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Back up Credit card?

We usually get some Euro or Pounds at our bank which has a pretty decent exchange rate to use for train tickets and hotels and those purchases where you need cash. Previously we always had a second credit card as a back up, but I am thinking it may be better to just use the one, a Chase Sapphire Reserve card, and an ATM card instead. We have chip and pin on the credit card. We standardly use our credit card all the time, I just do not want something to happen to it.

My concern is I really do not want an ATM card linked to my main bank account so do you all suggest getting one from another bank and just put a small amount of cash into that account before leaving?

Chase has been great and we always notify them of travel ahead.

Would be interested in hearing what everyone else does and how they manage if something happens to their ONLY credit card.

Posted by
1237 posts

We always take a backup credit card in case the first one goes missing or is compromised. That has not happened to us yet. We use a debit card that accesses our checking but I only keep enough in there to cover automatically paid bills and a guesstimate of what my cash withdrawals will be plus a cushion of about $1,500. We have never had an issue.

Posted by
2169 posts

I travel solo and always bring some cash--like to hit the ground running--plus my debit card that goes in my deep storage pouch along with my back-up credit card. My other credit card is in my wallet. 2 credit cards + 1 debit, and I let the bank know I am travelling, of course. If there's 2 of you, why limit yourselves--each person can carry a separate card, perhaps?

Posted by
3040 posts

We would never travel with only one credit card, precisely because you never know if or when you might lose it or have it compromised. The back up credit card is kept with the ATM card in the moneybelt or hotel safe. We use the ATM card only at bank owned ATMs to withdraw local cash (never for purchases).

We have a separate chequing account with our usual bank which we use for travel. If our ATM card is hacked, the thieves won't get much. I bring a second ATM card ( for our regular chequing account) as a back up, but knock on wood, it's never been needed.

Posted by
18060 posts

I've been to Europe (Germany, Austria, Czechia) 11 times since 2000, and I think I have used a credit card over there less than 11 times, total.

I had to use a credit card a few times in a German Rail ticket automat a few times when they only took plastic, no cash.

My last two trips, I used a credit card in department stores, where there was no penalty for cards.

But, for accommodation, I only use cash. The small, mom & pop, pensions and guest houses where I like to stay rarely take cards. Bigger hotels that take cards are much more expensive than where I stay, so using a credit card for accommodations would just make my trips more expensive.

My primary account at both my bank and my credit union is a savings account. I have ATM cards linked to my checking accounts there only, I only keep what I will spend in the checking accounts linked to my cards.

Posted by
4739 posts

On our last trip, my DH lost his belt-loop pouch ( long story,) which had, or so we thought, two credit cards and one debit card. The debit card and one credit card had numbers unique to him; the other credit card is one I also carried. We called and cancelled all those, which left us with one debit card, and one credit card. And I was antsy the entire rest of the trip. It didn't help that it turned out there were issues with my debit card. We were able to clear those up with a couple of phone calls, but it was beginning to look like we were going to have to have family wire us some funds.

I would never travel very far without backup credit and debit cards. Our debit cards are tied to our personal checking account which has - as someone else suggested - enough funds to cover automatic payments and a generous estimate of what our trip needs would be. We take some euros with us, and then have credit cards for emergencies or larger purchases.

Posted by
935 posts

I always have a backup credit card and some cash. Upon arrival at CDG one time, my high limit credit card wouldn't work in one of the ATMs. My backup worked fine, and both worked in other places.

Although my American Express is not usually serviced in most of Europe, I carry it for emergency backup should something happen like an airline strike. Since I normally pay for airfare with the Amex, there is a very helpful service available to cardholders that can rebook travel events.

Posted by
5697 posts

We EACH carry multiple credit cards on different accounts (but only ones that have no foreign transaction fees.) For ATM/debit card, the main one is Schwab and backup is the day-to-day checking account.
Luckily we have not had a card lost or stolen -- although I once left a credit card at Monoprix in Paris and had to go claim it the next day. Chase and probably other card issuers let you "lock" a card online when you can't find it and/or you think it is stolen, and then "unlock" when/if it turns up.

