I’d like to think that in my years of travel, I’ve learned a thing or two along the way. Here are some nuggets of advice (solely my own recommendations based on experience) in each of the following categories:
- Credit Card
If you have a credit card that charges you foreign transaction fees, get a new one. Also, if your card does not have a “chip” on the front, get a new one. Both are musts these days for international travel. My primary card in the U.S. is the United MileagePlus Explorer card, and although it has no foreign transaction fees, it has no chip (and won’t have one until late 2015).
Before leaving for Southeast Asia, I opened a Chase Sapphire Preferred card. I chose it because the United card is also with Chase (one less online account to worry about), it receives high ratings, and it has a flexible point system (vs. only one airline). No complaints!
- ATM Card
Check with your primary bank(s) to see if there are any branches (or partner branches) where you’ll be heading, and what their policies are for charging ATM fees. The two problems with ATM fees while traveling are that 1) they can rack up quickly, and 2) they make budgeting difficult, since to avoid multiple fees, many people withdraw large sums of cash upon arriving in a new country, which can easily be miscounted or misplaced (not to mention, the safety considerations of carrying around so much cash).
If your bank charges fees for ATM withdraws, and you travel long/frequently enough to make it worth it, consider opening a checking account with Charles Schwab, since they offer unlimited ATM fee reimbursement from any ATM worldwide.
Before you purchase any type of travel insurance, check with your credit card company to see what is covered. You might be surprised to learn that you might qualify for compensation for lost baggage, delayed/cancelled flights and more. Also, check with your insurance company to see what is covered and where, and what the reimbursement process is (Keep in mind that in some parts of the world, an approved doctor might be quite far away, and also receipts might be handwritten or not provided at all).
If nothing else, emergency medical insurance, including evacuation, is a must when traveling internationally (OK, I admit, I never bought a policy until this year.) InsureMyTrip.com is a great place to start. It’s easy to compare policies, and they have excellent customer service. Both of the policies I recently purchased through the site were about $50.
I forwarded my mail to my parents during my travels, which really didn’t work at all. They received about three pieces of mail, while the rest piled up at my condo and annoyed my neighbors. Another seasoned traveler recommended the services of both Earth Class Mail and TravelingMailbox, which I will definitely consider for my next trip.
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