Credit card advice for travelers

Authors experiences Travel Wealth

When you travel away from your home country, its not ideal to use your everyday credit card. Prepare for what happens if your ONE card gets stolen, or more commonly – gets locked, because of a questionable foreign transaction. Some ATM’s will actually keep your card if it is flagged. If any of these events occur, yes your credit card company will send you a new card, but it will likely go to your home address, and arrive some time after you return from your vacation! Never use your debit card. It is a key connection to all your finances plus does NOT have the same fraud protections as credit cards do.

Take a 2nd Credit Card

You should take at least two credit cards with reasonable credit limits remaining to cover the cost of air fare home. Also, keep the two cards separated, incase you loose your wallet.

A tactic, we have used is to have a second card, which has a very low credit limit, like $500, and use it when making random small purchases at small un-known vendors, and ATM withdrawals. If that card gets stolen, or skimmed and sold to the black market, the most they will be able to spend is $500, and you still have your other card with a higher limit. If you need to spend more than the $500 limit, then simply overpay the card with $1000 for example, a day or so ahead of your need. You can also use Prepaid Credit cards, but some places won’t accept them, because they are intended more for online use. The low limit helps to ensure you watch your transactions closely, so you can top it up when you need to. Credit card companies are pretty good at dealing with the fraudulent charges, but tend to take some time to resolve them.

Setup your phone and / or watch for tap payments

Your credit card company will offer slightly different card numbers for your physical plastic card, than for the one which is associated with your phone or watch. So you should setup your devices to use wireless “tap” payments. This way if you main card gets stolen, or locked, you can still use the phone device for tap payments, and some bank ATM’s. You can disable this feature if you are not using it regularly, but have it ready to be enabled if you need to.

Foreign Currency Fees – how to minimize them

Most credit cards will allow you to use your credit card for foreign currency purchases, converting that currency to your local currency on your statement. BUT they charge a hefty fee for this service. Sometimes they charge a separate service fee, in addition to the exchange rate. Others will not charge a separate fee, but will use a rate which is much higher than the current Google exchange rate. Typically this represents 2% to 5% extra. In addition if you use an ATM to withdraw cash from your card, the foreign bank adds yet another fee typically in the $5 to $10 per transaction range. Plus cash advance surcharge implications. There are a few rare banks that offer a “no foreign transaction fee” Visa or Mastercard for travelers. We did find one Canadian Credit Union that does that.

Travel Perks

In today’s market, a plethora of credit card options cater to various needs, with a particular subset designed to benefit frequent travelers. Among the most valued perks for those who often rent vehicles is the complimentary insurance coverage provided by some cards, eliminating the need for additional insurance fees typically charged by rental agencies. This coverage generally applies to vehicles valued at under $75,000. Additionally, the privilege of complimentary access to VIP lounges in airports can significantly enhance the travel experience, especially during extended layovers at major airports. Some premium cards include flight delay and baggage loss insurance.

Wise Pre-paid VISA card

Wise started as a worldwide international money transfer company in 2011 known as TransferWise, offering currency exchange rates essentially as published online in Google, with minimal handling fees, which are fully disclosed in an open way. You transfer money to and from them via online bank transfers in any of the many ways available, and can then email people money in their currency.

We have been using their Wise prepaid VISA card for over a year now during our worldwide travels. It accommodates MULTIPLE currencies in the same card at the same time! So, this means you can have Canadian funds, US Funds, Mexican funds, Euro funds, etc. on the same card, and move money between any of the currencies as needed using their phone app, or online. It behaves just like a normal Visa credit card. We also like that it immediately sends you notifications when you use the card – text message and email, so if the vendor typed in the wrong amount or wrong currency game (1000 Mexican pesos vs 1000 US dollars), you will know before you leave their shop!

The big benefit of this is that when you use the credit card to pay a vendor in a foreign country, you pay them in their currency, and therefore there are NO extra conversion fees by your bank. Of course you still need to pay for currency conversion, but its done within Wise at the Google exchange rate, not the inflated rates the banks charge.

Loading money into the Card is very fast, typically less than a few minutes, using Interact eTransfers.


Currently Wise is offering you the ability to use their services with a “fee free transfer” of up to Canadian $800 if you use our link here. Note that we receive a small bonus from them, if you use this link. Otherwise just join them via their normal wise web page.


We have found the Wise Visa card to be a great type of credit card to have in our wallet and on our phones while we travelled to Mexico, Panama and Spain over the past year. Plus we also use it in our Canadian home country.


If you would like to be notified of more articles like this, please LIKE our Facebook page, which will then include us in your Facebook feed. Use this LINK to take you to our page, then click the LIKE button shown below. Or Like our twitter feed.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

The maximum upload file size: 128 MB. You can upload: image, audio, video, document, spreadsheet, interactive, text, archive, code, other. Links to YouTube, Facebook, Twitter and other services inserted in the comment text will be automatically embedded. Drop file here