Something I Rarely See

Logging onto my credit card the other day, I had a rare occurrence:

Current Balance

$0.00

We always pay our balances off every month, but we use our credit cards often enough that we’ll make charges between the close-out period (the 22nd of the month for me) and the payment date (the 1st of the month).

The fact that I didn’t have a balance was insignificant in the long run (since we’ll pay off whatever balance we have anyways), but it still felt pretty cool!

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Avoid the Pitfalls of Overseas Travel and Save Money

This guest article comes from Odysseas Papadimitriou of CardHub.com, an online destination for the best credit card deals.

As you can perhaps tell from my name, I’m Greek. I grew up in Athens before coming to the States for college, and while I ended up putting down roots in the Washington, D.C. area, I go back to Greece a few times a year to visit family. As a result, I’m somewhat of a travel veteran, and over the course of my trips, I’ve picked up a few tips and tricks for how to save time and, perhaps most importantly, money when abroad.

The first thing you must make sure to do when traveling abroad is use a credit card whenever you make a purchase. I’m not saying this because I run a credit card comparison website. Rather, credit cards eliminate worries about finding the best exchange rate or exchanging the right amount of money so as to have enough for your trip but not so much that you have a lot of foreign currency left over afterwards. Credit cards also protect you against pickpockets because they’re easier to conceal than cash and have fraud protection that ensures you won’t lose your money, even if your card gets stolen. In short, using a credit card abroad will help limit the hassle and potential danger of spending overseas.

Still, there are a few steps you must take in order to maximize the benefit your credit card provides. Interestingly, much of this comes before you depart. First, you should call your credit card company to ask if your card has foreign transaction fees. While most credit cards charge fees for overseas spending that amount to about 2-3% of your purchase totals, you should be able to find a no foreign transaction fee credit card regardless of your credit standing. Some issuers, like Capital One, even offer secured credit cards with no foreign fees. So if you don’t have one already, open one before you leave.

Once you have such a card, inform your issuer of your travel plans so your account doesn’t get suspended due to suspicious use and ask for a phone number that you can call collect in case you run into trouble while abroad. That’s it for your pre-trip credit card checklist, but there are still a couple things you must do while overseas to avoid problems and high costs.

For instance, if you’re traveling in Europe, you should carry your passport with you wherever you go. Why? Well, European credit cards have a security feature called chip-and-pin technology that is far more advanced than the magnetic stripes used by American credit cards. Therefore, merchants are likely to ask for passport identification in order to accept your credit card.

Merchants are also likely to offer to convert the total cost of what you’re buying into American dollars so you can understand it better. While this might sound helpful, you should only sign checks and receipts that are expressed in the local currency because merchants typically charge high conversion rates in order to make a profit off this supposed service.

Ultimately, while a credit card is my preferred method of payment while overseas, I always end up needing cash as well. So, you should open a debit card with no foreign transaction fees in addition to a credit card without such fees. At the end of the day, when traveling aboard, you want to enjoy your trip, not worry about conversion rates, foreign currency and pickpockets. Your focus should be on seeing the sights and experiencing other cultures or accomplishing business objectives. So just remember this advice and you will be able to spend more confidently while also avoiding a surprise on your post-trip credit card statement.

Copyright 2017 Original content authorized only to appear on Money Beagle. Please subscribe via RSS, follow me on Twitter, Facebook, or receive e-mail updates. Thank you for reading.

How Not Losing Our Credit Card Is Saving Us At The Grocery Store

A few weeks ago my wife called me and indicated that she couldn’t find her credit card.  She remembered the last place she had been with it, had called, but they didn’t have it.

After checking online to make sure everything was as it should be (it was), I asked my wife to check again.  She looked through her purse but was unable to find it.

She called the credit card company and reported the card lost.  They immediately canceled the card and issued a replacement.

Of course, as Murphy’s law indicates would happen, my wife found the card about fifteen minutes after getting off the phone.  She had grabbed the receipt from her last shopping trip and wrapped it around the card., so even when she was going through her stuff, the card was masked.

Drat!

We knew that the company wouldn’t re-activate the card, so my wife was stuck without a card for a few days.  This wasn’t a problem at all, it just meant that she had to use the debit card for things that we normally put on our credit card (gas and groceries, primarily) and since we keep an adequate cushion in our bank account, this was no problem.

As it was, the story has an even happier ending.

After getting her new card and activating it, she began getting these awesome coupons at Meijer (the grocery store we frequent).  Apparently, they saw her and her new card as a ‘new customer’ and decided to roll out the red carpet, even though we’ve been shopping there for years.

We’ve gotten a bunch of coupons along the lines of ‘Save $7 off your next purchase of $50 or more’ with varying amounts, or ‘Save 10% off your purchase next week.

So far we’ve probably saved a good $30 as a result of this.  I’ve joked that my wife will have to make losing her card a regular occurrence if this is the case.

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Another Reason To Check Your Bank Account Every Day

My wife was out shopping over the weekend and sent a rather alarming text message: Her debit card purchase had been declined.

This instantly sent a terror down my spine as I pictured our bank account having been drawn down to zero with someone else living the good life.

Luckily, I was able to use my Blackberry to log in to our bank’s mobile site.  It told me that our balance was right along the lines of what it should be (having looked yesterday), and I was able to look at the most recent transactions and see only one had appeared since I looked yesterday, which was for buying a pizza the night before.

In other words, absolutely nothing was out of the ordinary.

I was able to tell this because I knew what was ordinary by having kept track of both the balance and the recent transactions.  Had I not, I might not have known what the balance ought to be, and I also wouldn’t have known that recent transactions were all accounted for, as I would have had to go days back to make sure there were no fraudulent charges.

By keeping a close and frequent eye on our bank account, I was able to quickly and easily determine that nobody had gotten into our bank account.  I’d recommend checking your bank and credit card transactions at least three times a week to keep on top of it, so that if anything like this ever happens, you’ll be able to rapidly determine whether or not you have an actual problem.

Thankfully, we didn’t.

(As a follow-up, my wife tried the card at the next store she went to and it worked just fine.  With the store that declined it, she was able to use a backup card (credit card), so everything worked out)

Copyright 2017 Original content authorized only to appear on Money Beagle. Please subscribe via RSS, follow me on Twitter, Facebook, or receive e-mail updates. Thank you for reading.