¨Procrastination is like a credit card: it’s a lot of fun until you get the bill.¨
3 Tips for Using US Credit Cards Abroad
- Though credit cards are often justifiably criticized in the financial press, having an airline-branded credit card is essential for getting frequent flyer miles. Most Fifty Plus Nomads should try to maximize their, frequent flyer miles to travel long-term or live abroad. Using Citibank and Chase travel cards (Chase is United Airlines and Citibank an American Airlines partner), I could fly for minimal costs over 25 times during my round the world travels between 2011 and 2015. While the rules are more strict than previously, earning credit card frequent flyer miles is still worth as long as you don’t carry a balance. Find out more hints in the frequent-flyer-related posts noted at the end of this post.
- You may not be able to pay for online purchases and recurring bill charges from your destination while living abroad using a US credit card. You may need, instead, to have a credit card from a local bank. I cannot, for example, use my US credit card in Mexico to:
- Pay for my utilities online.
- Buy products online from many significant merchants, like Walmart.
- More and more frequently, credit card companies will give you an option that reads something like: ¨Do you want to accept or decline the option that the bank makes a currency conversion (from the local currency back to your home currency) for you?¨. Decline this offer. Sometimes banks will disclose their foreign conversion fees when you make your credit card purchases, particularly in Europe. Usually, in this case, the fee is three percent. You may want to consider these fees if your credit card charges a currency exchange fee. (However, it is better to get a credit card without foreign transaction fees).
Tip #4: Avoid Credit Card Foreign Transaction Fees
Finding credit card companies that do not charge foreign transaction fees is relatively easy since many banks have credit cards that waive foreign exchange fees. Besides, most credit cards associated with an airline or a hotel (i.e., Chase-United and Citibank-American Airlines cards in the USA) come without a foreign transaction fee. (The only airline-branded card with a foreign transaction fee that I’ve seen is the Southwest Airline Chase Card).
Foreign Transaction fees range from 1% to 3% of each purchase. While this doesn’t sound like much, I’d estimate that I saved around $20,000 using credit cards without foreign transaction fees during my around-the-world travels and expat life in Mexico.
It is generally not a good idea to make a withdrawal from an ATM with a credit card. Most credit card companies charge currency exchange fees on these withdrawals and treat the withdrawal like a cash advance. Cash advances come with fees (up to 5%) and high-interest rates.
If the bank charges a hefty currency exchange fee, try to minimize your credit card use by withdrawing money from your ATM card. Then, use that money for all but your most significant transactions.
Tip #5: Avoid Getting your Credit and ATM Cards Frozen While Traveling
Many banks will not allow you to take money out of your account or make credit charges overseas if they sense that a transaction could be fraudulent. While there is no exact way of determining when banks will cut you off, it usually occurs when you:
- Make multiple, substantial withdrawals in a short period.
- Have not traveled much before.
- Have not traveled in a while.
Fortunately, you can usually get the bank to unfreeze your account easily by phoning them. (Most cards have an overseas telephone number on the card itself). Keep in mind that, while many banks have 24-hour telephone lines, they may deal with problems like this during work hours in your home country.
It would be best to let the bank or credit card companies know your travel plans in advance to avoid these problems. (Note: Since I travel so much, my banks and credit card companies have told me that I no longer need to advise them of my travel plans. I have found, however, that I need to notify them if I will be making large withdrawals anywhere overseas except Merida, where I now live).
You can usually advise the bank via their website rather than phoning them. Unfortunately, even if you notify the bank, you may find that they will cut you off sometimes.
While getting the bank to unblock the card can occasionally be a pain in the neck, I am glad banks are diligent. Twice on the road, my bank has found fraudulent charges on my credit cards, and the bank saw the problem before the charges hit my account.
Want More International Credit Card Tips?
Some Additional Money-Related Posts
- 200+ of the Best Expat and Long-Term Travel Quotations From Fifty-Plus NomadAll of my blog posts lead off with a quote that is relevant to the subject of the post. I also frequently post quotes on my Facebook group page: Long Term Traveling and Living Abroad Over the Age of 50. This page of quotes is from my blog and Facebook group page mostly. However, I have added a few extra of my favorite travel-related quotes.
- Expat Retirees Making a Living as Entrepreneur (Under Construction)Under Construction
- Logistics of Expat Retiree Life in Mexico (Under Construction)Under Construction
- Earning Additional Money to Further Your Long-Term Travels (Under Construction)Under construction
- Paying More than Locals As a Foreigner: How to Deal with and Avoid ProblemsWhen I was younger being charged more for things than locals used to piss me off. Now I simply acknowledge it as part of traveling and living in third-world countries. I find the less it bothers me the less I attract aggressive vendors, too.
