Travel with ease, minimise fees & reap the rewards

The summer holidays are almost here and plans for exciting adventures abroad are already in full swing. Where to visit? What to pack? Are there enough activities to keep the kids entertained? The goal is to unwind and enjoy ourselves, and the last thing we want to worry about are excessive ATM or exchange rate fees or a handful of foreign currency left over after a trip.

So how can we reduce unnecessary expenses, stress and ensure a smooth holiday? We sat down with Christoph Geidner, Head of Cards at CBI, to discuss the value of using the CBI First Credit Card or the CBI Rewards World MasterCard abroad, the drawbacks of using cash, and other top tips to ensure your travels go smoothly.


Should I travel with cash or credit card?


When it comes to spending during an overseas holiday, most of us want to travel with ease while minimising fees – a great mantra. However, many are often unsure about what form of payment is best to use while travelling and how to avoid unnecessary charges.

A frequent flyer himself, Christoph prefers using credit cards over cash while venturing abroad.

“Whether I’m in New York for business or holidaying in Paris, I prefer to pay with my credit card whenever I can. It makes the travel experience seamless, especially given the growing acceptance of credit card payments all over the world.

He continues: “While banks charge a small fee of 3% on the transaction amount when using a card abroad, the underlying rate is the inter-banking exchange rate und the fee is usually offset by higher rewards or higher cashback. The fantastic rewards CBI First Credit Card and CBI Rewards World Mastercard offer travellers certainly make for an easy choice between cash or credit card.”

Christoph explains that, while it’s handy to have some cash available for taxis, tour guides, or a cash-only souvenir or gelato stall, relying solely on cash has a number of drawbacks:


  • Budgeting for a cash-only trip can be extremely tricky. Travelers don’t want to run short of cash but also don’t want to return home with piles of unused currency that will incur a second round of conversion fees being changed back to AED.
  • If money is exchanged abroad, getting a raw deal at a currency exchange booth can easily dampen your holiday mood, and hunting down a good exchange rate can often take time. Christoph advises that you should exchange money before your departure for foreign destinations, as the UAE offers more competitive pricing. Don’t get too impressed by “Zero fees, 0% commission” currency exchange stalls abroad. They may use an unfavourable exchange rate which costs more than offsetting the benefit of zero fees and 0% commission.
  • Travelling with a large amount of cash not only means that you’re more likely to have to exchange currencies more often, but also exposes you to the risk of money being stolen or lost.
  • You’re usually limited to the amount of cash you’re allowed to bring into a destination country by customs regulations.
  • Download one of the many currency conversion rate apps to your smartphone and refresh the exchange rate before you head off. This will help you getting a better understanding of the AED value of foreign currency price tags.


Amazing travel rewards with CBI First or CBI Rewards World credit cards

So how do CBI credit cards ease the travel experience of our customers, and what kind of rewards can you expect when using the CBI Rewards World MasterCard and the CBI First Credit Card?

Christoph highlights that there are many advantages to using your credit card. In addition to not having to worry about running out of cash or being left with bundles of Yen or Australian Dollars, a credit card often allows more flexibility and the ability to track your expenses more easily.

“Travelling with a credit card makes for easier travelling. You don’t have to walk around with large amounts of cash in your pocket and hotels and car hires often ask for your credit card as a guarantee. You also receive SMS notifications after each card transaction and monthly credit card statements, enabling you to track your spending much more effectively.”

However, Christoph emphasises that one of the biggest benefits of using a credit card abroad is the huge rewards and points you can earn.

“One of the top benefits of using a credit card while travelling is the rewards and points, which can add up to huge savings on flights, hotel bookings and more, all of which can be used for future trips. The unique features, benefits, and privileges our CBI Rewards World and CBI First Credit Card offer means we can truly upgrade our customers’ travel experience.”


Some of the top travel-related rewards our credit cards include:

Christoph goes on to highlight some of the key travel-related rewards you can earn with CBI Credit Cards.


  • Redeemable points for free or discounted flights, hotels, and car hire

While planning your trip, check how many points your CBI Rewards World Mastercard or CBI First Credit Card has racked up. If you’ve accumulated enough, you can redeem your points for free flights (including taxes), hotel stays, car rentals, retail shopping and more.  In addition to rewards redemptions, the CBI Rewards World Mastercard can get you one complimentary night when booking two nights at over 200 participating Marriot Bonvoy Hotels. Both credit cards also allow you to enjoy up to 25% off at Avis Rent A Car as well as a complimentary vehicle class upgrade subject to availability.


  • Complimentary Insurance

When using either of our credit cards, our customers benefit from complimentary travel inconvenience insurance. In addition, customers can generate a travel insurance letter seamlessly and instantaneously for visa applications.


  • Free Lounge Access to over 850 airport lounges worldwide

Travelling doesn’t need to be stressful. Simply present your CBI Rewards World Mastercard or CBI First Credit Card for unlimited free access to over 850+ airport lounges worldwide. Relax with a refreshment, surf the web for free, or snooze before take-off.


  • Priceless Experiences Abroad

CBI Rewards World Mastercard holders can access the Priceless Cities programme, which offers amazing discounts on unforgettable experiences in the cities you live and travel to, from a spectacular meal and view from the top of the Burj Khalifa in Dubai to attending the Rugby World Cup in Japan.

To find out more about the full rewards our CBI Rewards World MasterCard and zero-annual fee CBI First Credit Card offer, read about our best credit card rewards.


What you need to know about using your credit card abroad:

What Currency Should I Pay With on My Credit Card?

While travelling overseas, a question we often get asked is what currency we should pay in. Christoph stresses that while many merchants offer a feature called Dynamic Currency Conversion (DCC), which allows you to pay in AED outside of the UAE, you should always opt to pay in the currency of the country you are in, with both your credit or debit card.

While you may feel more familiar with AED amounts, you should always opt to pay in the country’s local currency, as otherwise merchants typically apply foreign exchange mark-ups of up to 6% and sometimes even more than that. Furthermore, many banks charge an extra DCC fee on top of that and give you lower or no reward points.”


What Should I Do If My Credit Card Is Blocked, Lost, or Stolen?

In order to avoid the inconvenience of a blocked credit card, it’s always worth informing your bank of your travel plans beforehand. Notifying your bank means that paying for a meal somewhere in Vietnam or Spain won’t lead to your card being blocked, as your bank can take your whereabouts into account while monitoring for potentially fraudulent transactions. If you receive a call from your bank shortly after you did a transaction in a foreign country, it’s best to pick up the call and confirm the transaction as in some cases, the bank will temporarily block your card if you cannot confirm the transaction. If you call your bank later and are able to validate previous transactions, they will also unblock it quite quickly again.

In cases where you’ve lost your card, you should immediately call your bank and have the card blocked. If you are travelling overseas, CBI Customer Service representatives can be reached 24/7 on +971 4 503 9000.


Should I Be Using ATM Machines Abroad?

When it comes to withdrawing cash from an ATM machine, using your debit card is usually a cheap and secure option. With CBI First, you are also eligible for four free international cash withdrawals on your CBI First Debit Card per month, providing a fantastic option for those who travel frequently.

As foreign ATMs usually charge fixed withdrawal fees, it is advisable to limit the number of times you withdraw cash and take cash enough for multiple days.

As explained above, resist the option to pay for your cash withdrawal in AED. The exchange rate used to convert to AED will be worse than the rate that you will be charged when opting for the local currency.

Finally, don’t use your credit card for cash withdrawals unless it is an emergency as your bank will charge you additional cash withdrawal fees and interest.