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Unblocking Credit Cards

This photo shows a pile of credit cards spread out overlapping one another.

Travel with at least two types of credit cards.

Here’s how to prevent credit cards from getting blocked when you travel.

If you plan on leaving your own province or state, be sure to let your credit card company know about it, well in advance. Call the 800 number on the back of your credit card. Tell them where you’ll be going, along with the departure and return dates.

By notifying the credit card company, it ensures that the card will continue to work throughout your vacation. If you don’t do it, your card could be blocked. (Especially if you try to buy gas and sunglasses the same day.)

If your card does get blocked, you’ll need to call the bank. Not the 800 number on the back of the credit card, but the actual bank. That means you’ll have to phone during their hours of operation. And that means you could be without a credit card for several days.

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Personally I like to travel with two types of cards. The main one is a cash back card. I get anywhere from 2-4% cash back, depending on the type of purchase. The second card is a point rewards type card from a separate company, which I use as a backup.

If your card stops working during your trip, call the credit card company immediately. It may have been compromised somewhere along the way, or back home where you live.

The worst case scenario happened on one of my trips. Both my wife and I had our cards compromised by a store back home. At the time we were 1,000 miles from there, trying to pay for one hotel, while reserving another, but both were declined.

It was time for a desperate call to Visa. I called the 24 hour 800 number on the back of the card and was shocked by their response. 

Visa knew my credit was good so they took care of the outstanding bill. Not only that, they sent a new card overnight by FedEx to the next hotel we were staying at. And they did it at their expense. Needless to say, Visa has my loyalty from now on.

I’ve taken my Visa card from Boston to Beijing, and every town in-between. So long as I tell them about my vacation ahead of time, I’ve never had a problem using it anywhere in the world I travel.

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