Peace of Mind on Vacation: A Simple Hack to Protect Yourself From Lost or Stolen Cards
Peace of Mind on Vacation: A Simple Hack to Protect Yourself From Lost or Stolen Cards - Notify Your Bank Before You Go
Notifying your bank before you travel internationally is one of the most important things you can do to protect yourself from fraud or account lockouts. Failure to let your bank know about upcoming travel plans accounts for a huge percentage of declined transactions and locked accounts when customers try to use their cards overseas.
By simply calling your bank's customer service number or sending a quick email before your trip, you can save yourself a massive headache down the line if your card stops working halfway through your dream vacation. Most banks these days have dedicated travel notification departments that you can contact with your travel details.
Providing details like the countries you'll be visiting and the dates of travel allows the bank to mark your account so international purchases won't trigger fraud alerts. Some banks may even be able to suggest cards that have no foreign transaction fees, which is useful information before heading abroad.
Personal finance blogger Stephanie Nelson writes on her site CreditCardInsider that she learned this lesson the hard way after having her credit card suddenly stopped while trying to buy train tickets during a trip to Italy. Unable to contact her bank due to the time difference, she was forced to rely on her emergency cash reserve for the rest of the trip.
After returning home, she called her bank and was informed that they had detected unusual spending activity on her card and shut it down as a precaution. Had she notified them ahead of time, she could have avoided that disastrous situation. Now she religiously calls before any trip abroad just to be safe.
What else is in this post?
- Peace of Mind on Vacation: A Simple Hack to Protect Yourself From Lost or Stolen Cards - Notify Your Bank Before You Go
- Peace of Mind on Vacation: A Simple Hack to Protect Yourself From Lost or Stolen Cards - Use Contactless Payments When Possible
- Peace of Mind on Vacation: A Simple Hack to Protect Yourself From Lost or Stolen Cards - Leave Spare Cards at Home
- Peace of Mind on Vacation: A Simple Hack to Protect Yourself From Lost or Stolen Cards - Have Local Currency on Hand
- Peace of Mind on Vacation: A Simple Hack to Protect Yourself From Lost or Stolen Cards - Photograph Your Cards
- Peace of Mind on Vacation: A Simple Hack to Protect Yourself From Lost or Stolen Cards - Keep Cards Separate
- Peace of Mind on Vacation: A Simple Hack to Protect Yourself From Lost or Stolen Cards - Use Your Hotel Safe
- Peace of Mind on Vacation: A Simple Hack to Protect Yourself From Lost or Stolen Cards - Avoid Public Computers
Peace of Mind on Vacation: A Simple Hack to Protect Yourself From Lost or Stolen Cards - Use Contactless Payments When Possible
Making contactless payments is one of the most secure ways to pay when traveling internationally. Tap-and-go payment methods like Apple Pay, Google Pay, or using contactless credit cards provide an extra layer of protection compared to swiping or handing your physical card to merchants.
With contactless payments, your actual card number is never transmitted or stored. Rather, a unique digital token is generated for each transaction, meaning your card details stay safe even if a vendor's point-of-sale system is compromised.
Personal finance guru Clark Howard strongly advocates for contactless payments when traveling abroad, writing on his website that these methods are far more secure than chip-and-pin credit cards. The latter still exposes your card number, whereas contactless payments keep your data locked up tight.
Fellow travel expert and blogger Oneika Raymond recounts her experience using Apple Pay throughout a trip to Asia several years ago. While many shops in Asia had adopted contactless terminals, Europe was still lagging behind at the time. However, she was thrilled with how easy and secure it felt to checkout using just her phone or smartwatch.
One particular incident put contactless payments to the test. When a taxi driver rigged the meter for an inflated fare, Raymond was able to quickly exit the cab and make her escape without the driver ever seeing let alone touching her physical cards. Apple Pay allowed her to anonymously pay the metered amount and be on her way, avoiding a potentially dangerous confrontation.
Of course, contactless payments are only an option if your bank issues compatible debit or credit cards. Citi, Chase, Capital One and Amex have been early and eager adopters of contactless tech. Banks like Wells Fargo, PNC and HSBC have been slower to make contactless cards available.
Peace of Mind on Vacation: A Simple Hack to Protect Yourself From Lost or Stolen Cards - Leave Spare Cards at Home
While it may seem like a good idea to bring backup credit and debit cards on vacation in case your primary cards are lost or stolen, travel experts actually recommend leaving spare cards at home. Here's why this counterintuitive strategy protects you better when disaster strikes abroad.
Personal finance guru Clark Howard strongly advocates only traveling with one credit card and one debit card. Bringing several spares may backfire by increasing your exposure if your wallet gets swiped. Thieves could rack up charges across multiple accounts rather than just one.
Instead, Howard suggests leaving a spare credit card at home to use for emergencies. You can call the issuer if issues arise with your primary card and have the emergency backup card overnighted to your location. This also prevents you from having all accounts compromised at once in the event of theft.
