Travelers can be particularly vulnerable when it comes to losing money. With increasing concerns about credit card scams, you need to think about how you’ll handle electronic payments while you travel. Check out this handy guide to keeping your money safe no matter where you go on vacation.
1. Storing Cash Safely
Cash can actually be one of the safest forms of payment to use when you travel. That’s because you can limit how much you have on you at any time, which is safer in case of theft. In addition, using cash eliminates any worries you might have about someone stealing your credit card information. Here are a few ways to store your cash safely while you travel:
- Use a money belt: This convenient accessory can be worn under your clothes so that only you have direct access to it.
- Split money between group members: If you’re traveling with a group or with your spouse, split your cash between you so that you’re protected in case one of you loses your money.
- Utilize a safe: Try to book a hotel room with a personal safe. Take only what you need each time you venture out and leave the rest of your cash locked up.
2. Credit Card Do’s and Don’ts
Most travelers use a credit card when they travel nowadays. However, don’t just assume that your credit card will work perfectly if you go out of town, especially if you’re traveling overseas. Here’s a checklist of things to do before and during your trip to ensure that everything goes smoothly when you want to use plastic to pay.
- Alert your bank: Make sure your bank knows the dates when you’ll be traveling. Otherwise, they may freeze your card if a charge suddenly appears from another location, which would look like suspicious activity. If you’re traveling overseas, ask whether your cards work internationally.
- Know how to cancel your cards: Get in touch with your credit card company and find out the fastest way to cancel your card in case it’s stolen. Write down the phone number and keep it somewhere safe.
- Don’t let your card out of your sight: If you’re planning to make a purchase, look for the electronic point-of-sale machine where they’ll run your card, and never let someone take it into another room in order to process your payment.
- Consider using pre-paid cards: You can purchase pre-paid credit cards with set dollar amounts for use while traveling. These cards aren’t linked to your credit card account, so the maximum amount that can be stolen from you is whatever is left on the card’s balance.
- Make copies in advance: Make a copy of your card before you leave and keep these paper copies in a safe and separate place from your card. Having these on hand may help if your card is stolen.
3. Travelers’ Checks Tips
While travelers’ checks are not as widely used anymore, they’re still quite easy to replace if stolen. Keep in mind, however, that some places do not accept travelers’ checks, so check ahead with the businesses where you hope to use these as payment.
Another note for travelers’ checks: make sure that you get yours through a brand that is widely accepted to increase the chances of various businesses taking them as payment. If possible, use American Express or Thomas Cook, the two best-known brands for travelers’ checks.
4. Using ATMs
Check with your bank to see if you’ll be able to withdraw money at ATMs while you travel and, if going out of the country, what your exchange rate will be. In addition, ask about any extra fees you may be charged so that there are no surprises on your next bank statement.
Be careful when using unfamiliar ATM machines. To be safe, always get a receipt and keep these until your next bank statement to ensure everything adds up correctly. You should also double-check the keypad layout to make sure you enter your PIN code correctly.
5. Watch Out for Theft
Even if you think you’re a savvy traveler, it only takes one moment of distraction for theft to occur. Use these tips to avoid becoming a victim of theft on your trip:
- Be careful in crowds: Public transportation and tourist attractions are examples of places where it’s easy for a thief to nab your money. Keep your money hidden and stay aware of your surroundings in these situations.
- Don’t carry a backpack: Backpacks are easy to access without you knowing. Use a bag that you can keep within your line of sight. Preferably, choose a bag that has a buckle closure or some other barrier besides only a zipper.
- Don’t leave bags unattended: Avoid setting bags down while you do something, even if it’s just for a moment. Similarly, make sure you have your bag securely fastened onto you if there’s any chance you may fall asleep (on a train, for example).
Use these simple tips to protect your money while you travel. After your trip is complete, make sure to keep a close eye on your credit card accounts for at least a couple of weeks after to detect any suspicious activity.