LifestylePersonal Finance

Using a credit card to save money when travelling

For the most part, traveller’s cheques are a thing of the past. While you can still buy them, there are much easier – and cheaper – alternatives available. One such alternative is the mighty credit card.

As Visa and Mastercard like to boast, plastic is accepted everywhere, which makes it the perfect tool for making overseas purchases. Having a credit card when you’re travelling can come in very handy, however, it can also help you to save money too.

Introductory Offers on Purchases

Even budget travel can be expensive. Flights, car rental, accommodation, tours, food, drink and sightseeing all come at a price, and not everyone has the money to pay for it upfront. While some people are great at saving up and budgeting during their trip, others can come home up to their eyeballs in debt.

One way to avoid this is with a credit card that has a great introductory purchase offer. This gives the cardholder a certain period of time where they pay low or no interest on purchases. If you choose the right credit card, you could pay for your whole holiday interest free, and pay it back before the offer ends and interest starts accruing.

Frequent Flyer Credit Cards

Everyone knows about frequent flyer credit cards – they allow cardholders to earn points on their card purchases, which can then be redeemed on travel. There are various rewards programs for various airlines, each offering varying levels of rewards, perks and bonuses.

If you choose the right card and use it correctly (don’t pay too much in annual fees and always pay off your balance), a frequent flyer credit card can save you quite a bit of money. These cards can offer a heap of travel insurances, free flights and upgrades, discounts on car rental and accommodation, free booking fees, and much more.

Travel Credit Cards

Getting a travel credit card can be a great way to save money if you are a frequent traveller. These often work like a pre-paid credit card, where you can pre-load a certain number of currencies on the card and load up the card as needed. The card may also allow you to lock in a certain exchange rate.

The card can then be used overseas to withdraw cash at ATMs and to make purchases as you would with a regular credit card. This can help to save on ATM fees and currency conversion fees.


Using a credit card overseas can have many advantages. You don’t have the hassle or the expense of using traveller’s cheques. You can cancel your credit card if it gets stolen, unlike cash. You can use online banking to keep track of your spending. You can benefit from the card’s travel insurance, so if you are sick or injured, your bags are stolen, or your rental car crashes, your insurance can cover it.

What to look out for

• Choose a card with low annual fees, and always make sure you get more out of the card than you pay in,
• Try to choose a card with low interest rates, and always pay off your balance when the bill comes in,
• If the card has an introductory offer, make sure you know what happens when the offer ends,
• Don’t choose a card with rewards programs you don’t need,
• Watch out for currency conversion fees and ATM fees,
• Always read the terms and conditions – especially when it comes to travel insurance.

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