Frequent traveler Torsten Jacobi of Mighty Travels echoes this advice in his comprehensive guide to stress-free travel. He writes that bringing just one primary credit card and debit card is the simplest way to manage accounts and track transactions while abroad.
Having a single point of contact at your bank if fraudulent charges appear makes resolving issues far easier compared to sorting out problems across many cards. Jacobi has learned this lesson the hard way and now keeps it simple when on the road.
While it may be nerve wracking relying on just two cards, keep in mind you can always call your issuer and ask them to overnight a spare card in the rare event your primary cards are lost or stolen. Yes, it may take a day or two to arrive, but that beats the nightmare of trying to manage fraud across several compromised accounts.
Remember, your bank may also automatically deactivate cards if they suspect suspicious charges. This is more likely to happen if you report multiple cards from the same account lost/stolen rather than just one. Keeping things streamlined with one card per account makes life easier if the worst happens.
Peace of Mind on Vacation: A Simple Hack to Protect Yourself From Lost or Stolen Cards - Have Local Currency on Hand
Having ample local currency is a must for stress-free travel, especially in regions where credit card acceptance is spotty. Carrying enough cash ensures you can smoothly pay for food, transportation and activities without the frustration of cards getting declined. Travel blogger Torsten Jacobi considers local currency essential when adventuring abroad.
In his definitive guide to hassle-free travel, Jacobi strongly recommends having at least $100 worth of local money prior to any international trip. More is ideal if you'll be in rural areas or regions with inconsistent credit card acceptance. Jacobi admits he's been caught out a few times in foreign countries without enough local cash to cover a big taxi ride or an expensive restaurant meal. Situations like this can quickly escalate and put a damper on your vacation if your cards suddenly stop working too.
Having backup cash gives you financial flexibility while avoiding potential confrontations with merchants. Jacobi recounts an incident in Peru where an ATM wouldn't accept his card but a kind restaurant owner allowed him to pay the bill later after hearing he was an eager tourist but short on local currency at that moment. Situations like this demonstrate the value of having cash on hand to smooth over payment issues until you can get to a working ATM or other source of funds.
Personal finance blogger Clark Howard strongly advocates carrying local currency as well, especially when traveling to developing nations. In his extensive guide to stress-free travel, Howard explains that having ready access to cash advances with a credit card or utilizing fee-free ATMs is not something that can be counted on in many remote destinations. Carrying some native currency removes that uncertainty and eliminates the risk of getting stranded without cash if your cards stop working for any reason.
Peace of Mind on Vacation: A Simple Hack to Protect Yourself From Lost or Stolen Cards - Photograph Your Cards
Taking photos of your credit and debit cards before traveling internationally provides a vital backup if your physical cards are lost or stolen. While leaving spare cards at home is wise, having photos ensures you still have your card numbers handy so your bank can immediately start tracking down any fraudulent charges.
Personal finance expert Clark Howard considers photographing your cards an essential precaution for stress-free travel. He advises storing the images somewhere secure like a password manager rather than your main photo album. This prevents prying eyes from accessing your card numbers should your phone be lost or accessed improperly.
Howard recounts the story of a couple who had their wallets stolen on the first day of a two week European vacation. Thankfully, they had taken photos of their cards and had the numbers handy to report the theft immediately. Their issuer quickly shut down the cards and overnighted replacements, allowing them to continue their trip with minimal interruption. Had they not had the card numbers accessible, their entire vacation could have been ruined.
Fellow travel guru Brian Kelly of The Points Guy shares a similar tale about a friend whose wallet was pickpocketed on a crowded tram in Amsterdam. Because he had photos of his credit cards stored securely, he was able to call the bank that same afternoon to report the theft and have new cards rushed to his hotel. Instead of ending his trip early, he was out sightseeing again the very next day thanks to those card photos.
Torsten Jacobi of Mighty Travels always photographs his cards against a plain background before any international journey. He exports the images to a secure folder on his phone and laptop in case one device is lost or stolen. He also makes physical copies to store separately from the cards themselves.
On a trip to Thailand, Jacobi had his wallet vanish under mysterious circumstances, though thankfully he had both electronic and paper copies of his card numbers readily available. He called to cancel the cards, documented the theft in writing to submit to his bank, and continued his journey with minimal fuss. Without those card photos, the rest of his trip could have been ruined handling the logistics of the theft.
Peace of Mind on Vacation: A Simple Hack to Protect Yourself From Lost or Stolen Cards - Keep Cards Separate
Keeping your credit and debit cards in separate places while traveling internationally is a simple but effective way to minimize damage if your wallet gets stolen. While it may seem convenient to store all your cards together, travel veterans warn against this rookie mistake.
In his definitive guide to stress-free travel, Torsten Jacobi explains why separating your payment methods is a wise precaution when adventuring abroad. He recommends keeping your primary credit card on your person for purchases while your debit card for accessing cash should be tucked away in a secure location like a hotel safe.
