How to use your Debit and Credit Card Abroad

Today we will discuss how to use your debit and credit card abroad, keeping your money safe and paying the lowest fees possible

Traveling abroad means, in most cases, to use a credit or debit card to cover for most transactions and withdrawing money. In this guide we will give you useful tips on how to save money while using your debit and credit card abroad. We will also cover some tips on how to use your cards in different countries more efficiently.

Using your card abroad safely usually means that you should take a few precautions before you leave your country, so let’s start with out tips.

Check with Your Bank if Your Card Works Abroad

In many cases, your card is not active to work abroad. In most cases you can activate it to use it abroad online, while in other cases you don’t have to do anything. Some banks also have a feature for travel notice. You can select on your online banking where you will be and when. This is useful for the bank to prevent fraud in case someone makes a purchase from a country you have never purchased anything in.

Have More Than One Card When Traveling Abroad

This is a tip for those who want to play it safe. Many things can happen while traveling abroad, you may just lose your card, or accidentally lock its PIN number. For that reason, you should ideally travel with more than one card, especially if you are traveling alone. Ideally try to have different cards from different brand like one Visa and one MasterCard, and even from different banks.

How to Use ATMs Abroad

ATMs abroad can be tricky, for a number of reasons. In some ATMs, your card will work, and in others not. From my experience if your card doesn’t work right at the first time you try to withdraw money from it, try another ATM from another bank. If you keep trying using the same ATM, the machine may eat your card, or you may lock your pin.

Bear in mind that not all ATMs in all countries have the same number order on the keypad. So look carefully at the numbers you are pressing, to avoid putting your pin incorrectly and locking your card.

Fees and Currency Conversion Rates

This is another important thing you should consider, both while using your debit and credit card abroad on ATMs as well on POS(points of sale). Different cards from different banks have different fees and currency conversion rates.

If your card has a fixed fee per withdrawal, you want to reduce the number of withdrawals. Withdrawing more money at each time it will certainly offset your withdrawing costs.

If you are going on short trips to different countries, there is not much you can do in terms of conversion rates. However, if you are a frequent traveler and often travels to the same countries, it may be a good idea to get a pre-paid card or a bank account in this country. This way you can transfer money or top the card before hand, saving a lot of money in conversion rates and other fees.

What to do if you Lose your Credit Card Abroad

This is an unpleasant situation that sometimes happens, but there are a few ways you can minimize its damages with simple steps.

The first step is to make sure you have indeed lost it. In many cases, if you leave your card at an ATM, you can go to the bank next to the ATM (if there is one, and ask for it). In case you are sure you have lost it, call your bank and block your card.

If you have another card, you can continue your trip without too much hassle, and request a new card when you are back home. For those staying abroad for longer than a few days and you are staying in the same address, you can, in some cases, request a new card to be sent to you abroad.

If you do not have another card, you can still get money while abroad. Services like or CurrencyFair allow you to send money everywhere, so you can have a friend or a relative to send you, even if you are in an exotic country.

Other Options

Another option that is growing popular is buying good and products with your mobile phone (that usually has a card attached to it). Finally, in some major cities Bitcoins ATMs are a good backup plan to withdraw money abroad if you do not have other options.

If you are considering traveling abroad, check our Europe and Asia guides. For those considering a longer time abroad, check our retirement abroad guides.

Have you used your debit or credit card abroad? What is your experience using them? Let us know on the comment box below.