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Avoiding Credit Card Problems when Travelling Abroad

There are perhaps few people who don’t experience some measure of embarrassment if their credit card is declined. As uncomfortable as it can be it is usually quite easily rectified for those within their own country however when this happens abroad the payee is left not only feeling discomposed but may also be faced with a trickier problem. This is especially true if there are no other means of paying for the services or goods required.

As credit card companies use ever more stringent ways in which to combat credit card fraud it is far from unusual for those travelling overseas to find themselves faced with the above scenario as many of the major card companies automatically decline any activity deemed as ‘abnormal’. It is always advisable to inform your credit card company before travelling abroad so that when you attempt to use your card the automated systems will have been programmed to allow the transactions.

Always check the expiry dates on your cards before you go. Many cards have years between issue and expiry and it is easy to lose track of a card’s validity date.

Perhaps the biggest problem with regard to using credit cards abroad pertains only to US citizens due to the difference in systems used. The vast majority of US credit cards rely on magnetic strips for their card to be read. However, throughout Europe and increasingly in many other places in the world including Australasia and parts of Asia, the technology has moved to ‘chip and PIN’. Credit card payment machines read from an embedded chip in the card and payees enter a personal identification number (PIN) directly into the machine’s keypad removing the need for signatures. This chip is absent from the typical US credit card.

The ‘chip and PIN’ machines still maintain the ability to read a magnetic strip on a card but problems arise when the person operating the machine is unaware of this or in cases where unmanned/automated payments are expected such as in telephones or garages. Cash machines attached to banks are usually not a problem as they are set up to read magnetic strips.

As of 2011 some American banks and credit card companies are starting to experiment with ‘chip and PIN’ systems so it may be possible to speak to them before travelling to obtain such a card. However, it is predicted that the change over will be slow and typically available only to customers at the high end of banking activity.

Many US travellers have found that carrying more than one card may help keep problems to a minimum – strangely where one card may not be read, another will be and for no reason which anyone can explain.

Further advice also suggests that travellers from the US buy as much in advance as they can for their travel plans such as transport costs and accommodation fees which can often be settled through a website.