Posted by
3477 posts

Whichever card you choose to use should not impact having a backup card. The primary card could have any number of things happen to it making it unusable, then what do you do? You are too far from home at that point to be left stranded with no way to pay. Also, I would never use a Debit card to make purchases. Its sole purpose in life is to get more cash from an ATM when I need it.

I carry 3 credit cards and 2 Debit cards when I travel internationally. Each is from a different bank or issuer with no connections between them. One Visa, MasterCard and AmEx each for credit. One Visa and one MasterCard for Debit. One of the Debit cards is from my travel bank account which is with Capital One. I got that one when my other bank debit card had outrageous fees for foreign use. I put enough into that account at a time to cover my expected travel expenses and it allows for me to easily move more money in if needed while I am on the road. I do take my other debit card on the chance my main one won't work. This came in handy a couple years ago when I was in Italy and the Visa network went down for a day. My MasterCards continued to work without problem.

Posted by
19509 posts

Like Mark, I travel with two ATM cards and three credit cards. All are as no-fee as such things can be. I do this because I have a sad history of leaving cards behind at the most inconvenient times and places.

On this very trip, I left my primary credit card at the Dulles Airport restaurant where I had lunch before boarding my first flight. I was operating on zero hours of sleep, so it's probably not shocking that I did that. Perhaps I need to have a rule about paying cash if I haven't slept the night before. I actually dozed for 2 or 3 hours on the plane, and that made enough difference that I thought about the credit card after waking up and looked for it in my wallet (and everywhere else in my purse, obviously). There's nothing quite like the sinking feeling you get when you're out of the country and have to deal with a lost card, but at least I have two more.

Posted by
1040 posts

We take two credit cards and two ATM cards. Neither of the credit cards have foreign transaction fees (Amazon VISA and Capital One VISA). The main ATM card is connected to our Fidelity brokerage account, and has no ATM fees. The backup ATM card is with our local bank.

Posted by
6181 posts

Nancy, I could be wrong, but I believe you cannot access anything but your primary checking account through ATMs in Europe. That is a US banking thing. I've never seen an option to do that, or even asking you which account to draw cash from.

Posted by
3176 posts

My concern is I really do not want an ATM card linked to my main bank
account so do you all suggest getting one from another bank and just
put a small amount of cash into that account before leaving?

Do you worry about using your ATM card at cash machines in the US? I don't understand the difference especially when using a bank's cash machines (not those independent ones that I don't use whether at home or abroad).

Chase has been great and we always notify them of travel ahead.

Would be interested in hearing what everyone else does and how they
manage if something happens to their ONLY credit card.

Chase Sapphire Reserve is a great travel card. You still might want to have a backup credit card just in case this credit card for some reason is interrupted.

Posted by
6880 posts

We always have a least one extra credit card and it has saved us several times. We each carry a debit card too only to use at ATMs.
A replacement/new credit card has always arrived in 24 to 36 hours when we have been in Europe. I would never travel without a back up credit card.

Posted by
2775 posts

I always bring a bit of cash to Europe, say $200.00 worth. I bring an ATM, but find I no longer use it so it is hidden away with my back up credit card(s). With a no fee credit card, I tap and go...or if I have to do so, use the chip. I back up my travels with 1 or 2 backup credit cards, but just one ATM. Should I have an emergency with one credit card and then lose my ATM, my fall back disaster plan is cash advance from my extra credit card if need be or use my cash. I know cash advances are expensive, but it is emergency only and I've, fortunately, never needed this 3rd (?) back up plan.

So bring more than one credit card so you're protected should one get lost, or plan 2 doesn't work either.

Posted by
1 posts

I understand carrying a backup credit/debit card in case of difficulties or emergencies, but some misconceptions have been expressed above. First, you can access multiple accounts with one debit card. That is an option that your bank can activate for you. Second, if you report within two business days your limit on a lost credit card or debit care is limited by law to only $50. Here is the FTC website explanation.

Posted by
3477 posts

On replacement credit cards: Many if not most banks no longer send replacements credit cards to any address other than the one on your account. So no cards sent to Europe. This is a recent change and impacted me last year when I had a broken corporate credit card the day I started my time in the UK. I was lucky enough to have a coworker go get the card from my mail box at home and send it to me.

