15 Pros and Cons of Taking a Credit Card with You on a Trip Around the World

Cashless transactions are growing significantly on a global level. Countries like South Korea are leading the change with 77 percent of its citizens preferring cashless payments. Even those that are slower in adoption are already seeing a big uptick, with the Philippines seeing 33 percent of its citizens leaning towards cashless payments. With how feasible it is to get a credit card now or set up a digital wallet, it’s worth considering how practical this is when going on a trip around the world. As global travel continues to grow in the wake of the pandemic, let’s take a look at the pros and cons of travelling with a credit card.

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What’s Inside

  1. Pros of Taking a Credit Card When Traveling
    1. Preventing Fraud
    2. Avoiding Theft
    3. Lightening Your Load
    4. Getting Better Exchange Rates
    5. Accessing Insurance
    6. Earning Rewards Points
    7. Removing the Downsides of ATMs
    8. Eliminating the Need for Cash Withdrawal
  2. Cons of Taking a Credit Card When Traveling
    1. It Will Hurt Your Credit if Unchecked
    2. 10. May Not Be Accepted Everywhere
    3. Can Make Budgeting Harder
    4. Could Lead to Too Many Debts
    5. Can Come With Added Fees
    6. Might Get Flagged By Card Issuer
    7. Can Be a Data Risk

Pros of Taking a Credit Card When Traveling

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1. Preventing Fraud

Credit cards actually protect you from fraudulent activity, especially compared to debit transactions. Cards have many security measures embedded now, and issuers will help you deal with fraudulent transactions right away. These also won’t immediately be deducted from your bank account if you can dispute them. 

2. Avoiding Theft

Credit cards can be kept in less obvious places more easily, so you’re not such an easy target for experienced pickpockets. When you’re travelling with tons of gear, you can safely store your credit card and keep it close to you without the same heft and easy accessibility of cash. 


3. Lightening Your Load

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It’s easy to accumulate tons of stuff when you’re travelling, which is a real pain not just on flights but also just strolling around different places. Get rid of bulk change and heavy, space-taking cash by using a credit card. It’s light enough that it never even has to leave your person, which is helpful considering how lost luggage surged by 67 per cent in 2022.

4. Getting Better Exchange Rates

Exchange rates are a constant factor when travelling across different countries, and credit cards simply have better rates than what you’d find at an ATM or money exchange. That extra bit of savings can do a lot when you’re on a prolonged trip. 

5. Accessing Insurance

A big benefit to using a credit card is the insurance it usually comes with. Although this depends on the card you’re using, it can be a helpful layer of protection when you’re in unfamiliar lands. Make sure to check your statement or contact your bank to find out for sure. 


6. Earning Rewards Points

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Most credit card offers will come with rewards programs these days. It’s just an added perk to be able to earn rewards while making transactions you would have done anyway. If you get enough miles or accommodation points, this could even contribute to your ongoing trip. 

7. Removing the Downsides of ATMs

ATMS are useful, but also get used by tons of people, have steep international fees, and have a high risk of theft and fraud. In the US, card skimming frauds have grown a whopping 700 percent. There’s even a chance it could eat your card. If you go cashless and use credit for your transactions, you don’t need to worry about these issues. 

8. Eliminating the Need for Cash Withdrawal

Withdrawing cash can be a troublesome process, especially when you need the amount right away and find yourself with no place to cash out. Even if you budget well, unexpected purchases and prices can happen. It’s just easier to have a card ready to go. 


Cons of Taking a Credit Card When Traveling

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9.  It Will Hurt Your Credit if Unchecked

A comprehensive guide on hard and soft credit checks discusses how individuals can request soft credit checks as much as they like without it impacting their credit score. This can be an essential step in monitoring your usage and ensuring that you are not missing any payments. If you simply ignore your payables, you can end up hurting your credit score. Jamaicans, you can access your credit score online for free too at Credit Info Jamaica.


10. Cards May Not Be Accepted Everywhere

Cash is still king. Stock Photo by Karolina Grabowska on Pexels.com

Just because cashless is growing, doesn’t mean that every place has the capacity to read credit cards. After all, only 20 countries have reached credit card penetration that’s more than 50 per cent. If you’re looking to explore smaller towns or isolated islands, you’ll have a hard time finding services or places that accept anything other than cash. 

11. Can Make Budgeting Harder

You need to save for travel, even as you continue on your trip. Budgeting cash is much easier as you immediately have a visual and tactile guide of what you have on hand. Tracking expenses can be trickier when you’re using a card, with a tendency to overspend. 

12. Could Lead to Too Many Debts

Paying within your means is fine, but it can be troublesome when you keep using your card and end up accruing a ton of debt. This will give you a harder time in the long run if things start piling up. Make sure you still stick to a limit when using credit.


13. Can Come With Added Fees

Foreign transactions have fees added when charging your card. You can expect lower rates at one per cent, whereas some cards will be charged up to three per cent. Those added fees are also on top of the existing fees that Mastercard and Visa issue. 

