Visa-Free Travel and Smart Card Tips for Indian Jetsetters in 2024

Visit Rishikesh and Haridwar if you want a spiritual start to the year.

Indian traveler is now widely sought after by many countries, some of whom have rolled out the red carpet by offering visa-free travel to Indian passport holders

2023 saw international travel across most parts of the world rebound strongly. With a fast-growing economy, increased disposable income, and a keen enthusiasm to explore and experience the world, the Indian traveler is now widely sought after by many countries, some of whom have rolled out the red carpet by offering visa-free travel to Indian passport holders. This is great news for last minute holiday planners who can choose from options like Sri Lanka, Thailand, Malaysia, Vietnam, and Nepal, among others, to visit without having to get a travel visa, as long as they have the essential passport (valid for at least six months beyond the planned departure date), a valid return ticket, accommodation bookings and travel insurance.

The aforesaid countries also accept card payments, which further enhance the travel experience, making it hassle-free, safe and convenient. According to a recent survey conducted by Visa, the global leader in digital payments, 95% of Indian travelers said they intended to use their credit, debit or travel prepaid cards for payments at international travel destinations. Sridhar Keppurengan, Business Head, Cross Border Payments, India and South Asia, Visa, shares a few insights on how to make the most of credit cards in your international travels.

  1. Enable your card for “International” transactionsDo remember to enable your credit/debit card or even your travel prepaid card for international transactions. Specifically, enable the “International/ Online” feature for hotel and cab bookings before and during the trip, and the “International/POS and Contactless” option for shopping, dining and other card payments during the trip.
  2. Look for travel promotions offered by your cardCards typically offer travel-related benefits, either in the form of free lounge access, discounts on flight bookings, travel insurance, car rentals, and entertainment options at your destination. These offers come in handy and enable you to go the extra mile, literally.
  3. Ensure your “Card limit” is fully available for useMake sure to have enough credit limit to cover most of the trip expenses. Many of us do not actively monitor the remaining limits for the month, so it’s a good idea to pay off your credit card bills before traveling to ensure the limit is fully available or prepay as you spend during the trip. Alternatively, you can request a card upgrade or a limit increase from your bank.
  4. Forex markup rates vs. RewardsWhile cards in general offer favorable currency conversion rates compared to currency exchanges, some cards offer lower forex markup fees in lieu of rewards, while others do not offer discounted forex markup fees, but provide generous rewards on international travel spends. Make your choice based on what works for you.
  5. Tokenisation – Tap to pay using your phoneOne has much to carry during a trip, and your smartphone can reduce the need to pull out your wallet as often. Tokenisation is currently available for Android phones in India, where your cards can be stored securely on high-end smartphones and wearables. At many countries, you can simply unlock your phone and tap it at a merchant’s point-of-sale (POS) device, or even at a Metro/Bus/Train gate or payment terminal to take a ride.
  6. Pay in destination currencyMerchants and ATMs often give tourists the choice to complete a transaction in the destination currency or simplify it by displaying it in the tourist’s familiar home currency. However, cardholders must remember that the latter may come with an additional fee. Unless this is a feature you really prefer, you could opt to pay in the foreign currency.
  7. Remember, the card is always in your “Control”One of the most compelling features of the Reserve Bank mandated card controls is just that – Offering cardholders greater “Control” over their cards! You can turn on or switch off card features as well as set spend and transaction limits on your mobile banking apps, thus adding extra layers of safety and security to your transactions.

The digital payment’s Global Travel Intentions survey revealed that Indian travelers cited relaxation and the desire to explore and learn something new as key motivators for cross border travel. However, anxieties related to cash payments or handling foreign currencies are common concerns among travelers visiting a new country. Card payments are a great way to allay these anxieties, so vacations can truly be what they are desired to be – Relaxing and Rejuvenating!

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