This post is an excerpt of a longer article.
Credit cards have become such a simple and integral part of shopping and life generally that it is now entirely possible to go for months and perhaps even years without touching a banknote. You can pay your bills, buy your groceries, dine at restaurants, shop for essentials and luxuries – virtually every transaction can be completed with a credit card. You can book an overseas holiday with a credit card…but what happens when you get there?
- Use a credit card that’s widely accepted
This probably seems like an obvious one, and applies as much for selecting a credit card to use in your own country as it does for choosing one to use overseas, but picking a card that will be widely accepted is essential. Visa cards are accepted in over 200 countries around the world, which is pretty impressive when you consider that some sources suggest there are only 193 countries in the world! The United Nations officially recognises 241 countries and territories, which means that there are only about 40 that don’t accept Visa.
- Get a card with low foreign transaction fees
Regardless of how many countries your type of credit card is accepted in, it’s the issuer that decides how expensive doing so is going to be for you. Since sending money across national borders is a remarkably difficult and slow process, card companies tend to prefer that you only use their products in the country they were issued in.
Most credit card companies add about 3% to each overseas transaction as their fee. If you assume that a mid-range holiday in Thailand costs an average of 1,000 to 4,000 baht per day, an additional 3% makes it 1,030 to 4,120 baht per day or as much as 1,680 baht on top of the cost of a two-week break. You’re basically paying for a low-budget 15th day on a 14-day holiday without getting any of the benefits of it.
- Tell your issuer where you’re going
For your peace of mind and security, credit card companies monitor where your transactions are taking place and what you are purchasing. If you suddenly buy something completely out of your usual habits in a country on the other side of the planet, the natural assumption is that your card has been cloned or stolen. Usually, the company will automatically block all further transactions until the truth is confirmed.
- Be careful who you buy from
In any and all countries in the world, tourists are considered easy targets by thieves, pickpockets, fraudsters, scammers and any number of other unscrupulous chancers. They don’t know the area, generally have an inherent trust of friendly locals and the simple fact that they’re enjoying their leisure time in a foreign country clearly indicates that they have enough money to make them worth stealing from.
Minimising the risk of falling victim to these individuals starts with basic theft-prevention: keep your wallet in a front pocket – ideally one with some kind of fastener to keep it closed; don’t carry any more money than you have to and keep the rest locked in your hotel safe; don’t believe or buy into any offer that seems too good to be true; be suspicious of random strangers starting an idle conversation with you in the street, particularly around major tourist attractions – the list goes on.
- Don’t stick to your own currency
This section is more for people travelling to Thailand but the same logic applies to those with Thai bank accounts who are travelling abroad.
If you’re buying a fancy meal and I tell you that the cost is 6,000 baht, do you consider that a good deal or not? Without checking the conversion rate or without having lived in Thailand for a bit, you are very unlikely to be able to know precisely how much that is and whether or not it is a fair price for the value of the meal. If I tell you that it’s about US$200 that might help, unless you don’t know the value of the dollar relative to your home currency either.
Given that checking the exchange rate, whipping out a calculator or doing the sums in your head with every purchase is incredibly frustrating, many travellers choose to take advantage of dynamic currency conversion (DCC) or cardholder preferred currency (CPC). With these processes, you designate the currency that you will pay in. The benefit is that you can more easily understand the amount you are paying since it will be in a currency that you are more familiar with.
- Use a multi-currency card
DCC and CPC have created a lot of controversy over the years because they are so profoundly unkind to users, merchants and even card issuers. Fortunately, some alternatives have now emerged which combine the convenience of knowing the value of the money you are spending with the reduced cost of making payments in the currency of the country you are shopping in. The chief alternative is the multi-currency travel wallet.
Send money to Australia, Bangladesh, Cambodia, China, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar, Nepal, Pakistan, Philippines, Singapore, Sri Lanka, and Vietnam from just 150 baht per transaction plus a foreign exchange fee.
DeeMoney serves as a hybrid solution that’s similar to both Transferwise and Western Union, yet distinguishable from both. Whilst TransferWise offers only digital transfers, and WesternUnion mainly cash transfers, DeeMoney is Thailand’s only service to provide both means of transferring money.