14. Might Get Flagged By Card Issuer

If you aren’t able to inform your card issuer that you are going to be travelling around the world, then any transactions you make may be flagged as fraudulent. Although this could easily be cleared up with a phone call, you still have to face the hassle of that back-and-forth and even run the risk of getting your card locked. 

15. Can Be a Data Risk

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Not every transaction is secure. If you’re not careful, you may end up giving up your valuable data just because you’re trying to use your credit card. Even information as simple as your name can be very valuable, so a measure of care must be taken when choosing where to swipe. 


Wrap Up

Going with or without a credit card is simply a matter of practicality. If the option is available to you, you may want to bring both cash and a credit card. However, it also comes down to preference as long as you keep the pros and cons in mind. Share, pin and bookmark this article for later. Lastly, remember to subscribe by email for new posts on Adventures from Elle.

‘Til next time.

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Published by

Rochelle | Adventuresfromelle

Adventures from Elle is a travel blog for locals & visitors who want to experience the best of Jamaica, one adventure at a time. The blog is curated by Rochelle Knight, a junior resident (M.D.) in internal medicine and published author. She began the blog in 2016 as a medical student & wants to see the world, starting with her home country. Purchase her book 'SIGHTSEE JAMAICA' on Amazon and join her in Jamaica!

29 thoughts on “15 Pros and Cons of Taking a Credit Card with You on a Trip Around the World

  1. ahhh so timely! just TODAY I bought a ticket for the bus on my card and had it marked as a possible fraudulant transaction and they blocked my card. Had to call them to sort it out. I tried to let the bank know i was going away but their policy is they have great protection and can tell whether its fraudulent or not. so they dont offer that service, of recording your movements. luckily i was in a position to call them straight away. BUT having said that the pros outweigh the cons as long as you’re good at tracking your own spending, great article Ro!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Very true! I didn’t have a credit card when I lived there, so I was used to just paying by cash. When I returned from the US was when I realized how few places took card, lol. At least, few of the places I specifically wanted to go to. Mexico is basically the same, so I’ve had to readjust.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Before the pandemic, whenever I traveled (especially out of the country), I would make my payments almost always in cash: I felt uneasy if I had to pay with credit/debit card, due to 1) security issues and 2) afraid of going overbudget: that said with cash, at least I could force to budget myself and physically see the money leave my hand. However, I’ve changed my mind a bit now that I’m older (and am not as afraid to use my credit card, haha) in that I’m open to using credit cards on my trips– in fact, I plan to do so on my upcoming international trip this spring. I’ll have to change the way I budget from now on, but it’s a task I’m up for! Great pros and cons here, Elle. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Rebecca! I’m personally not as confident yet in using credit cards internationally because our local card penetration is still quite underwhelming. Informal sectors in Jamaica such as our street vendors and even public transport are mostly cash only, so I’m always forced to keep a bit of both on hand. As you said too, it’s a lot easier to keep track of your budget when you can see the cash leave your hand. The credit card makes it easier to overspend. That being said, cards are the way of the future and we only can adapt. Best wishes on your upcoming trip 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Girl, I enjoyed this article but I clicked it as soon as I saw credit card as I am currently on a work trip with credit card issues lol. Sometimes I wish that you can use your regular bank card where you have direct access to your account rather than your credit cards, which have limits and holds. I want access to my money that I know I have in the bank and swipe internationally as I do locally. I know they used to have VTM cards but I don’t think those are used anymore.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Great info… A lot of people ignore the transaction cost when traveling internationally. We are most concerned about ATM use. W have a Charles Schwab debit card (no transaction fees and keep the account balance real low. It’s used just for small amounts of local cash. The other trick is pick a credit card with no international fees (CapitalOne) and never let the locals do the exchange to local currency (bad rate – high fees). You home bank will always give a better exchange rate 😉

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Great post! It was really comprehensive and interesting, as I had never thought of some of these points! When I travel internationally I usually bring an “international” debit card that doesn’t have fees when you pay in a different currency or when you withdraw money, which is super useful! I also love going cashless but some places in Europe (even just a farmers’ market or some smaller shops or cafés) don’t take cashless payments, which can be quite annoying!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. This is a very interesting and informative post, Rochelle! We use our “miles” credit card for everything, but I’ve never even considered not being able to use it everywhere in the world. You’re right about them getting more expensive to use – we got a discount today at lunch for paying cash. Thanks for sharing your insight!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you! Interestingly, so many places in Jamaica such as our markets and other informal shops, street food stalls etc only accept cash, that I try to keep both cash and card on hand. I suppose it may be similar in other 3rd world countries. I’d love to visit a country where it’s the opposite though such as China, Singapore, South Korea etc. I suppose it will feel very ‘futuristic’ compared to my reality 🙂 Thanks for reading!


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