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Credit Card Needed/Worth it?

Travel Forums North America Credit Card Needed/Worth it?

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1. Posted by Daniel Davies (Budding Member 4 posts) 8w Star this if you like it!

Hi there!

Me and my girlfriend are planning to travel across the states for 6 months from August this year (2018) and I just had a couple of questions regarding the best way form of payment to use. I have often heard that the best and most common/important form is that of a credit card but we are both Europeans (me English and her Dutch) and have never had a credit card before. Is it something which is necessary for travelling around the US? What is generally considered the best payment method to use for travellers?

I imagine there are pro´s and con´s to different methods but it would be great to get a little bit of insight and expertise to what these are!

Many thanks in advance!



2. Posted by Sander (Moderator 5174 posts) 8w Star this if you like it!

What type of visa are you going on that allows you to stay for six months? I haven't been to the USA in years due to their border policies having gotten way too bothersome to subject myself to, but last I heard, you're only allowed to stay for up to three months as a regular visitor, and they count time in Mexico and Canada as well, so there's no easy border hopping tricks to get around it.

You can (or could, I guess - but I really doubt this has changed much) definitely travel around the USA without creditcard, but there's a couple of major exceptions that'll make it a hassle: Chiefly, you almost certainly won't be able to rent a car without one, while having a car is a near necessity for visiting a lot of national parks and generally for getting around. You have no idea how amazing the public transport situation is here in Europe until you've been to the USA. :)
Next up, all accommodation will expect a creditcard. If you've prepaid, you'll be okay, and most places should be okay with paying cash right there as long as you look mostly reputable, but expect some hassle with them wanting to take the creditcard details for any extra charges. (This probably varies a lot depending on type of accommodation.) Also, I don't know if online booking sites will offer payment with ideal (and whatever the English equivalent of that is) when you're using an IP address mapped to the USA, so booking accommodation in itself might also require a creditcard.

My advice is to use your debitcard at ATMs to withdraw cash and use that as much as possible to be able to usefully budget, but to still get a creditcard just in case, so you won't get stuck in a sucky situation where you discover you really need one.

3. Posted by karazyal (Travel Guru 1944 posts) 8w Star this if you like it!

Both of you should have credit cards. There could be some sort of emergency come up where you will have to purchase flights home. Will your health insurance cover you if you are involved in an accident in the US?

Like the previous post mentions you may need a credit card to rent a vehicle. Even checking into a hotel could require a credit card too. If you book a hotel room using the internet you will need a card.

How will you pay for things during this six months? Bring a big sack of cash with you?? You do have sufficient funds to stay for 6 months - right?

Debit cards should be easy to get in your country. Debit cards work like credit cards but the money comes out of your checking account back home. With a debit card you are spending your saved up money in your bank. Using a credit card is you borrowing money from the card provider often at high interest rates.

My Visa and MasterCard cards work in many countries. I never use credit cards for cheap purchases overseas but I do use my debit cards to obtain cash from ATMs for regular spending needs. Around my state (US) I do use debit cards in some stores but being local it would be easy to straighten out any problems in person.

One card I read on some forums posted by UK tourists is the Halifax Clarity credit card. Someone from the UK can comment on this card.


Do you plan on working in the US?

Post 4 was removed by a moderator
5. Posted by greatgrandmaR (Travel Guru 563 posts) 7w Star this if you like it!

How old are you? You may not be able to rent a car if you are younger than 25 years of age. If you are under-age (less than 18), you may not be able to get a credit card and in that case the only real option is to use traveler's checks but hardly anyone uses them anymore and you would have to get them cashed at a bank..

If you stay in the major cities, you might be able to get away without a car -there is some public transportation there as a rule. But I find it hard to imagine taking enough cash to last for 6 months.

