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It’s the one thing nobody travels without. From credit cards to currency, traveler’s checks to ATM’s, we’ve got you covered.

Credit Cards and Debit Cards

Plastic. It’s convenient, fits snugly in your pocket and requires very little effort to use. No quick mental calculations needed to buy a hat in Bombay. Or a hammock in Capri. Just swipe and go.

However, there are slight differences and benefits that go along with using credit cards vs. debit cards. There are some similarities, too.

The Differences

Credit Cards – The main benefit to credit cards? Buy now. Pay later. Plus, when making purchases with a credit card, you’re entitled to numerous rights as a consumer. If there’s a problem, you can cancel payment. Or, if someone steals your card and goes on a shopping spree, you don’t have to pay for their new 12-piece dinette set or their trip to Timbuktu.

Debit Cards – If you’re on a tight budget, you can monitor your spending without carrying cash by using a debit card. Forget combing the streets looking for an ATM machine to get cash, a debit card deducts money directly out of your checking account with the swipe of a card.

* One drawback to the debit card – you typically can’t use it to make a hotel or rental car reservation. You can, however, pay for either one with it.

The Similarities

There are many. First, both can be used to get cash advances at ATM machines around the globe. Of course, you have to have an established PIN, and in most cases, it must be a four-digit number. If you don’t have a four-digit number, contact your bank or credit card company about getting your PIN changed before you go.

Both offer fantastic exchange rates (much better than you can get through a commercial bank). And both provide protection against fraud/unauthorized use. A big plus when traveling abroad.

One note of caution: Credit card interest rates on cash advances are notoriously high. Avoid doing this unless it’s truly an emergency.

The Name Game

The credit cards may not look the same, but they hold the same buying power throughout the world. To clear up any confusion, here are the different card names that mean the same thing in different countries:

MasterCard = Access card in Britain = EuroCard in European countries

Visa = BarclayCard in Britain = ChargeEx card in Canada

The Contacts

If you’ve lost your card during your whirlwind of international travel, here’s who to contact:

American Express Card Services http://home3.americanexpress.com/cards/benefits/default.asp
 
MasterCard Global Service
http://www.mastercard.com/cgi-bin/emergserv.cgi

 Visa: Lost Your Card?
 http://usa.visa.com/personal/secure_with_visa/lost_your_card.html?it=sc_/index.html

Credit Cards > ATMs > Currency/Exchange Rates > Traveler's Checks

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