There's more to smooth travel than just keeping your cards working
By Dana Dratch
It may not be the
only way to fly, but traveling with a credit card is an easy way: Plastic is convenient to pack, gives you a record of your purchases and is more secure than
By now, you
probably know the basics, such as notifying your card issuer of your itinerary to
make sure your card doesn't get cut off for suspected fraud just when you need
it most. And even making sure you have contact numbers for your cards, just in
case something does go wrong.
more to smooth travel than just keeping your cards working. Here are 9 tips to
make your travels with plastic cheaper, easier and more enjoyable.
Your cards may offer 'secret' travel perks.
If you've been using your credit cards to fill your tank and
buy groceries, there might be a host of travel benefits those cards offer that
you don't even know exist.
Travel cards often offer travel-related perks, such as priority
boarding, waived luggage fees, vouchers for food and drinks or access to
airport lounges. But it's common for general-use cards to proffer some travel
benefits, too, says David Rabkin, senior vice president of consumer lending for
Unknown to you, that card
already in your wallet could "buy you a bigger room, a free breakfast and
a late checkout," says Rabkin.
So call each card you have, get a list of its travel
benefits and figure out which will give you the most for your travel dollar.
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Cards may offer free or discounted medical insurance for your trip.
"It's one thing that's less fun to talk about, but it could
be important," says Rabkin.
"Often credit card companies can get a discounted rate,"
he says. Some cards will provide "some basic forms" for no extra
charge. "And many credit card companies will let you purchase a version of
that for the specific trip."
Prices can vary with the card, how much coverage you want
and how long you'll be away, Rabkin says. "Often, it can be purchased
online from your card company."
Going overseas? Ask about foreign transaction fees.
Many issuers or card banks will charge a fee for foreign transatcions, or even domestic charges that involve a foreign bank.
Your best bet: Do a little research before you leave. Call cards
and find out what fees you face if you shop abroad. "Believe me, these fees can add up," says Peter
Greenberg, CBS News
travel editor and founder of PeterGreenberg·com.
can't count the number of times I've had credit cards declined while traveling.
Pack more than one card.
all cards are universally accepted. And sometimes good cards are declined.
card companies tell you to call them when you are traveling internationally to
let them know -- but in my experience this rarely makes a difference,"
says Jeremy Shepherd, CEO of PearlParadise.com.
can't count the number of times I've had credit cards declined while traveling,"
he says. As a result, Shepherd often carries four different cards from three
different card companies, plus a debit card.
good way to test card-acceptance in your target area: Select a few
tourist-oriented spots, visit online and see what cards they take, says Rabkin.
"Tourist-focused restaurants are a great bellwether," he says.
5. Get your cards travel-ready.
I do anything, I make sure I have set up my credit cards so that I can access
them online," says Cynthia Clayton Ochterbeck, editorial director of Michelin Travel
Partner. While card account features vary online, you can ask a question through chat, update your
travel itinerary (so cards aren't shut down for fraud) or block a lost/stolen
card immediately, she says. And, if you're traveling internationally, that can
sometimes be a lot easier than calling a toll-free number, she adds.
Many cards have their own apps, too,
you leave, find out what accommodations your card issuers make in emergencies.
Some cards with concierge services can arrange to get money to you if your
wallet is lost or stolen or get a new card into your hands quickly, Ochterbeck
some travelers carry photocopies of all their important documents, others will
scan those same documents to a cloud account or email them to themselves -- so
that they can access them in a pinch.
smart strategy: Plug your cards' toll-free numbers (ones
that will work where you're going) into your speed-dial, says Sukhi Sahni,
spokeswoman for Capital One.
I do anything, I make sure I have set up my credit cards so that I can access
with your debit card, just like your credit cards, let your bank know that
you'll be accessing your account from out of town. Otherwise you could find
your access is blocked, says Ochterbeck.
Debit card could be key to cheaper currency.
Want to get a good rate on local currency overseas? Your best
bet is likely a debit card at an ATM, says Ochterbeck.
may get hit with a fee, you'll still often do better than at currency
exchanges, she says. "You pay one time and generally the exchange
rate is better."
for an ATM from "an established bank, not one affiliated or next to a
currency exchange," she says. Also, suss
out individual ATM fees, "as ATMs may not all be
created equal," says Kathleen Gurney, president of Financial Psychology
Corp. and author of "Your Money Personality: What It Is and How You Can
Profit from It."
traveler's tip: Hit an airport ATM for a couple hundred dollars' worth of local
currency when you arrive, says Ochterbeck. Since you never know what's going to
happen when you travel, "take some time and get some cash first," she
Merchants can legally tie up more than you're charging.
A variety of merchants,
including hotels, restaurants and gas stations, will often put a
"hold" or a "block" on more of your credit line than you end up charging.
Holds usually disappear within a few days
to a week. In the meantime, though, you have fewer resources with which to travel. With a
credit card, it means you lose a portion of your credit line. With a debit
card, the holds tie up actual cash.
For that reason, "never use a debit card for any hotel
transactions," Greenberg says.
Otherwise, some hotels might block four or five days' worth
of room charges "and, before you know it, you've gone over your limit and
won't know it until you go to pay a restaurant bill and your card is
denied," says Greenberg, who instead prefers to use a charge card
with no spending cap.
Want to use a different card for points or mileage? You
still can, he says. Just pay the bill with your card of choice when you check
Charge records can help you budget your next trip (and this one).
to estimate fixed items like hotels and airline tickets. But if you've used
your card for incidentals such as meals, cabs, museum tickets and other
entertainment, you can use that to budget the next time you travel, says Danielle
Fagre Arlowe, senior vice president with the American Financial Services
be afraid to go online and track your spending in real time while you're
traveling, she says.
Think 'travel needs' next time you shop for a card.
Do you fly to the same destination
regularly? Look for a reduced-mileage awards program that lets you fly to
select destinations for fewer miles, says Robert Firpo-Cappiello, deputy
editor of Budget Travel.
If you frequently go abroad, check out
cards that eliminate any extra fees for overseas charges, he says.
From getting points for a familiar
hotel brand you like to giving points at a large number of locations around the
world, shop for a card that has benefits in sync with your travel preferences,
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