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5 Tips on Using Credit Cards Abroad

Posted on 13 June 2012 by Danica

Using Credit Cards When Traveling Abroad

Using credit cards abroad can be a great help in ensuring a seamless travel experience.  Your visits to the foreign exchange bureau will decrease dramatically, and you will no longer need to carry large sum of cash to cover your hotel cost.

Many of us assume using credit cards domestically is the same as using them abroad.  This is not true.  If not prepared, using credit cards abroad will cost you financially and tax your precious travel time.  Stick to the 5 tips we share with you below, and you will realize the benefits of travelling with credit cards.

1) Call your credit card company and let them know your travel dates and destinations in advance.  When we traveled around the world last year, we called all our credit card companies and let them know our itinerary in advance.  Yes, there were a lot of countries on that list, and yes, you need to count them all.  You don’t want to be stranded anywhere because your credit card company declined your transactions abroad.  They thought your cards were stolen!

2) Use only credit cards with no foreign exchange fees.  More and more banks are offering cards with no foreign exchange fees.  You don’t have to settle for a card with one.  The quickest way to find out if such fee exists for your card is to call your bank.  If there is a fee involved, drop it from your travel or you would have just paid 3-5% more for your trip.

Using Credit Cards When Traveling Abroad 2

3) Always charge in local currency.  There are times when the merchant will ask you (or not) whether you want to charge in your home currency or local currency.  The best is to know the exchange rate is advance, and compare that rate with the merchant rate before deciding which one to go with.  If you don’t know the offiicial rate, always insist to charge in the foreign currency.  We have found that the rate offered by local merchants is often a lot less competitive than what the banks offer.  So again, you will lose out if you allow them in convert and charge you in your home currency using their rate.

4) Consider using smart chip credit cards as opposed to the ones with magnetic strips that are so common in the U.S.  Smart chip credit cards are increasingly popular in many parts of the world.  Our post on the list of smart chip credit cards you can apply for in the U.S. may help you.  We also did a detailed comparison of all the chip & signature cards as well.  To understand why you may want a smart chip credit card for your travel, we have a post for you too.

Smart Chip Credit Cards from trips around the world - using credit cards

5)  Carry your passport with you.  This is especially true if you are still using the magnetic strip cards in the U.S.  In Europe, many merchants accept smart chip cards which offer better security.  If you use a magnetic strip card, be prepared to show your passport to confirm your identity.

We hope these tips help you in your travel adventure.  Have you encountered any other problems with using credit cards abroad?  Let us know, and we may just have a recommendation for you!

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Smart Chip Credit Cards You Can Apply for in the U.S.

Posted on 12 June 2012 by David

Smart Chip Credit Card - Gold
Smart chip credit cards are finally coming to the U.S.  In yesterday’s post, we discussed why you need a smart card for your travels.  What we didn’t tell you was that there are two major types of smart chip cards you should be aware of.

Don’t worry, figuring out which one works best for you is not as confusing as you might think.  Let us explain.

Not all smart chip credit cards are created equal

When looking for a smart card, you need to know that there are “chip-and-pin” and “chip-and-signature” cards.

  • Chip-and-pin cards allow you to use automated kiosks that require you to enter a pin number at point of sale.  No signature required for any purchase.
  • Chip-and-signature cards on the other hand, require a signature for purchases but no PIN.  They’re just like your typical magnetic strip card.  However, since these cards do not require a PIN they may not function on some automated kiosks that require you to enter a PIN.
    Tip: If prompted for a PIN by a kiosk, just pressing enter may work on some machines.

Which one do I need?

Either card will work for most purposes since merchant point of sale devices can generally handle both types of cards .  However, to be extra sure that you’re not going to be stranded at an automated kiosk, you may want to carry a chip-and-pin card, just in case.

Below are a few consumer cards that you may want to take a look at.

We do not have all of the cards below.  So if you end up getting one of these cards, please tell us your experience.  We would love to hear them!

Smart Chip Credit Card - Blue


Chip-and-signature cards

A detailed comparison of chip and signature cards here.

Chip-and-pin cards

There are not that many personal credit cards with chip-and-pin.   I found two.  If you find any not on this list let us know!

Tomorrow, we will share with you some tips on using credit cards around the world.
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Smart Chip Credit Card – Do I Need It for Travel?

Posted on 11 June 2012 by David

Smart Chip Credit Card - Blue






Smart chip credit cards are finally arriving in the U.S. and it’s about time.

Never heard of them?  Well, you should and here is why.

Merchants Are Increasingly Only Accepting Smart Chip Cards

If you’re planning an international trip to Europe, Asia, or even Mexico, you should consider having a card with a smart chip.  These cards have been around for years overseas.  More merchants are accepting smart chip cards only, and are refusing to accept the cards with a magnetic strip (yep, the ones we use in the U.S.).

Just imagine this scenario.

