Using your gift cards internationally

Imagine this: you’re going on a trip abroad with friends, after what you thought was some pretty thorough planning. You even let your bank know you’re traveling, so you can use your debit and credit cards without a hitch. What you didn’t expect, however, is that your card didn’t work in the majority of ATMs overseas. So you turn instead to your gift cards.

In such cases, having gift cards or a prepaid card that you can transfer money to could be a quick way to ensure uninterrupted purchases. But, there are also some limitations. What gift cards can you use, internationally? We’ll take a look.

The international reach of some gift cards

Your level of success using gift cards abroad will depend on the card. Unlike credit cards, gift cards are usually issued by a retailer or bank. For this reason, most branded gift cards are for the United States. However, some gift cards can be used in certain international locations.

Here are some gift cards that are restricted for use outside of the United States:

  • Difference: In-store and online – Brazil, Canada, China, France, Italy, Ireland, Japan, Mexico and United Kingdom.
  • The reception deposit: In-store and online – currently operating stores in Canada and Mexico
  • Subway: Canada
  • Hyatt: participating hotels in Canada, Mexico, the Caribbean, Central America and South America

The cards that have a little more freedom of use are those issued by Visa or Mastercard. For example, the Akimbo Prepaid Gift Mastercard can be used anywhere Mastercard accepts debit.

Visa and Mastercard gift cards

In addition to some high rewards credit cards, Mastercard offers an international prepaid gift card and a prepaid travel card. You can also get gift cards and prepaid cards with the Mastercard logo at big-box stores like Walmart, Target, and Sam’s Club. You can also get a prepaid card at a post office.

More Visa cards you buy are destined for the United States. However, Visa does offer some gift cards that can be used overseas through banks, such as the PNC Bank Visa Gift Card. You can find a variety of prepaid cards online that can be used internationally. Be sure to check the fine print to be aware of transaction fees.

Here are some of the Visa prepaid cards, their fees and charging information:

AccountNow Gold Visa Prepaid No credit check, no overdraft fees $9.95 Up to $5.95 $3.00 (US), $4.95 (International) 3% of the US dollar amount spent per transaction
Cashpass Visa Prepaid No activation fees, Cashpass mobile app, bill payment Subscription fee: $6.95 Inactivity fee: $3.95/month $2.00 $2.00 (out of network) None listed

Other options for international expenses

If you go prepaid and debit cards way to shop abroad, you won’t have to deal with credit checks and pay interest. Plus, these cards can be reloaded, which means you can simply put more money on the card when needed.

Prepaid options are great, but you’ll probably be better prepared for international spending with a credit card with no foreign transaction fees. You can spend knowing you won’t be charged, and you can earn valuable rewards.

One of the best rewards cards for travelers is the Capital One VentureOne Rewards Credit Card. Not only will you be free of foreign transaction fees, but this card also has no annual fees. You’ll also earn 1.25 miles per dollar on every purchase. There is no limit to the number of miles you can earn and your miles will never expire.

At the end of the line

Most gift cards are intended for use in the United States, but some allow use abroad, depending on their terms and conditions. While these can be useful in a pinch, the safest international spending will be by credit card with no foreign transaction fees.

Sara R. Cicero