How to Use a Credit Card on Vacation

Credit cards have become so convenient, it has changed the way we make purchases. Nowadays, we don’t even carry cash on us, since all our purchases are made with our credit cards.  It is important not to take your credit cards for granted while on vacation. With these few tips, your credit card will continue to cover your way outside the country.

Credit card on vacation

Notify your Credit Card Company

In these days of ever increasing fraud, credit card companies monitor your credit card for unusual activity.  Any suspicious purchases can lead to an automatic shut down of your credit card.  In some cases, the credit card company will need to re-issue your card, which will put your card out of commission for the rest of your vacation!

Unfortunately, purchasing cappuccinos in Venice counts as suspicious activities when you normally make your coffee purchases at Starbucks in Seattle. You can avoid any misunderstanding by quickly calling your credit card company to let them know when and where you’ll be away on vacation.  They will make a note of your travel on your file so any purchases do not catch them by surprise.

Savvy Tip: Save time calling your credit card company by notifying them on-line.  Check with your credit card company or bank to see if they offer this service.

Convert your Postal Code

As a Canadian, I often have difficulty making gas purchases at the pump since it asks for a zip code.  Since Canadian postal codes are an alpha-numeric combination, it cannot be entered into the pump.  Fortunately, the credit card companies have developed a solution to this uniquely Canadian problem!

You can convert your postal code into a zip code by taking the numbers from your postal code and adding two zeros at the end. For example:

A postal code of A1A 2A3 converts to “123” + “00

By creating your own Canadian zip code, you no longer need to pay in advance of filling up your car with gas.  Nice!

Create a 4-Digit PIN

Canadians are a unique and different bunch and so are our credit card PIN codes.  For some reason, credit card companies in Canada allow us to set a ‘personal identification number’ of up to 6 digits in some cases.  Unfortunately, if you will not be able to use any PIN longer than 4 digits in most other countries. This can be a shocking surprise as you try to purchase your baguettes in France!

Plan in advance by changing your credit card PIN codes to 4-digits.  You might as well change your bank card PIN to 4-digits while you’re at it!


Bring Proof of Insurance

Most credit cards provide valuable additional benefits, often at no additional charge.  We commonly use the free insurance coverage for rental cars.  Many car rental agencies require customers to purchase “collision, loss or damage” insurance, which can cost up to $40 per day.  If you pay for the car rental using a credit card with free car rental insurance, you can save lots of money.

Some car rental agencies, especially in Europe, may require proof of insurance in order to waive the insurance surcharge. Plan in advance by printing a copy of the Certificate of Insurance.  This may be available from your credit card’s website or by calling them to request proof of insurance by e-mail. Car rental agencies requiring proof of insurance will typically note this requirement in the fine print of the reservation.

Save Travel Assistance Number

Most credit cards offer valuable travel assistance to their cardholders. These services range from legal and medical referrals, lost baggage assistance and lost travel document replacement.  Access to these services is often through a dedicated telephone number, which is sadly not the number printed on the back of your card.

Take a moment to record both the toll-free and local collect call numbers for these travel assistance services in your phone. We also make a quick note of the available coverage for quick reference.

In summary, there is no shortage of credit cards to choose from.  Each credit card has their own set of benefits, which may be helpful while on vacation.  Take a moment to review the benefits associated with your credit cards to find the card with the most travel benefits. Remember to charge your travel expenses on this card to activate any travel-related benefits offered by your credit card.



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