10 Credit Card Mistakes to Avoid While You're Traveling

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Traveling with a credit card, in many ways, is safer than traveling with cash. With zero fraud liability, your losses are minimized if your credit card is lost or stolen. But even though using a credit card while traveling may be a safer bet, there are still some critical mistakes to watch out for.

Missing your payment due date. You may be on vacation, but you’re not on vacation from all your regular obligations, like your credit card payment.

Check all your payment due dates before you start your trip. Schedule your payments for any due date that falls on a day you’re going to be out of town. Missing a payment will incur a late fee and possibly trigger the penalty rate.

Using a card that charges a foreign transaction fee. Many credit cards charge a fee on transactions made in a foreign currency, driving up the cost of traveling with a credit card. If you’re going international, use a credit card that doesn’t charge a foreign transaction fee, like one from Capital One or Discover.

Throwing away credit card receipts. Keep all your credit card receipts until well after the transactions have cleared your credit card statement and you've verified that they're accurate. That way you have proof if any transaction is inaccurate.

Not warning your credit card company before traveling. Most credit card issuers encourage cardholders to let them know before traveling, especially internationally.

That way, they won’t flag your credit card purchases as fraudulent, which can lead to all your transactions being declined. Give the dates of your trip, so your card issuer can flag any international purchases that occur after you’ve arrived home.

Not using a rewards credit card for travel purchases.

Many credit cards reward you with additional points or miles for travel purchases. Plane tickets and hotel stays are big ticket items that can help you maximize the points you earn. If you have a rewards card, use it for your trip to earn more.

Putting the entire vacation on your credit card with no plan to pay it off. While you can maximize the rewards you earn by charging your trip, it’s a bad idea to charge your trip without the funds to pay it off.

Not reviewing your post-travel credit card billing statement. Once you get back from your trip, check your credit card statement for any fraudulent purchases or purchases that exceed the amount on your receipt. If you see anything suspicious, let your credit card issuer know.

Not bringing a backup source of funds. Don’t assume that your credit card will be accepted everywhere you go. In some international locations, only chip and pin credit cards are accepted. Your particular credit card may not be accepted at all. Or, there may be certain vendors that only accept cash or local currency. If your credit card is lost or stolen, you need to have access to a backup source of funding so you can still enjoy your vacation.

Not protecting against theft.

If you leave your credit card in your hotel, put it in a locked safe and never leave your credit card in your car, even locked. Many travelers were a money belt which allows credit cards to be kept close to the body. Before traveling, research the areas that are known for theft and be extra careful in those places.

Not having access to credit card customer service numbers. If your credit card is lost or stolen, you’ll need to contact your credit card issuer as soon as possible to reduce your liability for fraud. Copy the customer service number from the back of your credit card and store it separately from your credit card. That will let you easily and quickly contact your card issuer if you need to. 

You want to enjoy your trip - and the days following - without dealing with major credit card issues.

Follow these tips to avoid major credit card mistakes while you're traveling.