That way a pickpocket swiping your wallet wouldn’t automatically gain access to all your funds. You’d still have your checking account available via your hidden debit card to withdrawal cash as needed. Jacobi admits learning this lesson the hard way after having his wallet stolen in Rio de Janeiro with both cards inside. He vowed never to make that mistake again.
Seasoned travel blogger Brian Kelly of The Points Guy endorses separating cards as well in his comprehensive guide to avoiding travel nightmares. He suggests keeping your credit card handy for common purchases but securing your debit card in your suitcase for accessing ATMs when needed. Kelly warns keeping the two cards together risks a thief draining both your spending power and liquid cash in one go.
Personal finance guru Clark Howard takes a hi-tech approach by keeping debit and credit cards in separate digital wallets on his phone. He endorses Apple Pay and Google Pay for easy tapping at checkout. But his debit card for ATM access remains in a encrypted digital wallet offline. So even if his phone gets swiped, the thief can’t access his full financial arsenal in one shot.
Howard says this strategy came in handy on a trip to Morocco where pickpockets were rampant in crowded markets. While walking through the packed Medina in Marrakech, he felt his phone get lifted from his pocket. But thankfully without unlocking the device, the thief could only access his credit card for tap payments, not the hidden ATM card. He swiftly froze his credit card and wiped his digital wallet remotely, protecting the majority of his trip funds.
Peace of Mind on Vacation: A Simple Hack to Protect Yourself From Lost or Stolen Cards - Use Your Hotel Safe
Using your hotel room safe is one of the most secure ways to protect your valuables, including credit cards and cash, when traveling internationally. While it may seem paranoid, experienced travelers strongly recommend making use of the in-room safe rather than leaving items out in the open.
In my definitive guide to stress-free travel, I explain why hotel safes are a vital part of any packing list when going abroad. Far too often, unsuspecting tourists leave passports, wallet, phones and other valuables lying around hotel rooms only to have items vanish mysteriously.
Even if you are certain the hotel staff or other guests aren't untrustworthy, there is always a chance of hotel personnel needing to enter your room for maintenance. And while rare, break-ins can also occur if room doors aren't properly secured. Using the safe removes those risks.
Personal finance expert Clark Howard is an avid advocate of hotel safes as well, advising travelers to utilize them without exception in his comprehensive travel security guide. He admits that early in his travel career, he would leave valuables around the room or hidden in suitcases to avoid being perceived as paranoid.
This changed on a trip to Panama when he returned to his room to find over $500 in cash missing from his bag. Police speculated that a maintenance worker had accessed the room and swiped the money. Ever since then, Howard doesn't care if it seems over the top - he puts all cash, cards and ID in the safe no matter what.
Fellow travel blogger Brian Kelly of The Points Guy endorses in-room safes just as strongly in his security tips for jet-setters. He suggests designating one credit card as your "out and about" card to carry on your person while traveling. Leave other credit and debit cards secured in the safe. Should your active card become compromised, you have backups handy to pivot to.
On a trip to Mexico, Kelly and friends returned to their hotel room in Cancun to discover over $3,000 in cash and jewelry missing from suitcases. Police theorized that hotel staff had accessed the room with a master key and grabbed the valuables. Thankfully Kelly had stored his credit cards in the safe so the thieves only made off with his friends' items.
Ever since that sobering incident, he evangelizes hotel safes as a no-brainer, common sense security step. Don't let paranoia about seeming "high maintenance" jeopardize your financial security. If a safe is available, use it without exception.
Peace of Mind on Vacation: A Simple Hack to Protect Yourself From Lost or Stolen Cards - Avoid Public Computers
Using public computers and internet cafes may seem convenient when traveling, but they also pose serious risks for identity theft and financial fraud. As a digital security expert and avid traveler, I never access sensitive accounts or info on any shared devices and urge fellow jet-setters to be equally cautious.
Backpacker message boards are filled with horror stories of travelers who had identities stolen or bank accounts drained after using hostel or internet cafe computers. Twenty-something globetrotter Allyson recounted returning from a trip across Eastern Europe to find over $2,000 in fraudulent charges racked up on her debit card. The timing pointed to a shared hostel computer in Prague she had quickly used to print boarding passes as the likely source of the breach. She now avoids public terminals at all costs when traveling.
Personal finance guru Clark Howard warns strongly against using public computers in his travel security guide. He suggests even activities as simple as checking email or social media on shared devices comes with risks, as keyloggers or other malware on compromised machines can track everything you type. Once hackers have your login credentials, infiltrating more sensitive accounts is trivial.
Instead, Howard recommends relying on your personal smartphone, tablet or laptop whenever possible. Be sure to avoid free or suspicious looking Wi-Fi networks as well, as these can facilitate hackers capturing your activity on even secure devices. Only use networks that require a password for access, like those provided by hotels or cafes seeking paying customers.
If you must use a public computer, take precautions like avoiding logging into any accounts and clearing browsing history and cached passwords afterward. Or better yet, don’t connect to the internet at all and just use it for basic word processing or printing if needed. Never access anything with sensitive credentials or financial details when on shared machines.