Stay connected to your credit
Many people are under the misnomer that running your own credit score will cause it to drop. This isn’t true – and it’s also untrue that things like requesting quotes for insurance will. Credit experts Upgraded Points explain that these are ‘soft enquiries’ which have no effect on a credit score. So if you’re shopping for travel insurance, don’t feel you can’t explore the whole market. If you are applying for financial products such as loans or credit cards, those ‘hard enquiries’ will leave a footprint – and too many in a short space of time can put lenders on edge. It’s a good idea to plan in advance before traveling with regards to what you may need, when you may need it, and what your score’s effect on those is likely to be.
Many airlines have associated credit cards that bestow benefits such as air miles, free checked baggage and travel insurance. If your primary departure point is a hub, it might be a good idea to apply for the appropriate cards – e.g. American Airlines and/or United for Chicago O’Hare – to reap the rewards. However, acceptance is going to be based on a good credit score. Catching a budget flight isn’t the only way to save money on travel; reward points from cards can quickly mount up.
Live like a local
While card acceptance has become fairly ubiquitous in big stores across the globe, street vendors and smaller outlets often still take only cash. Exchangeable travelers checks have become harder to get and carrying large amounts of banknotes isn’t the best idea security-wise. There are checking accounts which offer fee-free withdrawals across the globe. Again, being accepted for one is going to rely on the provider credit checking you to ensure you meet their criteria. Depositing holiday funds in such an account though, can enable you to sample Singaporean street food at the Hawker Centre without getting swooped on by ATM charges.
Traveling when traveling
Be aware also, that hotels and car rental companies will put a hold on your card while you’re using their services. For hotels, this is usually around $100 over the room rate; for vehicle hire it can be 20-25% over and above the hire cost. For a long road trip, this can be a hefty amount, so make sure there’s enough headroom on the card you use.
(Travel) retail therapy
Some destinations are attractive because goods are much cheaper when you get there. Dubai’s status as a duty-free port has long made it a luxury shopper’s paradise as tourists buy Bvlgari and Balenciaga at the malls. However, most lenders aren’t impressed by cards being maxed out. It’s best to spread the load between multiple cards and stay below around one-third of the limit on each. Too many little black dresses can lead to larger black marks on one’s credit score.
Keep one eye on the home front
Being on the road regularly doesn’t diminish your responsibilities at home and bills (utilities, mortgage, student loans) should be put on autopayment – and money allocated for such – lest a payment be accidentally missed and your credit score negatively impacted. The single greatest portion of your score (35%) is assessed on making payments to credit agreements on time. Don’t come back to red letters; they’ll hinder you going forward.
Stay on top
While it’s not compulsory to notify your bank or card issuer that you’re going to be away from home for a period of time, it’s certainly a good idea as any dubious transactions should be flagged quicker, and simpler to dispute if not. Avoid making financial transactions online via public Wi-Fi or computers in internet cafes. Checking your credit frequently is good practice for most, and the best practice for frequent travelers.
Travel can be unpredictable. We’re cast into self-reliance on the road. Being smart about your credit scores can help navigate ripples and enable you to make waves.