How to Get the Most From Your Credit Card on Vacation

How to get the most from your credit card when traveling.

relaxing beach vacation Dan Page

Evaluate Your Card

Many credit cards offer rewards such as points, merchandise or cash back on things you buy, which you can apply toward your vacation. Review your card’s rewards program well before you travel to see what you’re getting from it.

Tip: Compare your card to others—it might be worth switching if you find one with better rewards and benefits. For example, if your card is tied to a particular airline or hotel, you might find another that lets you redeem rewards with any airline or hotel.

Use Your Card

While everyday purchases help you accumulate rewards, don’t forget to use your card for advance vacation costs (such as tickets and tours) and while on your trip (at hotels and restaurants) to compound your rewards. But be sure to pay off your balance each month so your interest payments don’t offset the value of your rewards.

Tip: When traveling abroad, ask merchants to charge your card in local currency rather than U.S. dollars. Paying in local currency lets you avoid conversion fees—markups (usually around 3 percent) charged by the merchant or its credit card processor.

Protect Your Card

If you don’t travel much and your card company notices your card suddenly being used overseas, it likely will deactivate the card, suspecting fraud. Avoid this with a quick phone call to your credit card company before you leave, sharing when and where you plan to travel.

Tip: Be aware of “holds” that are placed on credit cards and debit cards. Many businesses (such as hotels, restaurants and gas stations) charge the purchase amount—plus an extra amount held as a security deposit that can last for days. Until a hold lifts, you won’t have access to your entire credit line or all of your cash, which can be inconvenient if you’re counting on it being there.

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