- 8 Advantages and Disadvantages of Third World TravelEveryone who can travel worldwide should visit countries in the developing, third world, and the developed world (Western Europe, USA/Canada, Australia/New Zealand, etc.). This post outlines the advantages and disadvantages of third-world, emerging country travel.
- Avoid Unnecessary Foreign Exchange Fees: A Comparison of 3 Foreign Exchange ScenariosUnless you are careful, you will spend 7% more on foreign exchange conversion fees than you should. By making a few simple changes, I avoided these fees and saved myself $18,000 during my five-year, round-the-world journey.
- Top 7 Budget Travel Food TipsSome of my favorite food-related experiences were also very inexpensive. Sometimes, modest hole in the walls restaurants, kiosks, and street carts can feature some of the country’s best chefs.
- 9 International ATM Travel Tips: Avoid Wasting Money NeedlesslyHow to avoid problems finding ATMs, using ATMs, paying unnecessary ATM currency exchange fees, and making large ATM withdrawals abroad.
- 4 Car Rental Tips: How to Avoid Getting Ripped Off at the Car Rental CounterRenting a car is probably the travel decision most fraught with potential problems. Long-term travelers should ask themselves if a car rental is essential, and they should also watch out for car agency rip-offs and other issues.
- 3 Top Cash and Currency Travel Tips: Avoiding Problems Using Foreign Banknotes and CoinsThis post highlights three simple tips for travelers and expats to avoid problems with foreign coins and banknotes.
- Top 2 Foreign Currency Exchange Tips: Avoid Ripoffs and Save MoneyFind out the 2 most important tips to get the best foreign exchange rates and avoid paying unnecessary foreign currency exchange, ATM, and credit card fees while traveling around the world or living abroad.
- Use Local Currency over US Dollars Traveling Abroad: The Simplest and Best Way to Save Unnecessary Exchange FeesOne of the most pervasive myths about traveling is that everybody wants the US dollar. The fact is most people do not want the dollar. Most of the time when they do want the dollar, you will lose money on the transaction. The few times that people do want the dollar are discussed in this post as well.
- 15 Uber Travel Tips: A Guide to Best Safe, Budget, and Trouble-Free RidesThis post contains a list of 15 tips to make your Uber trips safe, convenient, and low-cost. It also explores how Ubers are different from traditional taxis.
- 10 Travel Money Safety Tips I Learned Being Abroad 16 YearsThis post offers a few simple tips to avoid problems with travel safety and money issues while traveling.
- 8 Horrifying Lessons From An Express Kidnapping In MexicoIn January 2020, I was a victim of an express kidnapping in Puebla, Mexico. I discuss what happened to me and what I learned about travel safety from the incident.
- How Much Travel Taxes and Fees Do Consumers Pay For Airfare, Hotels, and Other Travel Services?The amount and number of travel taxes, fees, and other charges added to your bill will probably surprise you. Many are hidden and like everything else, taxes keep going up.
- The 3 Reasons Travel Prices Are So Radically Different than Other Products: Perishability, Capital Costs, and Yield ManagementHave you ever wondered why travel products seem to be priced so crazily? Learn the three economic factors that contribute to the pricing of travel products: perishability, high capital costs, and yield management.
- Round the World Tickets 101: Are They Worth the Trouble or Not?Once in my life, I bought a round the world ticket. My experience was favorable but I think the number of times these tickets are useful for most travelers is fairly limited for the reasons outlined in this post.
- Why Buying the Cheapest Airfare is Often a Big MistakeI am surprised how often I can get significant improvements in convenience and comfort when I don’t buy the cheapest ticket. Often, for example, I can fly in business class from the US to Cancun for only $20-40 above the cost of the cheapest ticket. Often for a few dollars, I can get much more convenient flights as well.
- Finding the Cheapest Flights 101: A Simple GuideA synopsis of my experiences with finding the cheapest flights and using search engines. The article also covers many tips for finding the cheapest flights, some of which are not discussed that widely elsewhere.
- 5 Top Essential Tips for Using US Credit Cards AbroadI estimate that I saved over $12,000 during my round the world travels between 2011 and 2015 by following the international credit card tips listed in this post,
- Frequent Flyer Miles and Points: How to Master the Art of Redeeming PointsOnce you earn frequent flyer miles, you then have to figure out how to redeem them efficiently, Here are some tips from my own experience and that of experts.
- Little Known Tricks for Earning Frequent Flyer Points and Other Travel Loyalty Points Without Leaving HomeI used frequent flyer points to pay for 40% of all my flights during my five-year trip around the world. It was easier to do in 2011-2015 when I traveled; however, it is still a good way to help pay for your travels. Here s a guide to how you can earn miles without traveling by using credit cards and buying affiliated products.