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Traveling with a Credit Card: Tips and Tricks

Seasoned travelers never seem to have to deal with the same fears as the rest of us: pickpockets, stolen credit cards, crazy high conversion fees, identity theft. Beyond that, seasoned travelers never seem to follow the same precautions as paranoid, green travelers, who run out to buy a cross-body, Kevlar-enforced, locking, zipping, security purse before they even book a hotel. Part of that is probably sheer confidence - frequent travelers rarely look like tourists and therefore avoid detection from preying pickpockets. The other, bigger part is that with a few precautions, that giant traveler's purse may not be completely necessary.

Overseas Credit Card Tips (that don't scream TOURIST)

1. Get a good bag. If it makes you feel better, sure, go grab one of those Rick Steves-approved numbers. If you are at all style conscious, consider a more discrete money belt for your cash and credit cards. If you're really set on a purse, just make sure to choose one that is not made of cloth and that has zippers and a flap for security. Men especially: consider a money belt, or carrying your wallet in your inner or front pockets. Anything but your back pocket.

2. Know where your card is. Always, always put your credit card back in your wallet, zipped into your purse, attached to your money belt, etc. Never just slip your credit card into a pocket after a transaction, even for a second. If anyone is watching, they'll know exactly where to go.

3. Call your credit card company before you go. If your credit card company is doing their job, they will see unexpected charges overseas and put a halt on your card right away. A simple call telling them what you're up to, where you're going, and how long you'll be there will prevent this from happening.

4. Know your bank's information. A lot of travel websites recommend taking photocopies of the front and back of your credit cards and stashing those in a couple of different places: your luggage, a different pocket of your wallet, down your sock, etc. The problem: if someone gets hold of those copies, they have access to the information that will let them start making over-the-phone or online purchases. If you do make photocopies, black out certain information like the expiration date, your name, and two of the digits. You can also jot down your bank's toll-free number and other information in a code only you know, or encrypt the information on a USB that you keep stashed away, out of sight.

5. Bring more than one credit card. A back up credit card from a different bank will ensure that, in the case you do lose your primary one, you will have some way to make purchases. This is especially important for couples or families that are traveling together. Many families will have the same credit card issued in different names. Even if only one gets stolen, the entire account will be canceled, leaving you without any access to money.

6. Double check conversion fees. Your credit card company might charge you foreign transaction fees or conversion fees with every purchase you make while abroad. If so, shop around for a travel credit card with no foreign fees. Or, consider relying on your debit card and paper money for the duration of your travels to save you the 3% companies will typically charge. Do you have any credit card travel tips you swear by? Comment below.

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Logan Abbott's picture

Logan Abbott is a personal finance and credit card expert with over 5 years of experience writing about each topic. He is a graduate of the USC Marshall School of Business, and also contributes to other online finance publications. He has been quoted in the New York Times, San Diego Union Tribune, TheStreet, and more.

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