Long gone are the days of Travelers’ Checks or wiring money. In fact, since my first trip abroad fifteen years ago, I have always been fine with just using my ATM (automated teller machine) Card and a good credit card.
Credit Card Tips (some old, some new):
Always make some photo copies of your credit card(s) (along with other important travel docs, passport, etc). Keep these in a couple of different places from where the originals are kept. I also had an electronic file on my laptop of scans of my credit card and other docs. Not only that, I also emailed it to myself (and to my dad, just in case) so it was also online in my Gmail webmail…so it would be accessible from any computer, not just my laptop.
Call your credit card company to alert them of your upcoming abroad travels. So when you buy a shisha pipe at the souk in Cairo or the mud bath in Vietnam, they won’t get suspicious and put a stop on your credit card. That security stop-gap is a good thing, but you don’t want to be stranded at the massage parlor in Thailand with your pants down…uh, literally. Although I called mine to alert them, I still had to get in touch with them a few more times over the three years I traveled to remind them, because they still called time to time to ask about possible ‘fraudulent” charges. It’s still better to be safe than sorry and to have to inconveniently call them a few times.
The BEST card (in my humble opinion):
For the last ten years I have used the Capital One “No Hassle Rewards” Mastercard ™.
I like it for these reasons:
It offers easy online cash back, credit to my account OR travel rewards (in the form of free airline tickets, etc). Capital One cards are among the only cards that do not charge foreign currency transaction fees and they have pledged to continue this practice. This saves you between two and four percent on any overseas purchases. Of course when traveling abroad for extended periods, this means EVERY transaction. Bank of America, Chase, HSBC, and Citi all charge three percent for foreign currency transactions. These are hidden charges that many do not think of and even the oft-touted ‘good travel card’ American Express, charges you. I found that hypocritical of their whole ‘marketing’ theme of being this great international travel card and once I found that out, I never used it. I recommend you calling your credit card company and finding out if they charge a percentage for every currency conversion and if so, what that exact fee is.
I’ve recently upgraded to Capital One’s “Venture” card and am as excited about it as a plastic card could get me. I seriously did like receiving it in the mail, not only because my old Capital One miles card had just about lost all its magnetic force on the back strip making every transaction a test of my patience as the cashier swiped it again and again hoping to not have to manually type in my 16-digit account number, but also because it’s just darn pretty with it’s travel/passport motif.
Okay, that’s not the real reason I upgraded to it. Now, for every dollar I spend, I get 2 miles or points instead of one. I was also able to transfer all my pre-accumulated points onto this card, kept my same account number, and have already cashed in my points for two free airline tickets, making my upcoming flights to Colombia (oh, you heard me, here I come Bogota and Cartagena! Finally, on the road again) F-R-E-E! The real beauty is that there is no catch and truly no ‘hassle’ as their marketing points out. You can simply book any travel you want (flight, hotel, rental car, etc.) by any means you want (any travel website you want) so you can get the best deal for yourself. Then, after you make your purchases, you simply log in to your Venture card account and select the ‘travel’ purchases that you have enough miles for and, bam, you are instantly credited. No muss, no fuss. I like it. And the calculation of what your points cover is also easy. If you have accumulated 20,000 points, you have enough for a $200 airline ticket or travel-related purchase; just drop the last two zeroes on your points and that’s the dollar amount you have earned. Easy. Yes, when you do the math, you have to actually spend $10,000 dollars to get 20,000 points or $200 worth of travel, but I charge everything I can, so the points do add up quickly and now of course they are double so adding up faster than ever. I hope I haven’t confused your brain yet.
Oh, and did I mention there are NO blackout dates and points NEVER expire. More points to you Capital One!
The only ‘con’ for me was that I didn’t receive the bonus 10,000 points for signing up because technically, I was already a member of their card and not a brand new customer. But if you are…take advantage of that bonus too.
Here’s a quick breakdown of the benefits that make me happy:
- Complimentary travel upgrades and special savings on hotels and more
- 24-hour concierge service (have never really used this and not even sure what it means, but it sounds nice!)
- Special access and preferred seating to special events (oooh, special credit card events…sign me up!?)
