7 tips for using a credit card internationally

Before traveling overseas, learn these essential credit card tips that will help you travel with ease.

Whether you’re driving into Mexico or jetting off to Monaco, a credit card can come in handy to pay your hotel bill, cover restaurant tabs, purchase souvenirs and a whole lot more. And if you have a travel rewards credit card, you may be able to cover the cost of certain travel-related purchases by using rewards.

Before departing for your trip, you might want to take a few proactive steps to take advantage of all that your credit card offers when you’re in another country. Read on to learn more.

1. Check if you need to share your travel plans

Some credit card issuers might request that you set up a travel notice when you’re going to be away from your home country. That’s so they know you’re abroad and don’t flag your card for potential fraud. You can typically inform an issuer of your international travel plans on its website, through its mobile app or by phone. 

Capital One and others no longer require you to share your travel plans when you’re heading out of the country. Still, those card issuers advise making sure your contact information is updated in case they need to reach you about suspected fraud.

2. Consider a card that doesn’t charge a foreign transaction fee

A credit card that charges a foreign transaction fee can add some costs to your international travel.

These fees can vary between credit card companies, but they could be about 3% of the purchase price. They might be applied to your account when you make transactions using your credit card abroad. 

Some cards don’t charge foreign transaction fees. You might want to consider these cards to minimize the impact on your travel expenses. Capital One doesn’t charge a fee for using your credit card for foreign currency transactions.

3. Opt out of dynamic currency conversion

On top of a foreign transaction fee, you might run into what’s known as a dynamic currency conversion fee. This type of fee can kick in when you’re making a purchase abroad. For instance, if you’re in Mexico and you pay 2,000 pesos for some pottery, you may wonder how much that equals in U.S. dollars. But if you opt for dynamic currency conversion, you can find out right away what the peso-to-dollar amount is. 

Unfortunately, you might have to pay for that information—and it could be in addition to the foreign transaction fee.

The good news is that you’re not required to use and pay for dynamic currency conversion. You can reject it at the point of sale.

4. Use contactless or chip payments

You might want to also consider packing a contactless card, which is just as secure as a chip card at a chip-enabled register and more secure than magnetic stripe payments.

Each transaction with a contactless card creates a unique, one-time code or password that’s read only by the card-processing network. If a store doesn’t have a contactless reader, you can still swipe your card or use the chip reader. 

A four-digit credit card PIN may also help protect against fraud with some credit cards when you’re making transactions in another country. The PIN works with a card’s microchip to boost security. If your card uses a PIN, make sure you know what it is before traveling abroad.

Keep in mind that not all credit cards use chip and PIN functionality. Some cards will instead use chip-and-signature technology. Capital One, for example, offers chip and signature cards.

5. Understand your credit card’s travel protection policy

Your credit card can have your back if your trip is rockier than you imagined it would be.

Let’s say your luggage gets lost on the way to your destination. The card you used to pay for your trip may provide reimbursement—up to a certain amount—for your lost bags.

Did you get into a fender bender while taking in the sights in your rental car? You might be covered by the card you used to rent the car for damage due to a collision. 

And if you’re enjoying a nice meal out and misplace your credit card, you may be able to get an emergency replacement card and cash advance from the credit card issuer.

For more information about what your card offers, you may want to check the terms and conditions.

6. Take advantage of perks that come with your card

Global travel can be exciting, but it can be exhausting too.

If you have a travel credit card like Capital One’s Venture, Venture X or Spark 2X Miles, you may receive a statement credit for TSA PreCheck® or Global Entry. These programs can help you move through the airport more quickly and make travel that much easier. 

TSA PreCheck® helps you skip the longer line and get through the airport a bit faster at more than 200 U.S. airports. Global Entry can help you save time during the customs process at select airports when you’re returning to the U.S. from international destinations. Keep in mind that Global Entry includes TSA PreCheck®.

You could also spend hours on an airport layover and even longer on an airplane. The good news? Some credit cards include airport lounge access among their perks. So if you’re at an airport with a lounge, your card may provide you with free entry or special pricing access into the lounge. There you can relax, catch up on email, grab some food or sip a beverage or two.

And if you're extending your stay, see what other rewards might be available. For example, eligible Capital One cardholders can earn enhanced rewards on hotels and rental cars when booking through Capital One Travel. Venture X cardholders can also earn elevated rewards on flights, hotels and rental cars through Capital One Travel.

Plus, elevate your stay at luxury hotels and resorts from the Premier Collection with a $100 experience credit, daily breakfast for two and Wi-Fi on every booking—plus other premium benefits, like room upgrades, early check-in and late checkout when available.

7. Bring cash and other credit cards as backups

Packing your credit card for an international trip can be helpful. Bringing cash, your debit card and other credit cards as backups can be too, especially if you keep them in separate places. If you stash just one credit card in your wallet—and have no backups—you could be left without access to money if that lone credit card is lost, stolen or declined.

You may also want to consider using a mobile wallet, where you can store things like credit cards, debit cards, prepaid cards, boarding passes, hotel reservations and other types of personal data. Where they’re accepted, mobile wallets allow you to make quick and easy payments—and they use advanced technology to prevent your actual account numbers from being stored in the wallet.

Plan ahead for an enjoyable trip

Traveling to another country can be a fantastic adventure. But you don’t want that adventure to include any unwanted surprises. So it’s a good idea to pack the right credit card—or cards—and map out your payment strategy before you take off.

We hope you found this helpful. Our content is not intended to provide legal, investment or financial advice or to indicate that a particular Capital One product or service is available or right for you. For specific advice about your unique circumstances, consider talking with a qualified professional.

Capital One does not provide, endorse or guarantee any third-party product, service, information, or recommendation listed above. The third parties listed are solely responsible for their products and services, and all trademarks listed are the property of their respective owners.

The information contained herein is shared for educational purposes only, and it does not provide a comprehensive list of all financial operations considerations or best practices.

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