Tips for Overseas Travelers

NEW YORK ( MainStreet) -- With just a little bit of planning, you can avoid credit card stress while traveling overseas, starting with finding ways to make vacation dollars last even as the value of the U.S. dollar declines.

While you need to carry some cash to cover expenses in situations where plastic is not accepted, using a credit card to make purchases while you are abroad will cost you less in the end than exchanging hard currency whether at home or overseas.
Some cards are made for travel and can provide luggage or car rental insurance, as well as travel upgrades and other perks.

But beware: Most credit cards charge a 3% "foreign transaction fee" that applies to all charges processed outside of the U.S. Consider applying long before you travel for a card with no foreign transactions fees. Chase ( JPM), Capital One ( COF) and Citibank ( C) are a few of the banks offering these cards.

Consider rewards cards. They can provide luggage or car rental insurance, as well as travel upgrades and other perks. "Really think about more of the hidden benefits," advises Leah Gerstner, a spokeswoman at American Express ( AXP), and Sukhi Sahni, a spokeswoman for Capital One, agrees shoppers should "Always check the card's online shopping portal for online and in-store bonus rewards that can be used for your next vacation or getaway."

It is always a good idea to alert your credit card company of your travel plans before embarking. Even if your travel plans are within the United States this is a good habit to develop, since even unusual interstate charges can be enough to raise a lender's red flag -- and should they suspect fraud, they may freeze your account. One quick call before you jet off can keep your plastic powerful for the duration of your trip.

Finally, bring an extra credit card to protect against loss or theft. Tuck your backup card in your luggage instead of carrying it around with you, using it only in case of emergency. Squirrel away some cash alongside it and you're good to go.

Bon voyage!

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This commentary comes from an independent investor or market observer as part of TheStreet guest contributor program. The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of TheStreet or its management.

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