- Shopping discounts
- $0 Fraud Liability (if your card is lost or stolen or you are a victim of identity theft, you are not liable for charges to your Vantage One Visa Signature card)
- 24-hour travel and emergency assistance
- 24-hour roadside assistance (can I just be on the side of any road and need random assistance or do I need a car?!)
- Extended warranty on purchases (like!)
- Travel accident insurance (yep)
- Rental car insurance
- Miles never expire
- Easy-to-use rewards system
- No blackout dates or restrictions for travel
- No foreign transaction fees
- Can cash in miles for a statement credit
- Every tenth time you swipe your card you can win ONE MILLION DOLLARS! (no, I just made that up. I mean a blog post on credit cards is kinda boring, isn’t it?)
Keep in mind redeeming points for travel is the best use of their program. You can also get cash back, but it is less than the ‘cash’ credited for travel use…so it makes no sense really. Why get $150 cash back when you can get $200 toward travel? It’s just like cash to me anyway. Also, note that there IS an annual fee to this card. It’s $59, but for me, that’s worth it as I already got 2 free tickets plus a Zipcar ride (yes, this counts as ‘travel’ too). There is a no-fee card, the little sister to Venture card is the “Venture One” card, but the points earned are 1.25 for every dollar spent and I preferred the double miles. But since it has no annual fee, this may appeal to you. Oh and of course, this all is written under the assumption you pay off your balance every month. That is something I always do and don’t even pay attention to the APR rate since I just simply never charge something if I can NOT pay for it. In my life, I am frugal and don’t buy things I don’t need, because I’d rather save up for travel and more experiential ‘stuff’ that isworth so much more to me. But, alas, that’s a future post…coming soon to a blog near you.**I have no attachment or relation to Capital One nor have I received anything (yet) for this glowing review. But if I were to be rewarded some extra miles I would surely accept them and then blog about it! Oh and I think you can give miles as gifts. Hint. Hint. Christmas is coming… Disclosure: This post is brought to you by Cardhub.com. As always all opinions are my own.
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I think I may have met Lee M. Cardholder at a party several years ago. Is he from Chicago?
I tried to get a CapitalOne card before my last trip based on the no credit surcharges advice I heard but didn't get it. It was pretty surprising to me because I fit all of their criteria for having "excellent credit." Maybe I'll try again but I just can't stomach paying an annual fee so I would probably go with the VentureOne card. Plus its gold!
Was the 10,000 bonus points an old promotion? I don't see it mentioned anywhere on the site.
Since becoming a small business owner Amex has started sending me rally nice travel-themed promotions. I know that, despite what we've been told all of our lives, Amex is one of the worst cards for foreign travel. It seems like the only places that take it on the road are the expensive ones I wouldn't normally frequent.
Might I add that Captial One also allows you to personalize the graphic on your card? Let's just say for example I was applying for this card and wanted to put um…maybe a photo of my little dog looking adorable so I could see his cute face every time I made a purchase while traveling…I could (ok, did) do that! We have been traveling with this card for 8 months so far and love it – no complaints thus far!
Hi Kristen! First off…love your site and you guys are cute! Are you from Chicago?! When do you plan to return? Let's meet!
Love you addition about the graphic. It's the little things that make us smile, right?! 🙂
Thanks so much for the compliment, Lisa! When I look at a site like yours I feel so inadequate 🙂
I am from Chicago and would love to meet when we're back in town (assuming you are going to be there as well!). We just booked our final flights for this trip and will be home in mid-November. Actually, we will likely be "in town" for a while after all this, so I am sure we can find a time to meet in person. All the best to you!
Hi Kristen! Somehow I missed this comment! Are you back in Chicago? Would love to meet! LL AT LLworldtour DOT com
Hey Lisa, love this post! I've been looking for a good card for traveling overseas! I looked into the Venture card…looks like it rocks! The Venture One Card doesn't have an annual fee though, and I sort of like that too…but, seems like the annual fee may be worth it if do a lot of travel. I'm still making up my mind. Also, I love your tip about photographing your credit cards and documents! But, doesn't it make you a little nervous to send that information through unsecured email? But I'm still new at this and just starting my life of travel.
Love your site, your information, your stories and your beautiful pictures! You've inspired me!
Thanks so much Mickey! I still use this card and still love it. Are you traveling now?