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9 tips for traveling with credit cards

October 12, 2010

By Barbara Marquand | Money Rates Columnist

Whether you're jetting to Paris, France, or driving to Paris, Texas for vacation this summer, use your credit cards to your advantage on your trip.

Here are nine tips for traveling with credit cards:

1. Two credit cards are better than one

Take at least two best credit cards 2012, and keep them separate. Carry one, and have your spouse carry the other, or leave one in the hotel safe. Then, if your wallet gets stolen, your other credit card is still secure.

2. Traveling abroad? Watch out for fees

You pay a foreign transaction fee for converting the purchase price to U.S. dollars on everything you buy with credit cards in foreign countries. Both Visa and Mastercard charge a 1 percent fee, and card issuers typically add another fee of 1 to 2 percent of the purchase price. Check with your credit card issuers on how much they charge, and use credit cards with the lowest fees.

3. Reap credit card rewards

What travel benefits and rewards do your best cash rebate credit cards 2012 offer? See whether you can cash in points for hotel nights or flights. Take advantage of other benefits such as discounts and travel insurance.

4. Credit versus debit

Use debit cards to get cash, and use credit cards for purchases. Cash advances on credit cards are expensive - you pay a fee and a higher interest rate for cash than for purchases - and the interest starts accruing immediately since there is no grace period for cash advances.

It pays, though, to use credit cards for purchases, especially in foreign countries. Credit card companies offer the best exchange rates. Don't let foreign merchants talk you into billing you in U.S. dollars since this lets them apply their own exchange rate. If something goes wrong, credit cards also make it easier to dispute charges than if you had paid in cash or with a debit card.

5. Do a credit limit check

Whether you're dining at a sidewalk cafe on the Champs-Elysees or filling up at a truck stop in Texas, this is not the time to learn you've exceeded your credit limit. Check your available credit before you leave to make sure you have plenty to get you through your vacation.

6. Problem? Call your credit card companies ASAP

Take a list of your credit card companies' phone numbers, and call the issuer immediately if a card gets lost or stolen.

7. Travelers checks provide another backup

Credit cards don't negate the value of travelers checks, which can be replaced if they get lost or stolen.

8. Leave unnecessary credit cards at home

You don't need to pack a dozen credit cards. Take only the credit cards you need, and leave the others, such as store credit cards, at home.

9. Be safe online

Maintain credit card account security. Don't use public computers, such as those in hotel lobbies, to do transactions or check your credit card account online.

Once you're back home, check your credit card statements to make sure the trip charges are correct, and call your credit card companies if anything is awry. Then pay off the bill as quickly as possible to avoid paying interest on vacation memories.

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