Your pre-trip checklist for travelling with a credit card

couple pay for drinks at tropical bar with travel credit card

Heading overseas like growing numbers of Aussies? With the ABS showing massive growth month-on-month on overseas travel, it looks like the rising cost of living is no deterrent to our ever-growing wanderlust.

So you’ve decided to treat yourself to a much-needed spot of travel and you’ll be taking your favourite credit card abroad with you. If you’re planning on flashing some plastic overseas, we’ve put together a checklist of things to think about before you take a trip.

1: Let your provider know you’re travelling

Before you get globe-trotting, make sure to let your bank or credit issuer know you’re planning on heading overseas. Overseas purchases from unfamiliar vendors can flag as suspicious with card issuers, who may suspect that you aren’t the one doing the shopping. Letting them know where you’re going and how long you’ll be gone means that charges in foreign currency won’t seem fraudulent.

2: Make sure your card is set up to swipe, insert, sign or sign

Australia are world leaders in the adoption of tap and go payment, making up 80% of card payments in 2019. Not every country is quite as enthusiastic about contactless payment, so make sure you’ve set up a PIN and signed the back of your card, ready to pay however you need to.

3: Check which ATMs you can use your card at

There’s nothing worse than getting stuck abroad with a card that nowhere takes! Global brands like Visa, American Express and Mastercard are all widely accepted, but it’s useful to see which banks yours partners with overseas to find out which ATMs you can use without facing excessive fees.

4: Find a card with low foreign exchange margin

No matter where the Aussie dollar is at, you don’t want to be losing out on a card that takes any more than necessary in exchange. Specific cards, especially ones designed for travel, often offer no additional foreign exchange margin - check in our database, or find some our favourites.

5: Skip the dynamic currency conversion trap and pay local

When you’re given the option to pay in the local currency or make a dynamic conversion to Australian dollars, there’s a temptation to find out exactly how much you’re spending in AUD. On the spot conversions end up costing you big time with the standard conversion fee and an additional dynamic conversion fee - pick the local currency to save yourself the extra.

6: Research the travel perks your card has to offer

Before you venture overseas, it’s worth checking whether your credit card offers any travel perks or rewards. From cardholder travel insurance to complimentary airport lounge access, a lot of cards have something to offer. With a travel credit card, you might also be able to pick up major bonus points while you travel, to redeem on future flights.

7: Check your card’s expiry

Worst case scenario? Your card expires while you’re away! While you won’t be able to travel with less than a year on your passport, your credit card doesn’t share the same restrictions. Make sure you won’t be caught with an expired card while you’re away.

8: Have some cash on hand

A credit card isn’t a cure-all. You might end up in a situation where your credit card can’t be accepted, or will incur a high charge. You might even find the odd machine where your card just doesn’t work! It’s always safest to have some local currency in your wallet, to handle any sudden surprises or tipping technicalities.

Now pack up your bags, store that card safely, and bon voyage!

If you’re planning on making a getaway, you might also want to consider how credit cards can bring down flight costs. Make sure to stop by our guide to packing your suitcase and find Mozo’s picks for cheap travel insurance.

Compare credit cards - last updated 24 February 2024

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