Can I Use My US Credit Cards While Permanently Overseas?

Jul 14, 2017

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“Reader Questions” are answered three days a week — Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays — by TPG Senior Writer Julian Mark Kheel.

We get a lot of questions asking about the best credit cards to use for international trips. But what if you’ll be outside of the US for more than just a few weeks, as TPG reader Todor asked us in an email…

I am currently considering moving to Singapore and I would like to know if I will be able to use my US issued credit cards permanently in Singapore?

TPG Reader Todor

Excellent question, Todor. The quick answer to your question is yes — you can definitely continue to use most if not all of your US-based credit cards while living overseas. The major issuers — American Express, Chase and Citibank — all told us there are no limits on how long you can use their cards outside of the US.

That been said, you do need to do a few things to prepare to use your credit cards abroad for the long term. First, your ability to actually use your cards in a new country depends on whether credit cards are widely accepted in that country. It shouldn’t be an issue in a place like Singapore, where card use is widespread, but in other places it might not be quite so easy. So do some research about your new home to determine if credit cards are a widely used form of payment.

Before you go, you should contact each of your issuers to let them know you will be using your card outside of the US on a regular basis. This will help avoid constant fraud alerts. While you’re on the phone with them, you can also change your mailing address to the one in your new country if you have it ahead of time, though you’ll want to strongly consider receiving your statements and documents via electronic delivery to avoid a long delay in getting overseas mail.

Credit Card Transaction Using the New Security Electronic Chip Technology
EMV chip technology is more common overseas than in the US. Photo courtesy of Getty Images.

Most US credit cards have now implemented EMV chip technology, but if you still have any old cards with just a magnetic stripe, ask for a chip replacement. Chip terminals are much more common outside of the US so things are likely to go smoother if you have cards with chips. Unfortunately credit card PIN numbers still aren’t anywhere near as prevalent here as they are overseas, but if you do have any credit cards that can be assigned PINs, ask your bank to do so as you’ll find regular use for them abroad.

You’ll also want to keep in mind that when using your US credit cards in another country, you’ll usually be making purchases in the local currency, not in US dollars. You’ll also potentially be subject to foreign transaction fees on practically everything you buy, which would more than offset any gains you’d get earning travel rewards for those purchases. That’s why it’s vital to choose cards that waive foreign transaction fees and stick to them exclusively overseas, even if it means missing out on a bonus category here and there.

Finally, most banks require you to pay US credit card bills using US funds, so it might be a good idea to maintain at least one checking account here on the homefront and use it to pay your credit card statements electronically online. Otherwise if you try to pay them from an international account with foreign currency, there will likely be significant bank fees to convert the funds to US dollars.

But if you follow these few simple steps, Todor, you should have no problem using your cards in Singapore for the long haul. Thanks for the question, and if you’re a TPG reader who’d like us to answer a question of your own, tweet us at @thepointsguy, message us on Facebook or email us at info@thepointsguy.com.

Featured image courtesy of David Cleveland/Getty Images.

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