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Updated: Aug 30, 2023

10 Ways to Keep Your Credit Card Safe When Traveling Abroad

Thinking of traveling with a credit card any time soon? Be careful. Follow these tips to ensure your credit card is safe when traveling abroad.
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Traveling anywhere involves some amount of risk -- but perhaps none more than the financial variety.

If you’re planning to travel abroad with your credit card this year, follow these 10 tips to keep your cards secure and safe.

1. Notify the credit card company

What good is traveling with your credit card if you can’t use it? Make sure you call the credit card company ahead of time to notify them of your travel plans.

As long as your credit card company knows where you are traveling, it can monitor your card and let you know if any unauthorized charges have been made.

2. Find out about international transaction fees

How much will the credit card company charge you for using your card overseas? Most credit cards charge a 3 percent international transaction fee.

There are some cards that have no international transaction fee, which you should look into before leaving on your trip (remember, it takes time to process a new card).

If you are stuck with a card that has a fee, find out if it will cost more or less to make transactions using your credit or debit card.

3. Know your rewards

Your credit card might offer you travel-related perks that you don’t know about.

If you’ve got a travel credit card -- or even just a regular one -- find out what travel rewards it gives you. It might be able to help you book a better room or get free breakfast.

4. Set up online access

Being able to access your credit card account online can help you keep track that all transactions made on the card are from you and not a scam artist.

Plus, if your card gets lost or stolen you can still contact the credit card company online rather than making a phone call from an international destination, even if it’s toll free.

Have you ever tried calling one of those numbers from an international destination? It isn’t easy. You should also download your credit card company’s app if they have one.

5. Be prepared

You should make photocopies of all important documents, including your credit card.

You can also scan those documents into your email account or a cloud, but make sure that your international destination has easy access to the Internet if you do so.

Make sure you have written down the number for the credit card company in a safe place in case you have issues or emergencies.

6. Make big purchases with your credit card

Federal law dictates that a cardholder is only liable for a maximum of $50 for any unauthorized charges made on a credit card.

So if you have worries or doubts about where you are purchasing your goods, use your credit card for the transaction (unless you’re paying in cash, of course).

7. Review purchases each day

Not only will reviewing your purchases help you keep track of whether any unauthorized transactions have been made, but it will also help you stay on budget.

Seeing how much money you’re spending each day is a good way to assess your spending while on vacation -- making adjustments when necessary.

8. Pack a second card

There’s nothing worse than getting stranded in a foreign destination without any access to your money.

Take a second card with you, but only use it for emergency situations. Store it in the hotel safe if you don’t want to carry it around with you.

9. Use an EMV chip card

In the U.S., credit card customers now have cards that are equipped with EMV chips.

These cards utilize chip and PIN technology that stores and transmits encrypted data. And each card has a unique identifier that can change with each transaction.

Already widely used in Europe, the cards have helped reduce fraud and counterfeiting in places like France.

These EMV chip credit cards help ease fears over swiping your card abroad.

10. Stay safe.

Store financial data and other important information on an encrypted USB flash drive while you travel.

If you need to access the information, decrypt the file on a secure computer. Also, be smart when you travel.

Keep your wallet in your front pocket or use a money belt. Be careful when you’re in a large crowd and always make sure that you are aware of your surroundings.