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What is a good credit card for travellers?

Posted by morganmontana on 12/4/2006 at 23:48

I didn't know where to post this question on the message boards. I am about to take a five month trip mostly to SE Asia. I've been fighting having a credit card but I know I should. Is there a company or card that I should go for that works best for international travel.

#1 morganmontana has been a member since 5/4/2006. Posts: 3

Posted by somtam2000 on 13/4/2006 at 06:11 admin

Hi morganmontana,

Welcome to Travelfish!

That's a great question, and one I'm sorry to say I have no idea of the answer to.

All I can suggest is when you're shopping around for a card, be sure to read the fine print on their charges for international transfers and cash advances -- both can be absolute killers.

On a recent trip to Vietnam, I was there for under a month yet came home with close to A$100 worth of bank charges -- I wasn't a happy camper!

If you do find a card with low (or no!) fees, please post back details so others can benefit from the information.

Glad you like the site!
By the way, I changed the title of your post so people had a better idea of what you were asking about.

#2 somtam2000 has been a member since 21/1/2004. Location: Indonesia. Posts: 7,507
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Posted by exacto on 13/4/2006 at 08:12

Hi Morgan,

It is a good idea to have a credit card with you, just in case. Having it with you doesn't mean you have to use it.

I always try to travel with a VISA card for asia (as opposed to a MASTERCARD, which I take to europe). My experience is that VISA is accepted in more places in asia than other credit cards. I have no idea why this is the case.

One feature to look for in a credit card is automatic travel insurance for tickets purchased on common carriers. This sometimes even covers your luggage if it is lost or stolen. Some credit card companies also offer traveller's assistance in case your credit card is stolen or if you wind up in an emergency situation. Shop around.

In addition to the credit card, I also always take at least one ATM card with a 4-digit pin code. That way I can get funds from my checking or savings accounts here in the states, while conveniently pulling local currency out of the ATM wherever I might be (except for Laos of course :). My bank offers the debit feature on its ATM cards too, which means I can make a credit card-like purchase, but it is really just drawing the funds from my account.

Somtam's point about fees is a really good one. Both banks I use do not charge for ATM withdrawls made from foreign banks. Those fees can add up quickly. Most credit card companies will also charge a small fee for a foreign currency transaction/conversion. Ask your bank what their fees are, if any.

A smart thing to do also is to leave your credit card info and the bank or credit card company contact info with a trusted friend or family member. That way you'll have someone back home who can help you out if your cards are lost or stolen or some other problem comes up.

By the way, if you are going to be on the road for such a long time, be sure to get online access for your credit card, and set it up so you can make payments online from an existing checking or savings account. That way you'll be able to stay current on your credit card bills, so the card will work for you when you really need it.

I hope that helps. Cheers!

#3 exacto has been a member since 12/2/2006. Location: United States. Posts: 2,632
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Posted by swedreamer on 21/4/2006 at 02:20

Does anyone know if Mastercard will work as good as Visa in Thailand...or in Southeast Asia?

My mastercard has no fees when i take out cash...but my Visa does!

#4 swedreamer has been a member since 18/4/2006. Posts: 8

Posted by exacto on 21/4/2006 at 05:48

Hi Swedreamer!

Sorry. Didn't mean to mislead on the Visa vs. MasterCard issue. My experience is that more places take Visa than MasterCard, but you can certainly get by with just your MasterCard too. If you are talking about taking cash out of an ATM, then your credit card might list on the back all the different financial networks which will work with it, like Maestro or Cirrus or such. All the major Thai banks like Bangok Bank or Thai Farmer's Bank, etc. partner with a large number of those networks, so you shouldn't have too much difficulty getting cash if you need. I always try to use an ATM card rather than a credit card to avoid cash advance charges. I also try to travel with at least two cards, just in case one isn't working for whatever reason. I hope that helps. Have a good trip.

#5 exacto has been a member since 12/2/2006. Location: United States. Posts: 2,632
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Posted by tails101 on 23/4/2006 at 03:46

For anyone in the UK, the Nationwide Visa Credit Card is the one to have as they don't charge any exchange fees/commision on transactions. They do still charge a cash advance fee... however, if you get a Nationwide Current Account their Visa Debit Card gives you completely free overseas cash withdrawals with no commision/exchange free along with no withdrawal charge! I wish I'd know that before I did my round the world trip as HSBC must have had a quite a few pounds off me...

#6 tails101 has been a member since 1/4/2006. Location: United Kingdom. Posts: 105
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Posted by somtam2000 on 23/4/2006 at 06:44 admin

That's an excellent tip tails101 -- many thanks.

We're currently researching a story on credit cards that are good options for overseas travel -- we're focussing on cards issued in Australia, Canada, UK and the US -- if anyone has a particular card to recommend (we're mainly looking at the fee structure) please mention it here so we can add it to the ones we're looking at -- there's an awful lot of cards out there!

