What You Need to Know About Mobile and Credit Card Fees While Traveling
When it comes to travel expenses, we often focus on the big ones - like flights, hotels and tour packages.
But it’s important not to forget the little expenses either. When you use your credit card and mobile phone in another country, the small fees can really add up during your trip. Many travelers aren’t even aware of how much they are being charged when they use their phones and cards overseas.
If you know what you are doing, you can prepare and make smart choices that will prevent you from getting dinged with unnecessary fees. Here are some important things to know about using your phone and your card while traveling:
Mobile Fees Overseas
When you’re abroad, you’ll want to use your mobile phone to stay connected. Not only is it important for staying in touch with friends and family back home, but you’ll also need it to access maps, look up information and opening times for attractions, use Google translate and much more.
However, if you’re not careful the costs can really add up.
One of the biggest costs when using your mobile phone overseas is international roaming. This is when your phone automatically connects to a local mobile phone network while you are traveling in another country. This sounds like it would be convenient, but it can get expensive.
There are many horror stories of people who took their phones abroad and ended up with exorbitant bills due to high roaming charges. For example, this British traveler in the Greek Islands who was charged £8,000 for 40 minutes of mobile phone data. Or, this American woman who racked up a bill of $201,000 after a two-week trip to Canada when her phone was charged at $10 per megabyte.
Even if your roaming charges aren’t that extreme, it’s still not a good idea to use the roaming feature on your phone. The cost of any calls or text messages is much more expensive than usual - and you can even be charged for using the internet or for the calls you receive. The best strategy is to keep data roaming off on your phone. You can do this by disabling your data usage within your settings. (If you do this, you will only be able to use your smartphone when you are connected to a WiFi hotspot and you won’t be able to make or receive calls.)
Sometimes your mobile phone company will offer you roaming packages that you can use when you are traveling abroad. The price will depend on your destination, but it will usually be much cheaper than using roaming.
If you’re going to be using your phone overseas for a week or more, it makes sense to buy a local SIM card and use it during your stay. Depending on where you go, this can be cheaper than using your phone normally costs you while you are at home.
In order to do this, you’ll need to make sure that your phone is unlocked from your network and can be used with local networks. You can often buy a SIM card at the airport or at a mobile phone shop or convenience store. There will be different pre-paid packages to choose from, whether you’re visiting for a week, a month or longer.
The only disadvantage, of course, is that you won’t be reachable on your regular phone number. So, make sure your friends know to contact you via Facebook Messenger or email while you are away.
Credit Card Fees While Abroad
When you use your credit card abroad, you’ll need to consider foreign transaction fees. These are the extra fees that your credit card issuer charges when your credit card payment passes through a foreign bank. This fee is usually around 2-3%, but it depends on your bank.
Your bank does this because they need to convert your money spent into your home currency, so they can make the charge to your account. That conversion costs money and some banks will pass along the cost to consumers in the form of a fee.
If possible, look for a credit card that charges you zero foreign transaction fees. This means you won’t be charged every time you spend money abroad, as those fees can really add up over time.
It’s also important to know that many banks will still charge a fee for withdrawing cash at a foreign ATM, even if they don’t charge fees on foreign credit card purchases. These fees can sometimes be avoided if you withdraw money from ATMs that are associated with your bank.
For example, Bank of America generally charges a 3% fee to withdraw cash from a foreign ATM, but the fee is waived if you use a partner ATM such as Barclays or Deutsche Bank. In the UK, app-based banks such as Starling, Monzo, and Revolut offer current accounts without any foreign fees whatsoever.
Tips for Using Your Credit Card Abroad
Here are some important tips to keep in mind when you use your credit card in another country.
- Notify your bank to let them know when you are traveling and where you will be. Otherwise, your overseas purchases might be flagged as suspicious transactions and your card can be suspended.
- If you are asked whether you’d like to convert the total into your home currency, choose to pay in the foreign currency instead. You’ll almost always get the better conversion rates.
- It’s a good idea to bring more than one card along with you, so you have a backup in case one card is declined.
- Avoid using the ATM at the airport if you can - it will usually have the highest fees.
- Some businesses, such as small locally run shops and restaurants, might not accept credit cards. So, it’s important to have cash with you as well.
Keep these tips in mind, so that you can avoid extra fees while you travel the world.