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Don’t Get Strapped for Cash in a Foreign Land

Don’t Get Strapped for Cash in a Foreign Land

*Editorial Note: This content is not provided or commissioned by the credit card issuer. Any opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author’s alone, and may not have been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuer. This site may be compensated through a credit card issuer partnership.

This article was last updated Apr 22, 2014, but some terms and conditions may have changed or are no longer available. For the most accurate and up to date information please consult the terms and conditions found on the issuer website.

Most people have heard that it’s important to notify your card issuing bank (s) before you take a trip, but for many, it’s still not a high priority or gets overlooked. As an unfortunate result, travelers who forget that small, but vital detail often wind up experiencing stressful frustrations while far from home. They try to use their ATM card as a financial lifeline, but it does not work. Ever go out to a meal and hand over your card only to have the waiter tell you your card was declined? It’s an embarrassing situation, but happens a lot when traveling in foreign countries and even in another state.

You can contact your bank or credit card company and straighten things out, but that may take time you don’t have. If you are in a completely different time zone or if it’s the weekend, that could cause added delays to get things resolved. Additionally, if you leave home with little cash on hand, that makes matters worse because you may not be able to withdraw cash at the point-of-sale or ATM machine.

How & Why to Notify Your Bank

One of the main objectives of financial institutions is to protect their consumers’ assets, so if they start to see large or small purchases in different geographic locations that will raise some red flags. That’s why you are now required to punch in your zip code of your credit card billing address at many self-service gas pumps in the USA when paying with plastic. Your bank wants to be sure you are, in fact, the authorized user and not some thief who stole the card and is using it to fund a road trip.

Here are some examples of card company protocols to follow:

  • Customer service representatives at Discover recommend that cardholders call, email, or use live chat from an online account to let them know of travel plans. If you travel overseas without doing so, it could disrupt your credit card usage because of security concerns.
  • Chase offers card holders a convenient online Travel Notification Form you can fill out to notify them of your travel plans. You’ll find it on the customer service page, listed along with other items. Simply type in your departure and return dates and the name of your destination city or cities. The process only takes a minute or two to complete and can eliminate all the hassles of not having your plastic work because your own transactions are mistakenly interpreted as suspicious.
  • Do not wait until the last minute to submit your information because financial institutions prefer to have advance notice to be sure the notation is processed through their system before you travel.
  • You also want to keep them updated if you are gone for an extended period of time. Chase wants you to revise your return dates before 30 days goes by, for example, whereas Barclaycard asks customers who are going to be gone for more than 45 days to call customer service and let them know.

Other card companies generally have similar policies to those illustrated above. Contact your card issuer or bank and they will tell you exactly what to do and when in order to best comply with their own internal security systems.

Is Your Card Compatible Outside the USA?

While we’re on the topic of traveling with credit cards, it’s important to remember that many countries are using plastic that has a computer chip embedded in it. The newer card technology is usually referred to as “EMV” or pin and chip credit cards and some merchants no longer have terminals that can scan a card with a magnetic strip on the back. To prevent that from happening notify your card company at least 6-8 weeks prior to travel and ask if they can issue you one of the newer chip enabled cards. You can now receive them upon request from Citi, USAA and Bank of America.

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