Travel credit cards for overseas spending
Prepare for your next adventure with a credit card designed for travel, with features including waived fees and complimentary insurance.
When you’re travelling overseas, unexpected costs such as foreign currency conversion fees, ATM withdrawal fees or emergency card replacement can quickly eat into your spending money. While many credit cards (and many debit cards) charge some or all of these fees, there is also a range of options that waive these costs. Some credit cards go one step further and offer complimentary extras, such as travel insurance, to help you save even more when you go away.
Here we will compare the travel credit cards available in the market to help you determine which is the right option for your next overseas trip.
What features do I need when choosing a travel credit card?
Some of the features you can expect from a travel credit card include:
- Worldwide acceptance. The majority of Singapore credit cards are issued by Visa, Mastercard or American Express, which are all widely accepted internationally.
- No or low currency conversion fees. While most credit cards charge 2-3% on currency conversion, many travel credit cards offer no fees for transactions made overseas or online with an international retailer.
- Complimentary travel insurance. A wide range of credit cards offers complimentary travel insurance, that can save you money and give you peace of mind when you travel overseas. Usually, you’ll need to pay for your flights or other travel costs using the card to activate the cover, so make sure you check what’s required for any card you choose.
- Emergency card replacement. If your card is lost, stolen or damaged when you’re travelling overseas, you may need to request an emergency card replacement. This sometimes attracts additional fees, so look for a travel card that waives these costs if that’s something you want to avoid.
- ATM withdrawals and balance check. Many travel credit cards offer free ATM withdrawals and balance checks to help you save on fees. But keep in mind that using a credit card to withdraw cash overseas will still attract a cash advance fee worth around 3% of the transaction. You’ll also be charged interest at the cash advance rate from the time the transaction is made.
What else should I consider when using a travel credit card?
Keeping these details in mind can help you avoid extra charges and hassles when you’re using a credit card overseas.
- Beware of the dynamic currency conversion. Some overseas businesses and ATMs may give you the option of paying in the local currency or in Singapore dollars. If you choose Singapore dollars, the transaction will be processed using dynamic currency conversion (or DCC), which is typically more expensive than paying in the local currency. So when you’re given the choice, opt to pay in the local currency instead.
- Check what fees and charges may apply. As well as foreign transaction fees and ATM fees, make sure you consider the cash advance fee, cash advance interest rate and the purchase interest rate.
- Let your bank know you’re going overseas. To help protect your account from fraud while you’re away, contact your bank and let them know your travel plans. Otherwise, you may find that your card is blocked and you no longer have access to your funds while overseas.
- Check for any restrictions. Some credit card companies have financial sanctions for certain geographic regions. Others may have limits for daily withdrawals or transactions. Make sure you check with your bank before you go overseas to make sure you’ll be able to use your card when you want to.
- Make a copy of your card’s emergency contact details. Store your credit card’s emergency contact details in your wallet, on your phone and anywhere else secure in the case of an emergency. This information is usually on the back of your card, as well as on your bank or provider’s website. If anything happens while you’re away, make sure you contact your provider as soon as possible so they can help you sort things out.
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What other travel money options can I take with me?
Having more than one travel money option gives you more flexibility and security in case something happens when you’re away. Some other options you can consider include:
- Debit cards. Taking your everyday debit card overseas gives you direct access to your cash, rather than a credit limit. As well as helping you avoid interest charges, this could make it easier to avoid overspending while you’re away.
- Cash. Depending on where you’re travelling, there may be limited options for paying with a card. Even in countries where cards are commonly accepted, you may find that there are businesses that apply hefty surcharges or don’t accept your particular card, so having some foreign cash before you go away means you’ll have all your bases covered.
- Traveller’s cheques. While traveller’s cheques used to be a popular travel money option, they are not widely accepted any more. So if you decide to order some traveller’s checks, do your research first to make sure there will be places you can cash them on your trip.
Three tips to protect your travel money when you’re overseas
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 jewellery. This might attract negative attention and can lead to unpleasant 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. It is better to carry an alternative wallet which can store excess cash and other important items. It is also better not carry the main wallet in your back pocket, but rather somewhere secure that you can see.
- 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 chance of an emergency.
With so many different things to see and do when you go overseas, it can be easy to put off organising your money until the last minute. But taking the time to choose your travel money options before you leave can help you avoid extra costs and issues so that you can spend more time enjoying your trip.
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