Credit Cards

Ok, now for credit cards. Like everything there is good and bad news.

It is likely if you call your card issuer, you can get your credit limit raised. This can be a helpful thing if you have sudden, unexpected expenses like a reasonably priced B&B in Yorkshire losing your reservations at 9 pm and your family is debating sleeping in the bus station or ponying up for the suite-only service at Le Hotel Le Expensive.

If you buy something in Paris with a credit card the merchant will get his money in French Francs from VISA. VISA will charge your account using VISA's own exchange rate. Apart from what you might think, I have generally found that my major credit cards have offered more favorable exchange rates than I could get from banks or currency exchange booths abroad.

If the host country has a stable currency, call the credit card company in advance and find out the exchange rate. Then, in that quaint antique shop, compare the cost in British Pounds at the local exchange rate with what you'll get from VISA later. A pocket calculator helps. I also memorize some exchanges, say what $10 U.S. equates to so that I can at least make an estimate of the cost in dollars for an item (i.e., $10×10 = $100, or the thing is about half of $10 so it costs $5 and so on).

Risk. Apart from the zillion urban legends about Internet credit card fraud, if the sassy waiter in Brussels writes down your credit card number and runs up $800 worth of bills at his favorite naughty 900 number chat line before you get home to see the statement, your trip will be less fun and the fraud will have been done the old fashioned way.

While there are honest and not so honest people in every place, some countries and regions seem to have more credit card theft and fraud than others. A good place to start learning is with your credit card company. Ask to speak to the investigative division, or the fraud division for starters. Sometimes cash is just safer.

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