There’s nothing more embarrassing than finding out your card doesn’t work at the cash register.
Once, I had a check-out lady enunciate of her fourth “declined” so much you’d think she was teaching me a new word. It was a good thing I had just enough cash to pay for my purchase. Otherwise, I would’ve had to slink away under her chastening glare as the rest of the grocery store wondered what was happening.
You probably don’t want to risk public humiliation. Nor may you want to risk the more private (but similarly painful) humiliation of offering to pick up the tab, only to find that your card doesn’t work.
If you plan ahead, you could easily avoid credit card disasters
There are just a few things you absolutely have to do before you travel. This will take you a few minutes to do, but it will pay off big time if something goes wrong in your travels.
1. Check the expiration date
Having your card expire when you’re on the road could put a damper on your travels, to say the least.
If your card is set to expire before your trip ends, call your bank to have them mail you a new card ahead of your departure. If you’re already abroad, call the bank anyway; they may be willing to send it internationally.
2. Call the bank and tell them your travel plans
Give them the dates and destinations. This will reduce the likelihood of them flagging your card for suspicious activities and suspending it.
3. Jot down the bank’s phone number
Sometimes a quick call to the bank could solve all your card problems, so make sure you make a note of this number and keep it somewhere safe. You can keep several copies on your phone, laptop and notebook, for example.
This phone number is often printed on the back of the card, but check with the bank anyway before you take off because the international access phone number could be different from the local number. For example, sometimes you can’t call 1-800 numbers from overseas.
4. Bring more than one card
Your bank could still stuff up and freeze your credit card despite your notification, so bring at least one extra card with you. If the main card ends up being suspended, stolen or otherwise missing, there’s still the other card to cover your immediate expenses.
For safety, store these cards separately. For example, you could carry a card with a low credit limit in your wallet and leave the other card(s) in the hotel safe or a secret pocket.
5. Keep a copy of each credit card
Scan each card or take photos of it, then save the files in your email or cloud storage. If you’re old school, you can make several hard copies of each card and keep them somewhere safe. This way, if anything happens, you can give your bank and the police all the relevant details quickly.
Some other things you need to know about traveling with credit cards:
- How to Pay $0 in Credit Card Fees When You Travel Abroad
- Paying for Things While Traveling: Credit, Debit, Cash or…?
- What You Don’t Know About DCC Could Cost You Hundreds of Dollars in Credit Card Fees
- Travel Hacking Basics: 4 Easy Steps to Travel for Free
Images: 1. Richard Masoner / Cyclelicious (CC BY-SA 2.0 License); 2. (gif via fuckyeahreactions.tumbler.com).