How To Travel With No Credit Card… I Did It!

by Andrea

Gas Prices, Hotels, Rental Cars, Restaurants, Travel Necessities

In spite of the fact that many people have a bad history with credit cards and have accumulated a bunch of debt, most insist that they can’t part with them “because they are needed for travel.”

Believe it or not, you actually do not need a credit card to travel!

Until this past summer when I traveled to Los Angeles for 10 days, I too thought that a credit card was necessary.  So I took a credit card out of the dresser drawer and put it in my wallet — just in case I needed it.

I’m happy to report that I didn’t need a credit card at all on this trip!

Here are all the things I did without a credit card…

My Experience Traveling With No Credit Card

  1. I ordered my plane tickets using Delta’s online service with my debit card.  Other airlines also allow you to pay for airline tickets with a debit card.
  2. I paid for 2 hotel stays online and in advance.  For the first hotel (a 3-star hotel which turned out to be a very nice Holiday Inn), I used Hotwire which helped me find a hotel room at a great price.  Because I had paid in full in advance, they did not need to put a credit card on hold.  The second hotel (a 4-star Hilton), I also paid for in advance on the hotel’s website. I got their best and non-refundable rate.  They did ask to keep a credit card on file, but they were content with a debit card.  They only put a small temporary hold on my debit card.
  3. I held and rented a vehicle with my debit card. I did run into a problem because the car rental agency would not accept certain types of debit cards, and my PayPal debit card was included in this category.  They did, however, use my other bank card.
  4. I used my debit card and/or cash for all restaurant meals — many of which I partially paid for in advance online using gift certificates. MUST READ: Eat At A Restaurant With Good Deals By
  5. I shopped to my heart’s content using the daily spending budget that I had previously set for myself.  I spent a lot of time in Los Angeles thrift stores and discount stores.  Searching for cool and unusual items was much more fun than spending hundreds of dollars in high-end stores.

You Can Travel With No Credit Card Internationally Too

As you can see, I was able to travel across the country and back without ever using a credit card.

The truth is, you don’t even need credit cards to travel internationally!

On the BootsnAll Travel website (aka “the ultimate resource for the independent traveler”), I found the following advice:

I’ve traveled through Asia and other continents without credit cards, without debit cards and without traveler’s cheques having only cash on me, which is very stupid and which I don’t recommend. You’ll be fine having your debit card with you, especially visa debit. As for the traveler’s cheques you can exchange them everywhere in Asia even though less and less people use it, and yes you will be charged percentage for exchange. Check which traveler’s cheques will be the best for those countries, sometimes ones are more recognized then others. 


Reasons To Travel With A Credit Card

While I’ve proven that it can be done — you can travel safely and still have a lot of fun on your trip even without a credit card — there are several reasons that many people prefer to use a credit card (instead of a debit card) when traveling.

Here are the biggest reasons to travel with a credit card:

  • You are much better protected if you use a credit card when you travel.  Debit cards, on the other hand, are treated just like cash.
  • You will have zero liability if your credit card is lost or stolen.
  • You will have an easier time disputing restaurant tabs and sneaky hotel fees.
  • Credit cards provide car rental insurance coverage — which may be necessary if your own auto insurance policy doesn’t cover rental cars.
  • Credit card companies will sometimes provide extra discounts if you use their card.

Traveling can be a lot more stressful when you use a debit card. That’s because certain merchants (hotels, car-rental companies and even gas stations) tend to put a hold on funds before approving a transaction. So when you check into a hotel or rent a car, the hotel or car-rental company will freeze a certain amount to ensure the money is available for that transaction to go through. If you are using a debit card, which is linked to your checking account, you’ll be unable to access that cash for days or weeks. On a recent business trip, for example, Sherry had $1,200 of her credit-card limit blocked for a three-night hotel stay that cost only $129 a night. If that’s your debit card, you don’t want to be out $1,200. 


One of the best reasons I can think of for using a debit card instead of a credit card when you travel is the fact that at the end of the trip, you won’t have to worry about the hefty bill that will soon be showing up in the mail!  Instead, your vacation will have been paid in full, and you can move on to planning your next trip.

More Things You Can Do With No Credit Card