cards. This way you can use your credit card for cash withdrawals. This is important because foreign banks don't always have the same bank card system as you do. The PLUS and INTERAC system (popular ATM systems) aren't always available. Your ATM card will just get spit back in your face. However, almost all bank machines accept Visa and MasterCard.
  • before you leave, put a cash advance payment on your credit card (pay more on it than is required). This will prevent you from getting dinged with HUGE interest rates from taking out cash advances.
  • when making purchases, don't hesitate to use your credit card. These companies usually offer better exchange rates than the store or shop you are in. Keep in mind that the exchange rate used by the credit card company is the one that is current at the time you get billed, not when you make the purchase.
  • always have some cash on you. There may be times when you won't be able to use your credit card.
  • visit Visa and MasterCard for details on using their cards.