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July 10, 2006


These days, credit cards and traveling go hand-in-hand, especially for safety and convenience reasons. Using them on the go, however, does not come without some risk and it costs. The following tips are designed to help make your cruise vacation worry free when you pull out the plastic:

Minimize foreign transaction fees - Most credit card companies charge a transaction fee of 2-5% on any charge made outside of the United States. Call your credit card company before your voyage - these fees often change and you do not want to use one with hefty surcharges. Capital One does not currently charge additional fees for transactions abroad. Smaller banks and credit unions also charge lower rates.

Give your credit card company a heads up - Before leaving for your cruise, provide your card issuer with advance notice that you will be traveling. Otherwise, they might suspend use of your credit card due to "unusual" activity, such as a restaurant charge on the other end of the world. Call ahead and they will make note of your travel plans on your account.

Know your numbers - If your credit card(s) are lost or stolen while traveling, you will need to contact the issuers right away to freeze the account and order new cards. It is best to record all of your credit card numbers and customer service telephone numbers in a safe place separate from your wallet.

Pin numbers replacing signatures - Credit cards in many European countries feature embedded chips that confirm purchases with a pin number, rather than a traditional signature. This is especially popular with making purchases at automated machines, such as those that dispense tickets.

Local currency conversions - Vendors abroad often use a dynamic currency conversion to convert their prices into dollars. In most cases, they charge an extra three percent fee for this service in addition to any credit card company or issuing bank fees for foreign transactions. Speak up to avoid such charges.

Check the calendar - Shifty overseas merchants, especially those in markets where the currency fluctuates significantly, also will sometimes wait a few weeks to submit a charge to your credit card in an effort to secure a better exchange rate. When you receive a bill, check the transaction and posting date, to make sure they make sense. If they do not, call your credit card company, which will investigate.

Avoid cash advances - Unless you have no choice, never use a credit card for a cash advance. Card issuers usually charge significant fees for this service with interest accruing immediately.

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