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Travel rewards cards for overseas spending
Prepare for your next adventure with a travel credit card and look forward to no foreign transaction fees and the convenience of complimentary travel insurance.
Organizing your travel money options is crucial for a stress-free vacation. Unexpected expenses such as foreign transaction and currency conversion fees, ATM withdrawal fees or emergency credit card replacements can put a strain on your budget – but many of these fees can be avoided if you take the time to compare credit cards designed for overseas purchases.
In this guide, we take a look at common features of travel credit cards to help you find the right card for your next overseas trip. Purchase interest rate Apply today and receive up to 2,000 Bonus Miles.
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Some of the features you can expect from a travel credit card include:
- Worldwide acceptance. Most overseas credit cards are provided by networks like Visa, Mastercard or American Express. These types of cards are accepted worldwide, so this will ensure that you can access your cash no matter where you are. That said, some networks are more widely accepted than others: Visa and Mastercard have a much higher acceptance rate worldwide.
- No foreign transaction fees. Most credit cards in Canada charge a foreign transaction fee of 2.5% on top of your purchase amount. This fee is charged when you use your credit card overseas or online with international retailers. The best travel credit cards usually waive this fee, which can save you a hefty sum of money if you’re spending big abroad.
- Complimentary insurance. If you’re travelling overseas, travel insurance is a necessary precaution. If you secure a card with complimentary travel insurance coverage, this will save you the extra time and cost that comes with searching for separate insurance. Make sure you understand the insurance offered, as each credit card will have different terms and conditions depending on the insurance provider.
- Emergency card replacement. In the case that your card is lost, stolen or damaged, you may need to request an emergency card replacement. Travel credit cards may offer low or zero fees to replace your card, which could come in handy if you find yourself in a bind.
- Beware of currency conversion fees. Currency conversion fees, also known as a Dynamic currency conversion (or DCC), can easily be avoided by always paying in the local currency instead of having the merchant charge you in Canadian dollars. Paying in the local currency could mean you’ll face a poor exchange rate and additional fees.
- Avoid ATM withdrawals with your credit card. Carrying cash while travelling comes with its own risks, so storing your funds on a card can be handy. However, using a regular card can come at a cost of up to $5 per ATM withdrawal – not to mention the excruciatingly high interest rate you’ll be charged from the day you withdraw the money. Using your debit card means you can avoid paying interest. To avoid the withdrawal fee, search for a debit card that waives this charge or look for a card that is a member of an international ATM alliance such as Scotiabank.
- Protect yourself. Currency fluctuations can have either a positive or negative impact on your balance. If you’re worried about losing money due to fluctuating exchange rates, you can withdraw cash and exchange your funds to the local currency when it’s at a beneficial rate.
- Know the relevant fees and charges. Carefully consider the fees and charges associated with a credit card before applying like foreign transaction, annual fees and overlimit fees. You should also consider any terms and conditions or exclusions and limits associated with complimentary insurances before travelling.
- Notify your bank. In case your bank misjudges your overseas transactions as fraudulent activity, you should always call and inform your provider of your travel plans before leaving. Otherwise, you may find that your card is blocked and you no longer have access to your funds while overseas. Some banks allow you to notify them of your travel plans via online banking.
- Beware of geographical sanctions. Some providers place financial sanctions on certain regions due to political instability or illegal activity. If you’re unsure, contact your provider or read the relevant Product Disclosure Statement to confirm whether you can use your card on your next trip.
It’s never wise to put all of your eggs in one basket. Therefore, it’s best to organize more than one travel money option when planning your overseas trip. Some other options you can consider include:
- Prepaid cards. If you need to spend in an overseas currency, a prepaid travel card can be a good way to transfer your Canadian dollars into the local currency and access it with convenience. Some benefits you can expect with a prepaid card include fixed exchange rates, multiple currencies and reduced risk of overspending than if you were to use a line of credit.
- Debit cards. A debit card can also curb the temptation to overspend, as you’re spending cash that you actually have rather than credit. These cards also don’t charge interest rates, which could lower your costs significantly. However, make sure to confirm whether withdrawal fees are in place if you’re planning to use it overseas.
- Cash. This is a simple and easy to use alternative. There are no extra fees, exchange rates or restricted acceptance. However, carrying cash does come with its own risks since it can be easily lost or stolen. You should always keep some cash on you and some in a secure place (such as your luggage or hotel safe) to ensure that you’re not left without cash in case of an emergency.
- Travellers cheques. While these aren’t as widely used today, they are still a popular option among some travellers. If you’re looking to lock in exchange rates and have a safer option than carrying cash, a traveller’s cheque could be a good idea. Before you opt for this solution, make sure you’ll be able to cash your cheques in the countries and cities you are visiting.
Before heading overseas, consider the following:
- Notify your provider. Always call your credit card provider to notify them of your overseas travel plans. This will avoid any blocking or freezing of your account due to suspected fraudulent activity.
- Have your provider’s emergency contact details on hand. Note your provider’s emergency contact number in your wallet, on your phone and anywhere else secure in the case of an emergency.
- Bring more than one card with you. It’s always better to have at least two cards with you, so you’ll have another in case your primary card is lost or stolen. Your second card should be carried in a different wallet or bag which will reduce the chance of losing both cards.
- Are there restrictions for withdrawals or purchases? You need to look at the limits on withdrawals or purchases on your card. Using the card prudently will prevent exceeding these limits and also avoid any unnecessary penalties such as overlimit fees.
Following these precautions should help ensure your trip runs smoothly:
- Don’t carry a lot of cash. Travellers should avoid carrying a lot of cash or wearing expensive jewelry. This might attract negative attention and can lead to unpleasant (and expensive!) experiences.
- Safely store your cards, cash or cheques in various secure areas. Carrying all your cards and cash in a single location or wallet is not advisable. You should distribute these items among your secure belongings.
- Keep your passport safe. It’s also important to store your passport securely, whether it’s hidden on your person or you place it somewhere safe like in a hotel safe.
- Report any emergency situations immediately. As mentioned, make sure that you have all of your necessary contact numbers on you. This should include those of your personal emergency contacts, your credit card providers and your insurance provider. This will ensure that you can get in contact with the relevant people in the case of an emergency.
Travelling can be an unforgettable experience. However, some of these memories may be less pleasant than others if you fail to organize your travel money options. There’s no one ideal way to deal with your finances overseas, so it’s best to compare your options and take into account your travel plans, spending habits and financial situation to choose the right options for your needs.
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