These days most cards in the United States are issued with “Chip & Signature” technology and some even eliminate Foreign Transaction Fees. Does it matter? Well, it depends where you live, what you do and if you plan to leave the country but in general, it only helps.
Did you know that you could get charged foreign transaction fees without leaving the country? Its true! If you are shopping on a site that is based in a foreign country you very well could get charged for a foreign purchase even though you haven’t left your bedroom. Foreign transaction fees vary from one to three percent of a transaction and are essentially wasted money. A wonderful feature of the competitive reward credit card market we live in; is that many cards are eliminating foreign transaction fees simply in hopes that you will use the card. To the card issuers, swipes are more important than little fees and if you have a card with no fees, and a card that does carry foreign fees, its a no brainer which one you will pull out.
If you leave your world of comfort for a vacation in a foreign country there is a very good chance that many merchants, vendors and restaurants will not take the standard “swipe” cards that we use in the states’. Europe and many other countries use a higher level of security for purchases, much likened to debit transactions in America, and thus use a chip to validate the card. If you are leaving the country, having a card with a chip is going to ensure that your card is accepted. US based credit cards with chips do not require a pin code but they will check your signature to make sure its really you. I have personally experienced that nerve racking moment when a waiter says that they do not take swipe cards only to wipe the frown off my face seconds later when I realize that my card has a chip.
If you can find a card that combines no foreign transaction fees with chip and signature acceptance you are guaranteed a worry free vacation without throwing money away. With no foreign transaction fees there is no benefit to carrying tons of cash thus lessening the worry of theft or being stranded. I highly suggest taking only the amount of cash you will need and doing so directly from an ATM. As I mentioned in Advanced Travel Tips, changing money at the airport costs you roughly ten cents per dollar. Don’t throw money away!