Using your credit card overseas
When travelling abroad, a credit card could be one thing to make room for in your suitcase. Light, compact and secure, it can be a handy travel companion, and, unlike cash, if you lose it or if it's stolen then if you follow the right steps there’s a good chance you can avoid being left out of pocket. But that's not the only benefit – there are plenty of reasons to take your credit card with you when you go on holiday. Here's how to make the most of it when you travel.
Lost or stolen
Losing your hard-earned cash could turn a dream holiday into a nightmare. Using a credit card overseas, then, has its benefits. For starters, a credit card has some protection against theft, so if you are unlucky enough to have it stolen – or you lose it on the beach – you should be able to get a free replacement, normally within 24 hours. It’s a good idea to note down your card’s 24-hour emergency number somewhere other than your wallet, so you can contact your provider as quickly as possible if anything goes awry.
Fend off fraud
Using a credit card overseas can protect you against fraud. Active monitoring allows your card issuer to see what you're spending and where. If they spot any unusual activity they'll get in touch to see if it's really you buying that surfboard in Australia or shopping in Paris. If the issuer can't reach you they may block the card to be on the safe side, so it's a good idea to check that your details are up to date before you leave and, if necessary, let your issuer know where you're off to. If you do fall victim to card crime, once you report the card lost or stolen you won't be held responsible for any further transactions. What's more, you may be able to get any money that's already been spent refunded under the Payment Services Regulations and the Consumer Credit Act (you may be liable for the first £50). Not only do you get better protection when using a credit card abroad, but peace of mind too.
Know about fees
Fees can be charged for using a credit card abroad. For instance, your provider may charge a foreign usage fee (where the amount spent is converted from local currency to pounds using the day's exchange rate), a flat fee for each time you use the card, or credit card interest or charges for cash withdrawals. But don't panic. There are simple things that could help to keep costs down, such as paying in local currency rather than sterling at the point of transaction, if you have the option to do so.
If you decide to use a credit card overseas you could reap the rewards. Some issuers offer reward schemes, which see you get something back every time you spend money on the card.
Online banking – wherever you are
It's easy to keep track of your finances when using a credit card overseas, thanks to online banking. Log in from any country and you can not only check your statements to add up your own spending, but also make sure there aren’t any suspicious transactions. If you think fraudulent activity has taken place, let your card provider know and you’ll be covered. Once you’re back in the UK, paying off bills by the repayment date will ensure you don’t bring back holiday debt, just a great sun tan.