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For years, we’ve been hearing the same thing over and over: "I can’t travel without a credit card!"
Our response is, "What planet have you been visiting?" Because here on Earth, unless you’ve time-traveled back to the 1990s, debit cards work just as easily as credit cards.
But there’s still a myth floating around that debit cards won’t work when it comes to traveling. It’s true that rental car companies will make you jump through a few extra hoops to use a debit card, but that shouldn’t make you pay for that ride on a credit card with a jacked-up interest rate.
So in case you’ve still bought into the myth that credit cards are the only way to go when traveling, we’ve put together a few helpful tips.
All major carriers take debit cards these days, and it’s incredibly easy to just hop on a website—whether it’s a carrier’s site or an online broker—and book a trip. That’s the cool thing about debit cards. The money you use is your money, not a bank’s money.
Related: Store-Branded Debit Cards: Use Them or Lose Them?
Yes, you can use a debit card at a hotel too. Some hotels will place a temporary hold on your account for the amount of the bill to cover "incidentals." In other words, if you invite Mötley Crüe to your hotel room and they put a guitar through the TV, you can expect the incidental (plus some) to cover that. So you need to be aware of how much money you have in your account before you travel. Avoid accidental overdrafts by keeping some extra money in your account and asking your specific hotel if they’ll be putting a hold on your card before you go.
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3. Rental Cars
Some people are convinced that they can’t use a debit card to rent a car. Of course, just like hotels, most rental car companies will likely put a hold on your account (anywhere from $100–500). That’s just in case you imitate Jeff Gordon while driving in your Corolla. So if you still believe that you can’t use a debit card to rent a car, you’ve bought into an old myth that is hopefully breathing its last breath.
Give yourself a little peace of mind by calling your preferred rental car company and asking if they take debit cards and what the hold will be. If you’re not going to be driving much on your trip, consider a ride-sharing app like Uber. That way, you don’t have to deal with a rental car company at all. Plus, you won’t have to pay for parking!
4. International Travel
If you’re traveling overseas, you can probably expect some additional fees depending on where you bank. Some banks will charge a small fee for each transaction or an exchange surcharge for withdrawing money from an ATM. Check with your bank before you go and make sure you clearly understand their policies.
You can also ask your bank about in-network ATMs in the city you’re traveling to, or get plenty of cash exchanged from your bank before you go. If you’re worried about keeping your cash secure, buy a cheap money belt or neck pouch and wear it hidden under your clothes. Plan ahead and you’ll be fine. That sure beats the long-term costs of using a credit card.
Related: The Universal Language of Money: How Americans Working Overseas Unpack Debt
It’s really not that difficult to travel without a credit card. Don’t allow that decade-old traveling myth to hold you back from cutting up those credit cards forever and committing to a debt-free life!
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