You walk into a train station 15 minutes before the next train to your dream destination.  You pull out your favorite VISA / MasterCard / American Express (choose your own brand).  The agent at the ticket window takes a look at your card and tells you they don’t accept it because it is not a smart-chip card.  And of course, you don’t have enough cash in your pocket to cover your ticket.  Needless to say, you miss the train, and are now stuck in the station for another 4 hours until the next train.  In the meantime, you also need to find out where you can get cash to buy that ticket!

The scenario above is more common than you may think.

So, before you take off, be a savvy traveler and keep a smart chip credit card with you.

The good news is U.S. banks have been slowly introducing smart chip cards.  We received our first smart chip card from Chase when it was first introduced in Feb 2012.  You are welcome to check them out, and we will cover the list of smart chip credit cards in the U.S. tomorrow.

Besides convenience, there is another reason why you should consider switching to smart chip credit cards.

Smart Chip Credit Card - Gold

Smart Chip Credit Cards Are More Secure

Many technology and payments experts agree that smart chip credit cards are more secure.

There are two reasons for this:
  1. Copying a chip requires a lot of sophisticated equipment versus magnetic strips which can be copied with readily available devices.
  2. The embedded security on the chip makes it extremely difficult for thieves to use the data on the card even if they manage to gain access and read the data. This prevents anyone from copying your card data at a restaurant, and racking up charges all before you arrive home.

I am planning a trip to South America to finish my around the world trip I started last year. (My last leg of the trip is waiting for me!) I have been looking around for smart cards and tomorrow I’ll share with you a few top cards with smart chip technology, and a detailed comparison of their benefits: chip & signature and chip & pin.  You should also take a look at our tips on using credit cards abroad.

Have you used smart chip credit cards before?  What was your experience like?


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Chase releases new Hyatt Card with Smart Chip technology

Posted on 27 February 2012 by David

It was rumored that Chase was going to release a new version of their Hyatt Credit Card on Monday, February 27.   Today I got this email:


You are one of the first Cardmembers who will receive a new Hyatt Credit Card with Smart Chip technology. This new feature will provide additional convenience and security when traveling abroad.

What you need to know:
Your new card will arrive within 30 days.
Your account number and expiration date will remain the same.
You can continue to use your current card until you receive your new one.

Explore your favorite corner of the world with the perfect travel companion, your Hyatt Credit Card.”

This is great since Smart Chip is used extensively throughout Europe and Asia and we occasionally got puzzled looks from merchants when we presented our “ancient technology” magnetic strip cards from the USA.  To our bemusement, some merchants didn’t even know how to operate the magnetic stripe feature on their terminals.

We’re glad Chase is introducing Smart Chip cards in the US as this feature is useful when traveling abroad!

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Is American Express Platinum An Ideal Credit Card for Travel?

Posted on 18 September 2011 by onthegroundtravel


Yes, we accept American Express Platinum, but not yours

We’ve always assumed American Express Platinum is an ideal credit card for travel.  However, once I started using it heavily on our trips overseas, I was quite disappointed with the benefits of the card. For the $495 annual fees, I simply expected a lot more. I carried my Platinum card with me in my recent travel to Egypt and Jordan. I had expected to be treated royally – breezing through the airports, hanging out at airport lounge while waiting for my next flight, being able to get into the finest restaurant with no prior reservation, or simply top-notch advice from the Concierge on what to see in these countries. I was disappointed on all fronts. The last straw for us was when we were in the Queen Alia International Airport in Jordan, we walked into the airport lounge and was denied access even though the lounge clearly accepts American Express cards. Apparently, you need the American Express cards issued in that part of the world to get in, and if you have a card from the U.S., you are out of luck. WHAT THE HECK? I am still furious as I am reliving this experience.


New American Express Platinum benefits

Having said that, it appears that American Express has listened to its Cardmembers, and has rolled out a series of travel benefits that if worked, will make us Platinum Cardmembers feel special again. First of all, Cardmembers can now gain access to over 600 lounges worldwide by enrolling in the Priority Pass Select program free of charge. I checked, Queen Alia Airport in Jordan is on the list. Secondly, American Express will also refund the application fee ($100 value) of Global Entry, a program that expedites clearance for approved travelers returning from an international trip. Foreign transaction fee is now gone. There is also an annual $200 credit for incidental airline fees such as baggage fees, inflight food and beverages etc. All these benefits can quickly add up to $495 fees we pay.

I am very excited about these new Platinum benefits, and I am glad American Express implemented them before the rest of us Platinum Cardmembers leave en mass. I just hope these benefits stick around. If you are a Platinum Cardmember, sign up for these benefits now (you are not enrolled in them automatically). If you are not a Cardmember and travel extensively, you should give this card a try.

What is your ideal credit card for travel?  Have used American Express Platinum before?  Would love to hear from you!


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