Posted by
3176 posts

Many if not most banks no longer send replacements credit cards to any
address other than the one on your account. So no cards sent to

That may depend on the bank. Mine still will as I always verify before I take int'l trips.

Posted by
19509 posts

Chase is mailing me a new card to Spain. It would have preferred to send the card to my home address, but I have a very long trip in front of me, and the financial advantage to Chase was obvious.

Posted by
12400 posts

"...if something happens to their ONLY credit card." That won't happen in Europe in that I never bring only one credit card. There is always another credit card or two I have on me, which serve(s) more or less as the reserve credit card.

The one time I had a credit card "devoured" at the ATM was in Little Tokyo in LA, some 15 years ago. my fault really, since I couldn't recall exactly what the pin was or something like, anyway, the result was the ATM took it.

This was on a Sunday near the hotel. I let it go, come Monday morning I didn't bother to inquire at the bank.

Posted by
3500 posts

Having back up credit cards and ATM cards is like having insurance. Better to have it and not need it than need it and not have it. Agree totally with Jane's statement "...would never travel very far without backup credit and debit cards." Technology is great when it works as it should. Unfortunately it doesn't always work the way it should.

Posted by
2996 posts

Yep, back up debit and credit cards. So far, haven't had to use back up, but I agree it's like an insurance policy.

Posted by
6584 posts

We carry a couple of Capital One credit cards and two ATM credit cards with money in the checking accounts. It's just so nice to have backups.
One credit card is used anytime possible because there are chargeback rights you don't get with ATM cards. I'm talking mainly for transportation, hotels, restaurants, etc.
The ATM card is just used for walking around pocket change. You'd be surprised how little cash we get by on when traveling--and also at home.
And I'm always surprised to see the Visa bill sitting in our mailbox upon our return--beats us home.

Posted by
2788 posts

Have you read RS "Cash & Currency Tips" article elsewhere on this web site? If so, good. If not you should read it to get his take on when and where to get foreign currency and when to use credit cards or cash. I have gone to Europe 16 times in the last 18 years for just about a month and have taken 16 RS tours (soon to be 17) and have always taken two ATM debit cards (tied to checking accounts) from different financial institutions as well as two credit cards also from different financial institutions thus having a back up incase anything goes wrong with one of the cards. Only had a credit card problem once. I see in an early post that someone has been to Europe 11 times and used a credit card 11 times. We may have used a credit card less than 10 times on our 16 trips. Lots of places we stay and eat do not accept credit cards. Also, lots of our travel is covered by the RS tour.

Posted by
933 posts

I prefer using credit cards simply because they aren't tied to my checking account with which I have set up my bills to be paid while I'm gone. I usually have 2 or 3 with me. We have had our CC company not put the travel alert through that we set up and so one card was rendered useless for the trip so I like having at least 2.

Posted by
2507 posts

We have a separate checking account for travel. We have this at the same bank we do all our banking at. We carry the debit card linked to our main checking account but only as a backup as we tend to run a high balance in this account. It stays buried for the trip. We carry three credit cards with no foreign transaction fees. We are finding each year we travel we are using credit cards more and cash less so we would never carry just one card. We usually hit a bank ATM early in our trip for 250-300 Euros which go into the money belt. On our last two trips we did not need more cash and actually had some left over for our next trip.

Posted by
3934 posts

Our bank, Key Bank, offered a separate ATM card linked to its own unique account which we added with just travel money, AND this ATM card has no credit card logos and doesn’t even have our names printed on the ATM cards. So if someone found them, they couldn’t use them as a debit/charge card. That’s about as safe as possible.

I also carry a Capital One card that also just has a set amount of travel money as my backup card.

I carry one credit card but only use it for hotels that weren’t prepaid. Our cards are always stored in our money belts, too.

Posted by
8672 posts

Yep, travel solo and have 2 debit cards and 2 credit cards. I’ve traveled enough that I have Euro and Pounds to start with.

Even though I notified my credit union of travel plans (by going in to the office!) there were issues when I tried to use that debit card once when I got to London. I emailed my brother and he was able to get it straightened out as I had included him as an authorized person on my travel notice.

