Will Your Credit Card Work Overseas?

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The summer season is coming up and that means one thing: vacations!  Whether it's a family vacation to see relatives in Europe or cruise through the Caribbean with friends, chances are you'll be trekking the world in one way or another.  Along your ventures, you'll have to pay for something, and a lot of you will carry the native land's cash that you've converted at customs.  However, what if you are on that cruise hitting up different spots daily.  Constantly turning over and converting your cash for another form of currency could be a big time waster when time is not of the essence.  Thus the most efficient and convenient way of spending is by using your credit card.

Before you jump on board with the idea of using a credit card overseas, you have to make sure your card in particular will work there. Here is a look at some of the factors you will need to keep in mind.

Differences in Credit Card Technology

Sometimes, you'll receive a rejection when you swipe your card abroad.  Why?  In Europe and in other countries they use a different technology for their cards.  EMV enabled cards or "chip and pin" as they could also be known are popular throughout Europe. 18383373_s Basically, the way they work is that each card has a microchip with a pin associated with that microchip.  When a cardholder uses their card, they will slide the card into a machine and from there, the machine will ask the user for a pin.  Enter the correct pin and you can use the card.

American cards use a magnetic strip with information on them to be read.  While many EMV-readers can read the magnetic strip, especially in countries that are often populated by American tourists and visitors like Canada, there are many that will not.  Many issues will arise when card users go to swipe their card at kiosks similar to ATM machines overseas.  These machines are ill-equipped to read your card, unfortunately.  Other types of machines that have these types of issues are tollbooths, parking meters, and garages.

Using a Credit Card Overseas

Overseas markets are often the playing ground for lots of fraud using these magnetic strip cards.  The result is many owners turning away card users that own magnetic strip cards.  This means, you need to be careful at all times.  Here are some tips to use when overseas and using your card:

  • Have your card but always carry some cash. Be careful in carrying too much cash around though, as that could also lead to trouble. As mentioned, overseas markets and touristy areas are filled with people wanting to use your information for fraud and steal your money.  Having petty cash on your is great so you can be flexible.  18969028_sNo need to pay for that street food with your card every time.  Make sure your cash is secure and in a safe place on your person, like in a pouch tucked under your shirt.
  • When using a card, speak up.  Inform the vendor you own a magnet strip card before your purchase so you can make sure they proceed with their policy and procedures on their end.
  • Be aware of your logo.  If you are a MasterCard owner, make sure you recognize the logo not only on your card, but the sticker on the outside of the merchant you are going to purchase from.
  • Inform your bank you are going to make an international trip.  Be aware that your bank is looking out for your best interests.  So, when you make that first purchase overseas, it may be rejected without having the technological issues listed above.  Why?  Your bank may cancel any overseas charges in hopes to prevent fraud.  Let them know ahead of time to avoid any hiccups during a purchase.

So, Will My Credit Card Work Overseas?

As you can see, the answer to the original question isn't easily answered.  Will your card work overseas?  Well...yes, but only under the right circumstances.  Technology is becoming more and more homogenous around the globe, but it is not all there yet.  You will run into some areas where you won't be able to use your card.  The best way to avoid issues is to be ready and prepared.  Do some research before your ventures to see what places accept what cards and what areas you should bring some cash.

Editorial Note: Any opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any card issuer.

*The content in this article is accurate at the publishing date, and may be subject to changes per the card issuer.

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