6. Posted by Teoni (Respected Member 439 posts) 7w Star this if you like it!

You will need a credit card. I learnt this the first time I visited the US, luckily that was only a short trip

Paying deposits is common practice for accommodations in America and no one accepts cash deposits anymore. Do be fair you can use a Debit Card but when it comes to deposits what they do is put a block and with a debit card that means a portion of your funds will be inaccessible so when checking out you must remind them to remove that block, because doing so afterwards is a pain in the a@$!. With a credit card the block won't effect access to your credit, that is why using a credit card is superior in this case. Not to mention if the accommodations charge you for something after you have left, credit cards give you more options to get money back on disputed payments than debit cards do.

If you are going to rent a vehicle you will need a credit card for petrol. In America you almost always pay at the pump, problem is international cards rarely work so you have to go into the store and ask them to I guess switch on the pump, and for that many times they wanted a card payment. Now you can try debit cards but I found them hit and miss at the petrol stations. Without my credit card I would have had to drive around till I found a place that could process my debit card.

And this doesn't just apply to petrol stations, we went shopping at Walmart a couple of times and even there my debit card would get declined. So yes you definitely need a credit card in America because international debit cards don't work seamlessly over there and there are many services that will not accept cash payments.

One last note, try to procure a credit and debit card with a magnetic strip. I travelled around America last year and there were still a lot of businesses that didn't even have a chip reader. Oh and make sure your magnetic strip is a working strip, I don't know if it applies to Europe but in Australia while banks hand out cards with magnetic strips some banks don't load information onto the strip so the magnetic strip doesn't actually work If you can't get a magnetic strip make sure to ask before purchasing if that business can process your card.

[ Edit: Edited on 23-Jan-2018, at 16:26 by Teoni ]

7. Posted by Andrew Mack (Full Member 117 posts) 7w Star this if you like it!

I'm told that a card is more important in the USA than most other places but I've never spent much time there, so I don't have 1st hand knowledge of this)
However do lots of research over which Dutch and UK Debit/Credit cards charge the least for currency exchange (both ROE and additional costs). Converting to $ from a £ or € card can get very expensive in costs.
IIRC some (one) of the comparison sites (money supermarket maybe?) may help.

8. Posted by aussirose (Respected Member 215 posts) 7w Star this if you like it!

We have what's called a debit/credit card which looks like a credit card but actually accesses money from our savings. Took us a while to get used to how to take money out at an ATM though. We kept forgetting to hit the credit button which is different to accessing our savings at home. It's good to have a real credit card though for car hire and accommodation because as Teoni said, you can charge back if you dispute a transaction. Check out the various Bank fees too. Citibank has fee free international transactions.

9. Posted by Borisborough (Moderator 884 posts) 7w Star this if you like it!

"... but we are both Europeans (me English and her Dutch) and have never had a credit card before."

It is certainly not uncommon for Europeans to have credit cards and for travellers, they can be very useful.

Many banks offer travel insurance with their cards (American Express and others) which can save you having to get separate travel insurance but look at the small print carefully and make sure you are properly covered for the majority of eventualities that may befall you. There are some critics that suggest you will need one of the more exclusive credit cards that charges an annual fee to get useful cover (NatWest Black) - again look at the small print carefully.

I find a couple of different credit cards essential for travel anywhere in the world.

10. Posted by woinparis (Budding Member 63 posts) 7w Star this if you like it!

Even my in law got a credit card at the age of 70, so I am surprised tohear that europeans live with no credit card. Not only does it make you do savings when you change money and is it handy and necessary when you rent a car, but it can be a life saver in case of emergency.

My wife once got a sk iaccident and we had to pay for the first costs incurred such as the ski ambulance that took her off the slopes. Don't know how we would have done without CC.

Get yourself a pair of CC for each of you and don't use it if you don't like it. Check change rates but each time I do I realize the best rate of change is via credit card, then debit card. Also pay attention that debitcards have a limit of money retrievals : about 500 € per card per week in Belgium, I guess the same goes in the Netherlands.