As to CC’s, I had a jolt 2 weeks ago in Paris when I stopped at my neighborhood grocery store. They’ve stopped taking cash! Yep, under 2€ worth of bottled water and I had to pull out my Visa. The checker actually said only Carte Bleue and laughing I handed her my Amazon Visa which is blue. A friend on here explained that was a generic term for credit cards.

As someone mentioned upthread, my secondary CC is Amex. I have a huge limit on that one and figured if there was ever a time I needed an emergency airline ticket that could cover me to anywhere.

Posted by
2545 posts

An ATM card is pretty necessary. If you don't want it linked to your main account, then opening a separate account with just travel money (plus some extra for emergencies) is a fine idea.

Try to find an account with lower ATM and foreign transaction fees.
Also, set up online access so you can log in and transfer money into the new account, from your normal account or your savings account. If you run into an emergency, you want access to more money than you'd put in a limited account.

My husband and I each have an ATM to the same account. Different card numbers so we could cancel one if it gets lost and still have the other. We also each carry a different credit card on us daily. So that's 2 credit cards. Finally, I have a back up credit card that I keep in the room. It's only for emergencies, it has 0 balance when I leave for my trip and the idea is to never use it, but I still notify that bank. So far I have never used it on a trip, but I would never travel with just 1 credit card. Theft, loss, bank issues, all sorts of things could come up and you want minimum 2 cards (either one on you and one on your travel partner, or if you travel alone then one to use normally and one hidden somewhere for emergencies only).

Posted by
10293 posts

Europe is becoming more and more card dependent. I have stayed in hotels and have eaten in cafes that don"t accept cash. I hardly spend cash these days.

Always take a backup. You don't have to use it but it's good to know it's there.

I opened a checking account with Charles Schwab to use strictly for travel. They return any fees charged for withdrawals anywhere. And their customer service is excellent.

Posted by
653 posts

Wife and I just take 2 ATM cards, one of which we have never used, and one CC. We almost never use the CC, and rely on a Charles Schwab ATM card for almost all expenses while traveling (and I pay most larger expenses before we go). We withdraw fairly large amounts every 3-4 days. As many have pointed out on this forum, Schwab reimburses you for ATM fees, and it is nice to have a ATM card that does not link to our primary bank accounts. We also take $500 USD, but so far have never needed it.

[Edit] However, the comments about card-only purchases are making me nervous. Guess we'll take 2 CCs this time, different numbers, same account.

Posted by
506 posts

We carry three different credit cards, Mastercard, Visa and AMEX all from different financial institutions. Our main card is the Mastercard. As for ATM cards, our main one is from Fidelity with a backup tied to our checking account. Most of the cards cards are buried deep in our luggage and just the main carried as needed.

Posted by
1549 posts

We have a separate account specifically for travel and for ATM withdrawals. We opened up this account about 10 years ago. In the event this account was comprised or card lost or stolen, we would then go to our backup ATM debit card on a different account. But calling the bank to cancel card, or lock account is one phone call. But if it's the account you pay your bills from, direct deposit of paychecks, etc., would make it a lot more complicated to fix from overseas, and after getting back home. (think bounced checks, overdraft fees, late mortgage payments, etc)

Last fall we had an ATM eat my husbands Capital One ATM card. Called the bank to cancel. However, they do not send replacement cards to any address except your home address.

We also have more than one credit card. Two months ago, the Chip on my husbands visa just popped out, making that card unusable.

Things happen, and always good to have a backup plan.

Posted by
59 posts

Wow I want to thank everyone for taking the time to reply! I will definitely take you advice!

Posted by
60 posts

I always take a backup card, just in case. Last time I traveled to France, my AmEx worked for one day and then no more. Not sure why but I was very grateful I had brought along my credit union's MC too (so much for collecting points on AmEx!)

This year, I'm taking Euros and Pounds with me, so that I have cash on arrival and won't need the use of an ATM, hopefully. (Also wouldn't want to have an ATM card eaten by the machine on my first attempt) No ATM (as my card is linked to both my checking and savings) but, again, two credit cards. Just in case.