Personal Finance

6 Credit Card Tips For Your Spring Break Travel

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The official start of spring is around the corner, and it’s the season for college students and families to take weeklong beach vacations, road trips and European getaways. They’re packing their credit cards, too, to help with spring break spending.

Here are six factors to consider before your vacation.

Hitting the road

Whether you’ve charted a once-in-a-lifetime trek across the country or plan to travel the 10 hours to a Florida beach by highway, maximize your gas purchases along the way by taking a gas rewards card with you.

Your options: There are two types to consider: a co-branded card or a general rewards card with accelerated earnings for gasoline purchases. The former can offer 3% gas rebates or higher, but you only earn rewards at the specific brand such as Chevron or BP. You also can only redeem points for discounts on gas. Generic rewards cards are more flexible; you earn rewards at any gas station and typically can redeem for other items such as a statement credit.

Food spending

Consider meal time on vacation. How do you plan to feed yourself (and your family) during spring break? Your answer will help determine which credit card to carry with you.

Your options: If you’re traveling to a big city with a great food scene, pack a rewards credit card that earns more rewards on dining out. But if you’re staying at a beach house and plan on cooking or grilling your own food, then use a cash-back card that handsomely rewards grocery spending.

Faraway destinations

If your spring break take you far from your home base, make sure your issuer knows about your traveling plans. Issuers are especially wary of overseas purchases when they don’t receive prior notice. They often will block those transactions could be fraudulent on fear of fraud. That can also happen stateside if you’re traveling to a new or distant state.

Your options: Inform your issuer of your travel plans, including dates, duration and planned destinations, especially if there are more than one. Pack one or two back-up cards just in case the issuer still rejects a purchase.

Traveling abroad

Using credit cards overseas is doable, but can be tricky. There are several factors you should consider to make sure your card is the best on foreign soil.

Payment network: If your card has a Visa or Mastercard logo, it will likely be accepted in most countries by most stores and restaurants. But you may run into trouble with smaller networks like American Express and Discover, which have lower acceptance rates worldwide. Your options: Take Visa or Mastercard credit cards. Also, use this helpful map provided by Discover to see where its cards are accepted.

Foreign transaction fees: Your favorite rewards card may charge up to 3% for transactions conducted in a currency other than the U.S. dollar, eating into your cash back or other rewards. This fee covers the costs of converting foreign currency. Your options: Most travel rewards cards don’t charge this fee. All cards from Discover and Capital One also don’t have FX fees.

Chip cards: The U.S. now uses chip cards that require a signature for a transaction. But most of Europe uses chip cards that require a PIN to complete a purchase. This won’t be too big of a hassle in person-to-person transactions, but automated ones could be a problem. Your options: As a precaution, buy train tickets and the like during work hours, rather than depending on a machine. Also, ask your issuer if you can change your card to chip-and-PIN before you leave for vacation.

Prepare for vacation spending

It’s not uncommon to spend more than normal during vacation. All those meals out, cocktails and sightseeing excursions can add up quickly. Don’t let a declined card transaction stop the fun.

Your options: Take more than one card to spread the spending across them all, if they each have smaller credit limits. If you have a good payment history, you can also ask your issuer for a credit limit increase on your favorite card.

Don’t fall behind

Vacations are supposed to help you forget your real-world responsibilities. But don’t let that include your credit card obligations. Not only will you have to pay a late fee for missing a credit card payment, but your credit score could also take a hit.

Your options: Set up automatic payments to your credit cards—if you haven’t already—so they remain in good standing while you’re out enjoying the good life.

The article, 6 Credit Card Tips For Your Spring Break Travel, originally appeared on ValuePenguin.

The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.

The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.

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