#7 somtam2000 has been a member since 21/1/2004. Location: Indonesia. Posts: 7,507
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Posted by iwillfly525 on 23/4/2006 at 12:59

I've looked at over 25 banks in the US and was not able to find a credit card that doesn't charge an overseas fee. The lowest price I was able to find is 3% charge. I was told at almost bank that all cards in the US started charging this fee as of Jan 1, 2006. Now weather this is true or not, I don't know. But if someone knows knows of a US bank that donesn't charge an overseas fee, I'll change.

As for travel I carry one card on me just is case. But the other thing you can do, if you are going to be in one country for a good amount of time is to open a bank account. It's easy is most countries in SEA. Just dump your all of your money in the account your 1st day there and use an ATM card to take the money out as you need it. If you will be traveling in the countries again in the future, you just pull of the money out and don't close the account and then it's ready for you on your next trip.

#8 iwillfly525 has been a member since 13/2/2006. Location: United States. Posts: 50
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Posted by pauljaymes on 25/7/2006 at 00:12

I concur with tails101 - Nationwide is the way to go if you can in any way get a UK bank account (proving a UK residential address is required, but a previous UK bank account and UK credit history will make it very easy).

Not only do you not pay anything anywhere on the Visa debit card, which you can use in all international ATMs and for purchases anywhere that takes visa, but you pay only a moderate cash advance fee (IIRC 1.5%) on the credit card, and you get excellent exchange rates. Also, you can have a linked savings account which gives you a whopping ~4.6% (var) interest on your funds. Transferring money between savings and current is free and can be done instantaneously online.

It is SO good it sounds too good to be true... but it really isn't. In two years the only thing vaguely negative I've had was that they refused to send a replacement card anywhere but my home address - I had to get family to forward it on to me.

#9 pauljaymes has been a member since 10/7/2006. Posts: 75

Posted by pezza on 17/7/2007 at 21:28

Thanks tails101. I'm off to SE Asia in Nov and need a cheap way of getting money out.

#10 pezza has been a member since 17/7/2007. Posts: 7

Posted by pezza on 17/7/2007 at 21:28

Thanks tails101. I'm off to SE Asia in Nov and need a cheap way of getting money out.

#11 pezza has been a member since 17/7/2007. Posts: 7

Posted by sonicbum on 2/8/2007 at 15:48

I brought PLENTY of credit cards with me here to Thailand!!! I have american express, discover, visa, and mastercard. The ones I have used the most are my Mastercards. I have a PayPal mastercard that charges me $1USD for atm withdrawls, so I take out 10,000 Baht each time and it costs a dollar. That has been the cheapest way for me to get/spend money here, and you get the true current exchange rate it seems. I also use my other Mastercard (citibank i think) if I PAY with a credit card, BUT it always seems like i get those 2-3% fees on purchases when i do that...

..also, about PayPal, you can link it to a bank account, easily allowing you to add funds to your paypal account from your bank, or vice versa for free!! That card is more of a debit card really..

..also, i have used my Visa debit (bank) card to withdraw money from ATMs as well, but i ALWAYS end up getting extra service charges of such, and i ASSUME they are from MY bank, becuase the atms say 'no transaction fee' on them, and always on the receipt...

good luck, and let us know what you end up going with!!!!!

#12 sonicbum has been a member since 28/7/2007. Posts: 14
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Posted by sine on 18/10/2007 at 10:03

Posted from within Vietnam.

I'm using a Travelex 'Cash Passport' VISA debit card...basically i just BPAY cash amounts onto the 'Cash Passport' card from my bank accoutn and use ATMs to withdraw money. Haven't really needed my VISA & MASTERCARD.

Every single withdrawal has a flat charge - in Austrailan dollars it's $3.75. And they take a commission of about .05% out of the money you BPAY to your card.

Was handy in Thailand - i'd get abhout $770 AUS equivalent in one transaction. However, in Vietnam i get only $150Aus per transaction! Quite a difference and things are generally more pricier in Vietnam - so it means more $3.75 charges!! they damn add up...

#13 sine has been a member since 2/10/2007. Posts: 9

Posted by neilswilson on 25/10/2007 at 20:16

I love Nationwide - their debit card and credit card are the best in the business. Its almost as if they understand that not ripping their customers off is good for business! 99% of banks should take heed!

#14 neilswilson has been a member since 3/10/2007. Posts: 1

Posted by somtam2000 on 4/11/2007 at 09:34 admin

We've just added a feature story, "How to manage your money while travelling in Asia" and have tied it to a new thread in the messageboard regarding money management while travelling in Asia.

I'm going to lock off this thread so that we can try and get all the money questions and answers in the one place.

#15 somtam2000 has been a member since 21/1/2004. Location: Indonesia. Posts: 7,507
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