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Square away cards before traveling

April 22, 2014
Ask Erica
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QHi Erica,

I have had a credit card since March 2013, and I'm doing well with it. I hardly use it, but when I do, I am on time and do not owe. The limit is $500. This summer, I will be trekking in Nepal and south Asia for six weeks. I want to put my tickets on this card, but they cost $1,544. Also, I want to use a card on the trip. Should I get a different card? –Anthony

ADear Anthony,

You're on the right track with your trek. I suggest securing a credit card that has sufficient credit line before leaving these shores. Not only can you use it for food, lodging and desirables, it can protect you in case of an emergency.

For example, let's say bandits stole your wallet on your way to Katmandu. If you were only carrying cash, you'd be in a precarious position. However, if they got your credit cards, you'd just have to report the theft to the bank and get new cards without too much delay.Ask Erica

Unfortunately, you do not have enough borrowing power for all of your plans. The limit falls short of even your airfare. It makes me uneasy that you are leaving for an extended period of time and to such a remote place without the insurance that plastic provides.

Ideally, you'll want thousands of U.S. dollars at your disposal, in case you need to be airlifted to a hospital or to bail yourself out of prison (hey, it's best to be prepared). If you don't have much money available through a debit card, being able to quickly tap into large sums from a credit issuer is your next best bet.

Here's what you should do:

  • Request a higher line of credit. Because you have treated your current account responsibly, your issuer may agree to increase your charging limit. If denied, ask why and what you need to do to for them to change their minds. You might be able to meet the requirements before you leave.
  • Apply for a new card. Whether your issuer increases the limit or not, get a second credit card as a backup. Learn your credit scores so you can appeal to the right lender and product. Mix it up, too. If you have a Visa, apply for a MasterCard or American Express. Also focus on cards with chip and PIN/signature technology, since Asia is transitioning to that system.
  • Become an authorized user. If you can't augment your credit line or qualify for a second card, ask a trustworthy loved one to make you an authorized user on their account for the duration of your trip. Your credit is affected by the person's payment patterns, so choose carefully. Promise to use it only in a true crisis. When you return, remove yourself from the account.

While traveling, given your locale, there may not be a lot of opportunity to log on and pay your card bills. Enlist someone trustworthy to send in your payments while you are gone. This will keep your credit rating on the right track. Ideally, have your proxy pay in full, further helping the score.

Finally, as I have never been to Nepal, I checked out the official website for traveling in the area. It appears that you will have to prepare your daily spending in a different way as you would when traipsing around Europe or similar regions where swiping is standard. Charging and withdrawing cash from ATMs appears to be fairly easy in Katmandu, but when you go to more remote spots, stock up on the local currency — Nepali rupees.

Got a question for Erica? Send her an email.




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