Austria, Germany, China 2014: Part 10 – How my Discover Card saved my life in China.

This is part 10 of a series on my trip to Austria, Germany and China.

I received 40,000 of the 100,000 miles I used for this award ticket by getting the US Airways® Premier World MasterCard®!  This is a great card and one I still carry.  These miles will eventually become American miles which are some of the most valuable.  Click here to apply now for one of your own!

The Discover It card is one that I don’t talk about too much on the site.  When I have talked about it in the past it has been talking about the great 18 month interest free offer they have for balance transfers or in my popular article about the 3 best credit card to build your credit.  They also have a great shopping program called ShopDiscover that often has some of the best cashback rates when you are shopping online (including 10% cashback at Groupon which I use all the time). Plus, they give you a free FICO credit score on your statement every month which makes it easy to keep an eye on that all important number.  The best part is that there is no annual fee so it costs nothing to keep the card each year until you need it.

Now, back to China.  I don’t usually take a lot of cash with me on trips because I prefer to use a miles earning credit card whenever I can.  I guess being a travel guru I should have researched China a bit more before I got there:  I just assumed I would be able to use my Chase Sapphire Preferred card there since it has no foreign transaction fees and gives me double points on restaurants and travel expenses. So when I had my first nice meal and I whipped out my chip enabled aluminum Sapphire card, I was surprised when they said they couldn’t accept it.  Then I started looking around for those window signs saying Visa accepted here and didn’t find any! What I did see was the UnionPay logo.UnionPayAfter a little research I learned that this is China’s home grown payment processing system and Visa, Mastercard, and American Express are not accepted here outside of hotels and some very limited western focused restaurants.  So I was looking at not getting any miles, points or cashback on most of my spending including all those bullet train fares. That just isn’t acceptable!IMG_8181 Luckily I found that the Discover It card has a reciprocal agreement with China Unionpay!  It turns out that they also have an agreement with JCB Japan which means it will work well there too (although I didn’t have any problems with Visa when I was in Japan).  Discover also has no foreign transaction fees which means I will get the true exchange rate from Yuan to USD on my spend without any markup.Discover China

I took my Discover Card to the train station in Beijing displaying the Union Pay logo and had to convince them (via google translate) to try it since the card doesn’t actually display the UnionPay logo on the back of the card.  The charge went through perfectly in all cases but one (where I am pretty sure the attendant was doing it wrong).  Cashback Success! I ended up using my Discover Card at some tourist attractions and restaurants as well without any problems after assuring them it was UnionPay.

Travel sometimes throws you curveballs and you need to have a plan A, B, and C ready.  Discover ended up being my plan B and made me an extra 1% on a lot of my spending on this trip.  I can take this 1% cashback and use it on my next trip! Maybe it didn’t exactly save my life, but it sure saved my wallet and allowed me to buy this particle mask at 7-11 which saved my lungs!IMG_7999

If you want to know more about the benefits of the Discover card, read about it in our article about the 3 best cards to build your credit or if you just want to apply for this great no annual fee card then click here to apply!  If you get it now, it will be ready to help you out when it is your turn to visit China!

Author: John Butler

I live in Miami Beach but love travelling all over the world.