7 tips for using a credit card internationally

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 leaving for your trip, you might want to take a few steps to understand the advantages your credit card might offer when you’re in another country. Read on for helpful tips about using your credit card abroad.

Key takeaways 

  • Before traveling internationally, check whether you need to share your travel plans with your credit card issuer so they know you’re abroad and won’t flag your card for fraud.
  • If your card charges foreign transaction fees, you might have to pay a percentage of the transaction amount each time you make a purchase.
  • Using contactless or chip payments when available can help keep your account more secure.
  • If you use a credit card to book your trip, your card may offer coverage for things like lost luggage or damage to a rental car.

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1. Check whether 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 your issuer of your international travel plans on its website, through its mobile app or by phone. 

Capital One and other issuers no longer require you to share your travel plans when you’re heading out of the country. But Capital One and other card issuers still recommend updating your contact information in case they need to reach you about suspected fraud.

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

Using 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 1% to 3% of the price on any purchases you make. 

But not all cards charge foreign transaction fees. That includes Capital One. View important rates and disclosures.

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. For instance, if you’re in Mexico and you pay 2,000 pesos for some pottery, you may wonder how much that is in U.S. dollars. 

If you opt for dynamic currency conversion, you can find out right away what the peso-to-dollar amount is. But 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 to access your money abroad. You can reject it at the point of sale.

4. Use contactless or chip payments

When you’re traveling, keeping your card information secure is likely a top priority. Using a contactless card or a chip card can be a good way to do that. Contactless or chip cards are more secure than the standard magnetic stripe payments and are accepted by most businesses. That’s because each transaction with a contactless card creates a unique one-time code or password that’s read only by the card processing network. 

A four-digit credit card PIN may also help protect against fraud. 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 card issuers might use chip-and-signature technology instead.

5. Understand your credit card’s travel protection policy

If your trip is rockier than you imagined it would be, your credit card may be helpful.

Let’s say your luggage gets lost on the way to your destination. The card you used to pay for your trip may provide full or partial reimbursement for your lost bags. The card you used to book your rental car might also cover damage due to a possible collision. And if you’re enjoying a nice meal out and find you misplaced 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 might offer, check the card benefits to see if coverage such as travel insurance coverage is provided.

6. Take advantage of perks that come with your card

Before you leave on your trip, it’s a good idea to become familiar with your credit card’s benefits, which might include the following:

TSA PreCheck® or Global Entry enrollment credit

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

TSA PreCheck® helps you 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®.

Access to airport lounges

Some credit cards include airport lounge access among their perks. Your card may provide you with complimentary entry or special pricing access to lounges like Capital One Lounges. There, you can relax, catch up on emails, grab some food or sip a beverage or two.

Earn extra rewards on travel expenses

Eligible Capital One cardholders can earn extra rewards on hotels and rental cars when booking through Capital One Travel

Venture X cardholders can also earn 10X miles on hotels and rental cars and 5X miles on flights through Capital One Travel. Cardholders can also elevate their stays at luxury hotels and resorts from the Premier Collection with a $100 experience credit and complimentary daily breakfast for two on every stay—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 also be useful, especially if you keep them in separate places. For example, 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 card is lost, stolen or declined.

You might also want to consider using a digital wallet to store things like credit cards, debit cards, gift cards, boarding passes, hotel reservations and other types of personal data. Where they’re accepted, digital wallets allow you to make quick and easy payments. And digital wallets use tokenization to replace your actual card number when you make a payment, helping keep your account more secure.

The potential benefits of using a credit card overseas

Using your credit card abroad might offer some additional advantages, including:

  • Simplified purchases: Instead of exchanging cash for the local currency throughout your trip—and potentially paying a higher exchange rate—most major credit cards are accepted worldwide. 
  • Added safety: If your Capital One credit card gets stolen or lost while you’re abroad, you can easily lock the card. And if you find it, you can unlock it just as easily.
  • Favorable exchange rates: Credit cards may offer favorable exchange rates on purchases made when traveling internationally. And when you add in the fact that many types of travel credit cards don’t charge a foreign transaction fee, your savings can really start to add up.

International credit card use FAQ

Thinking about using a credit card on your next international trip? Here are some common questions about using a credit card abroad.

Using a credit card when traveling internationally might have its own advantages. That’s because credit cards can be more secure and easier to use than other payment methods. For example, you might not have to convert U.S. dollars to foreign currency before using your card like you would with cash. 

If a card is stolen, you might have more options. You may be able to manage your card while traveling through your online account or a mobile app. For instance, Capital One’s credit card lock feature lets you lock your card to prevent future charges.

Not all credit card issuers charge foreign transaction fees. But if they do, the fees typically range from 1% to 3% of the transaction amount. 

Capital One doesn’t charge foreign transaction fees on purchases made abroad. View important rates and disclosures.

Some credit card issuers may require you to notify them that you’re traveling abroad. But Capital One doesn’t. Keep in mind that you’ll still want to update your contact information so your issuer can reach you in case of potential fraud.

When you make an international purchase using your credit card, typically your credit card issuer will automatically convert foreign currencies into U.S. dollars and incorporate the exchange rate. Your credit card statement should reflect the amount in U.S. dollars.

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Using an international credit card in a nutshell

Traveling to another country can be a fantastic adventure. But you probably don’t want that adventure to include any unwanted surprises. Bringing the right credit card and mapping out your strategy for how you’ll pay for everything from souvenirs to meals can help you avoid things like unexpected foreign transaction fees.

Check out Capital One’s travel cards and see how rewarding your next vacation could be. You can even use Capital One’s pre-approval tool to see whether you’re eligible before you apply—without hurting your credit score.

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