Stupid Tip of the Day: Always Have Alternative Methods of Payment When Traveling

No matter how careful you might be when traveling, something can always potentially and unexpectedly go wrong — and that just happened to me recently in terms of a form of payment I use whenever I travel.

Stupid Tip of the Day: Always Have Alternative Methods of Payment When Traveling

I drove my rental car into a petrol station on a highway near Casablanca to fill up the tank. Once the tank was full, it was time for me to pay…

…except that the Visa credit card I typically use was not securely in my pocket where it usually is — along with my passport, driver’s license, other credit cards and cash, which were all still there.

American Express and Discover were not accepted at this place. A nearby automated teller machine would not accept those cards as well for a cash advance. I was momentarily upset — until I realized that I had enough cash to cover the transaction; that the Visa credit card I wanted to use was about to expire within a few months and I would need a new one anyway; that I really had no other expenses about which to worry for the remainder of my trip, which had almost concluded at that point; and that if the credit card were used by someone else, I likely will not have to pay for unauthorized charges once I reported it lost or stolen.

What could have been a potential financial disaster that could have seriously impacted my trip became little more than a minor inconvenience.

Summary

During my years of traveling, I never lost a credit card. I am not sure what happened: did it fall out of my pocket inadvertently? Did I hand it over to someone to purchase something and not have it returned to me? Was it actually stolen? Who knows?!?

The main point is to ensure that you are covered with alternative methods of payment in case something happens — let alone to get the best value for your dollar when you have a choice — so that you are not caught in a situation where you cannot pay for anything for the remainder of your trip. Those alternative methods of payment can include several different credit cards, a bank card to be used at automated teller machines, and — of course — cash. Each method has its own benefits and drawbacks; so ensure that you use them wisely.

Additionally, always ensure that you check your receipts against your monthly credit card statement. You may even want to consider alerting credit card companies about your upcoming trips to reduce the risk of having your credit card shut down because of possible perceived fraudulent activity.

As a side note, I do not understand why the year is 2018 and American Express is still not accepted in many places in different parts of the world — regardless of the amount charged for the annual fee…

Photograph ©2016 by Brian Cohen.

7 thoughts on “Stupid Tip of the Day: Always Have Alternative Methods of Payment When Traveling”

  1. Richard N says:

    The reason Amex cards are not accepted in so many places outside North America is that typically they charge the merchant up to 2% more that Visa and MC. In the US all cards have higher fees to pay for Membership Rewards etc., but in Europe, say, most Visa and MCs don’t give miles / rewards etc. and charge less….

  2. Ben says:

    Just went through a similar experience in Italy. I was fueling my rental car before returning it.
    I tried to pay with Visa (Chase Sapphire Reserve), Mastercard (Citi Double Cash), Discover and AmEx (green). All failed. Luckily I thought of my atm card, and that worked. People at the gas station were definitely entertained

  3. Alex Korakis says:

    @Ben
    Why did you have 4 credit cards fail one after another? Really strange…

    1. Ben says:

      @Alex, Discover and AmEx likely not accepted at the location (but I couldn’t find the usual summary of accepted cards at the gas station).
      The possible explanation I came up with (but I am no expert) on Visa and Mastercard is that U.S. cards are chip-and-signature rather than chip-and-pin, unlike Italian credit cards

      1. Ben says:

        Just realized I didn’t include a potentially helpful piece of info: I was paying at a self-service kiosk and not at the counter (it was Sunday, so no employee on location). Possibly the employee would have been able to have me pay with Visa?

  4. Alex Korakis says:

    I live in Greece where we have chip and pin cards only. I believe that you would be able to pay with no problems in the shop if it was open.

  5. miafll says:

    Unmanned gas stations or pumps in all Europe require Chip and PIN cards. Thankfully nowadays many European countries have both the pay at the pump and pay at the counter available. I have seen in Switzerland, on a Monday which was a National Holiday there was one Total open on a main street while all other Totals and other brands closed. Needless to say, that Total was where we went to fill up.

    You do need to pay attention on Sundays and Holidays when gas stations turned into Unmanned stations.

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