If you’re planning on traveling this summer, your credit cards are essential. You’ll need one to do everything from checking into a hotel to renting a car.
While credit card theft and fraudulent charges are always a risk, it isn’t as big of a deal when you’re home. You can quickly cancel the cards, and your credit card company will send you new ones right away. To get you through until the cards arrive, you can use a local ATM, or ask friends and family for a small loan.
When you’re traveling, losing your cards can be devastating. You can be stranded in a foreign city without access to money, and you may be far away from your loved ones. If that happens, you might have to rely on family to wire you money so you can have a place to sleep and get home.
While credit card theft is a serious problem, the solution isn’t to avoid credit cards and only carry cash. Credit cards can be much more convenient, especially if you are traveling internationally. Rather than ditching the cards, coming up with a plan ahead of time can prevent any issues on your trip.
If you’re going on vacation, here are five tips that can help protect your credit:
1. Don’t Carry All Your Cards With You
According to Experian, the average American has at least two credit cards. Many decide to have several cards because of the rewards and perks. While it’s a good idea to have multiple cards in case of an emergency, carrying them both at the same time can be dangerous. If a thief steals your wallet, you could be in a desperate situation with no way to get help or pay for essentials.
Instead, only carry one credit card with you while you sightsee or go on excursions. Lock the other one away in a secure location, like in a hotel safe. By leaving one card behind, you ensure you have a backup card that can tide you over until you get home.
2. Clear Your Browser History
It’s a good idea to check your credit card activity online while you’re traveling. Many thieves will make small purchases, like buying a song on iTunes, to check to see if a card is active. The transactions are so small, you may not notice it unless you review your account thoroughly. Catching those small charges can help prevent the problem from becoming much bigger.
But if you’re using a hotel’s internet, make sure you clear your browser history and delete all cookies. Otherwise, anyone with access to your room, such as hotel cleaning staff, can take your laptop and access your bank, credit card or shopping cart information to make purchases in your name.
3. Know Your Card Companies’ Contact Information
If your card is stolen, time is of the essence. If you don’t know your credit card number or your card company’s contact information, the thief can have much more time to make fraudulent purchases.
Before going on your trip, use your smartphone to take a picture of the front and back of your card, and make sure your phone is password protected. Or, send the photos to a trusted relative or friend. With this safeguard, you can easily get the information you need to call your company and freeze your cards, no matter where you are.
4. Set Up Security Alerts
If you’re traveling to another country, contact your credit card companies to let them know. Otherwise, they may think that foreign purchases are fraudulent.
Also, many credit card companies allow you to set up alerts if a transaction over a certain amount is made. By contacting your company and setting up the alert, you can get notified if a fraudulent purchase goes through right away. The alerts can help you stay on top of your card activity, and take action if necessary.
5. Check Your Credit Report
When you get home from your trip, review your credit card statements and your credit report. Your report will show if anyone opened up a new credit line, such as a credit card or personal loan, under your name. You can check your credit report for free at annualcreditreport.com.
Avoiding Credit Card Fraud on Vacation
When you’re traveling, your credit cards are an essential lifeline to get you from place to place. While they give you convenience and ease, you are at risk of theft and fraudulent activity. But by planning and taking some precautions, you can protect your credit and have a safe trip.
For information about keeping your information secure, check out this identify theft prevention checklist.
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