Top 5 Tips for Using Credit Cards Overseas

Maximise your credit card rewards when you travel while simultaneously taking care of your credit health with these useful tips.

ValueChampion Editorial Team

by ValueChampion Editorial Team on Mar 13, 2024

passport and credit card

Before jetting off to tour Asia or backpack through Europe for your next adventure, you may find yourself caught in a dilemma on how you should go about paying for all your travel activities once you have landed at your destination. What is the best way to pay all of these merchants? Would it be cash, credit cards, or even cheque?

Here are five tips that you can follow to fully maximise credit overseas.

Revolut: YouTrip vs. Revolut Standard Digital Wallet Comparison

credit cards inside passport
Source: Unsplash

1. Choose The Right Card

Before you start using your credit card all day every day abroad, understand how your credit card company may apply foreign transaction fees. Stop to read the fine print. Does your credit card charge any fees that you did not know about? Watch out for the hidden fees and train yourself to avoid those pesky charges.

Many credit card companies charge a fee for transactions performed abroad, usually 2%-3% of your total purchase. It may not sound like a hefty charge but why spend more when you don’t have to? Take for example, a total sum of $5,000 was charged to your credit card on hotels, taxis, restaurants and other expenses as you tour around London. Foreign transaction fees would amount to $150 in additional costs. That vacation you took may have cost you more than you think.

Consider applying for a credit card suited for overseas use and does not charge a fee for foreign transactions could save you hundreds annually.

Compare The Best Credit Cards in SingaporeFind Out More

Find A Credit Card Rewards Structure That Suits You

Another benefit to look out for when choosing a credit card for overseas spending is what rewards the credit card offers. Choosing the right credit card that rewards overseas spend is a great way to maximise your vacation spending.

There are a few different types of cards the frequent travellers could benefit from. Firstly, if you are a traveller looking to subsides your air fare when you travel, a credit card that allows you to earn upsized miles on your foreign currency spend could be perfect for you.

One such card is the UOB PRIV Miles card which awards you 1.4 miles per S$1 spend locally and 2.4 miles per S$1 overseas. You can even boost your miles earns rates by booking any flights and hotels with your UOB PRIV Miles card to earn a whopping 6 miles per S$1 spent. Making use of such a card to earn miles while you spend on vacation is fuss free way to subsidise your flights in the long run.

Apply now and get up to 50,000 miles. For new-to-UOB Credit Cardmembers only. T&Cs apply. Valid till 31 July 2024.

UOB PRVI Miles American Express Card

High spenders and frequent travelers looking to rapidly accrue miles should consider UOB PRVI Miles card.

UOB PRVI Miles American Express Card


  • Great for rapid miles accrual
  • Awards high spend on airlines & hotels
  • Annual fee waiver with Amex card


  • Doesn't fit infrequent travellers with mostly local budgets
  • Lacks luxury perks & privileges
More Details

Another option for travellers who do not want to tied to a singular miles rewards program is to get a cashback card that rewards cashback on the major categories you spend on while on vacation. Most cashback credit cards only award cashback for major spending categories like groceries, dining or fuel which might not be as suitable for a frequent traveller whose major spending while on vacation is likely to be the fights, hotels and activities booked. Instead a cashback credit card that allows you to earn a flat base rate on all spending might be a better option so that you are truly able to maximise your cashback on all your big ticket items.

The HSBC Advance credit card is a great option for frequent travellers. With a 1.5% flat base cashback rate and a 2% cashback rate, it makes maximising your cashback while on holiday easy to track.  What’s better, if you spend S$2,000 or more in a month, a feasible amount when you are spending on flights and accommodation, , you can bump up your cashback earned to 2.5%!

Live your adventure with HSBC Credit Cards! From 24 Jun to 23 Sep 2024, apply, activate and spend with HSBC credit cards to stand to win an all-electric Mercedes-Benz EQB and round-trip air tickets to Paris.
Apply now and get a Samsonite ZELTUS 69cm Spinner Exp with built-in scale worth S$680 or S$200 cashback. Offer valid till 30 Sep 2024. T&Cs apply.

HSBC Advance Credit Card

People with high expenses will appreciate the HSBC Advance Credit Card cashback potential.

HSBC Advance Credit Card


  • Great fit for budgets between S$2,000 and S$8,000/month
  • Easy, low-maintenance cashback


  • Lacks travel perks
  • Doesn't fit highly specialised spend behaviors
More Details

2. Let Card Issuers Know You’re Travelling

Notify your bank or credit card company of the dates of travel and exact countries that you will be travelling to before you leave. Unknown foreign purchases are a red flag for fraud and doing so will increase the possibility of your cards being restricted while you’re away. Do let your bank know where and when you’re leaving so that everything will run smoothly. At the same time, remember to enable the magnetic stripe on your card for overseas use.

Keep track of the hotline number to call if you need to report a lost card when on vacation.

Related: 6 Tips on How to Protect Yourself From Credit Card Fraud

3. Limit the Amount of CardsMore cards and higher credit limits could trick you into spending more abroad. If you are not careful, you could end up overspending. Also, this increases the odds of not paying one of your credit bills on time.

missed credit card bill payment will have the great long-lasting impact on your credit score. The more recent the missed payment occurred, the greater that impact will be, and the more missed payments you have, the longer it will take to recover. This can have an adverse effect on your credit report and impair your credit reputation as lenders will check your credit file to assess your credit worthiness prior to making a decision for future credit facilities. Having a good credit repayment history is important.

When you are out travelling, always approach credit use with moderation. Limit your credit cards to a minimum and keep your spending in check with a log of all of your travel purchases. It is also wise to store financial information on an encrypted USB thumb drive along with your passport.

Related: Why Your Credit Health Matters And How It Affects You At Different Life Stages

hand holding a stack of credit cards
Source: Unsplash

4. Watch your spending

You do not simply want to whip out your cards to pay for everything abroad. Commit to writing every dollar spent. It is important to manage within your credit limits and reserve a percentage of it in case of emergencies. This helps to generate a sustained history of on-time repayments on your credit report and make positive behaviour in your favour moving forward.

At the same time, keep a receipt of all your purchases. Consider checking your bank and credit card accounts regularly while you’re travelling to ensure that all credit activities are yours. This has the added bonus of helping you to keep tabs on your spending. How you charge your travel purchases to your credit card and pay off your credit card debt every month will determine your credit standing and show how much of a credit risk you are. Where possible, measure and track your credit and financial progress over time.

If you have any charges that you do recognise, call your bank or card issuer and report the illegal activity immediately because time is a factor.

Another reason to watch your spending is to maximise your credit card rewards. Some cards will have special redemption rates for certain brands or product categories, so watching out for these opportunities to earn more rewards can net you more savings

5. Protect your credit back home when overseas

Do not get carried away preparing for a trip abroad that you overlook to add ways to protect your credit to your list.

With the fraudulent use of identity cards and credit cards occurring with widespread internet usage of information being exchanged and transacted on a daily basis all around the world, it is important to monitor your credit to prevent the potential likelihood of identity theft occurring.

The earlier you catch an activity by an identity thief or fraudster who has stolen your personal information and used it to take out a loan or open up a credit card in your name, the easier it will be to restore your identity and financial life.

Committing to the above is the absolute best thing you can do for your credit. This will enable you to use credit to work harder for you, rather than becoming a slave to credit.

At the end of the day, a trip overseas should not be characterised by concerns over conversion rates, handling foreign money and settling late payments. Prepare the right spending vehicles before leaving, allow your focus to shift to its rightful place. This helps to manage a very important part of your financial situation – your credit reputation.

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