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Avoid Credit Card Missteps When Traveling
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Savvy travelers know that they should thoroughly review their cheap travel options such as cheap airplane tickets, discount hotel rooms, discount travel deals, and cheap vacation packages before finalizing any plans abroad. Unfortunately many people are less aware of credit or debit card pitfalls that commonly are encountered overseas.
The following are the credit or debit card “gotchas” to be on the lookout for, according to Ed Perkins:
• Most credit cards charge a foreign transaction fee that averages 3 percent. What many travelers are unaware of is that this fee is usually also charged even when transactions are processed overseas in U.S. dollars.
• Using a credit card is a terrible way to get cash. A recent survey of the top 100 credit cards found that taking a cash advance results in a fee, typically around three to five percent with a $10 minimum, plus an ATM charge unless you are using one from your own bank, as well as a stiff interest rate with a median value of 24 percent even if your account is fully paid. Never use a credit card for cash unless you have no alternative.
• Credit card rental car insurance usually does not cover holders’ completely. Often, though not always, when using a credit card to reserve and pay for a rental, the credit card issuer provides secondary collision coverage. Rental car coverage is universal with Visa and American Express but not with MasterCard and Discover. MasterCard and Discover rental coverage depends on the issuing bank. Be aware that most credit cards do not extend car rental insurance to car rentals made overseas.
• Overseas fees for using a credit card when paying often can be as much as two to five percent of the bill.
• Withdrawals for Global ATM Alliance banks now incur a three percent exchange fee. In the past the “Global ATM Alliance” was viewed as the ideal way to get foreign currency. By having a Bank of America checking or savings account, you could use a debit card to withdraw local currency with neither an ATM nor a conversion fee from ATMs at affiliated banks at many countries.
• Airport “no fee” ATM gouging is largely a thing of the past at most international gateway airports. Foreign exchange companies such as Travelex have negotiated exclusive ATM arrangements with big hub airports and installed their own ATMs. While they typically advertise “no fees,” they usually provide lousy exchange rates, often as much as 10 percent worse than you would get with a big bank ATM.
• Non-chip credit cards are increasingly not being accepted outside the U.S. This is particularly true of places such as gas stations and subways that do not have an attendant available.
• While the chip and sign credit cards can reduce some kinds of fraud, they are far from fraud proof. A large part of credit card fraud originates with “card not present” transactions, such as those made online. If a thief can get your data, for example by hacking into a merchant account, the chip is of no help.
Also your personal information can be stolen by someone carrying the right hardware nearby without ever touching you, unless your credit cards are shielded by a credit card protector.
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