September 7, 2010

Work Abroad Credit Card Tips

Inspired by a recent New York Times article “Advice on Using Your Credit Card While Traveling Abroad“, I thought I’d take a break from volunteer abroad or work abroad-specific posts and focus on some things about living abroad that are a little more general – like how to make sure your credit cards don’t get frozen.

I’m sure this has happened to you (as it has to me): You are out-of-town buying souvenirs and going out o eat and then the next thing you know, the credit card company has become convinced that your card is stolen and you can’t use it.

While it’s great to know that credit card companies are looking out for us (which is something you don’t read about every day), it can be frustrating to lose the use of a credit card, especially when you are in a foreign country and trying to settle in. Even if the company is aware that you are going to be living in another country, weekend trips to neighboring cities could also spark suspicion.

While it could seem like a hassle, the best way to avoid any credit or bank card issues is to call your banks and credit card issuers and give them the dates that you plan on traveling abroad. That way, when the red flags go up as you are buying toothpaste in London, there will be a note on your account telling the, not to automatically freeze you out of your account. You might still get phone calls asking you if your card has been stolen, and asking you verify charges, but at least you won’t lose your purchasing power.

One thing I learned from the article that anyone going abroad should be aware of are the different types of credit cards that are accepted in Europe and Asia. Newer cards in these areas use a different technology (which always requires a PIN) than we do here in the U.S., and you could have trouble using your card once you get there. This is especially important if you are planning to work or volunteer abroad for a short-term job or project and won’t be transferring your money to a local bank.

So what do we do about all of this? After calling your bank and/or credit card company to tell them that you will be out of the country for a while, you should add these credit card issues to your list of things to ask your host organization (or better yet, your host family if you have one). They are the ones who have the most up-to-date knowledge of any credit card issues that might exist for expats living and working abroad.

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