Protect Your Money on Vacation

Don’t let a pickpocket, a swindler or identity thief ruin your next vacation.
These 8 financial safety tips will show you how to protect your wallet and your financial information when vacationing in the US and abroad.

  • Lighten up your wallet.
  • Use credit cards for major purchases.
  • Pack a backup credit card.
  • Watch out for bogus ATMs.
  • Keep a close eye on that debit card.
  • Tell your bank and credit card companies about travel plans.
  • Protect your cash.
  • Review your purchases when you return home.

Lighten up your wallet.
Only carry the credit cards you’ll be using on your trip and leave the rest at home. Pack an ATM/debit card for withdrawing cash at ATMs.

Don’t carry your Social Security number or any cards that have your Social Security number on them.

Leave your checkbook at home.

Use credit cards for major purchases.
Many credit cards have zero-liability policies, meaning you won’t pay a penny for unauthorized charges if a card is lost or stolen.

The Fair Credit Billing Act specifies that your maximum liability for unauthorized credit card charges is $50. So that’s the most you’ll end up paying if a thief should get a hold of your credit card.

The sooner you alert a credit card company of a lost or stolen card, the better. So bring contact information for each of your credit cards with you on the trip.

You also can alert your credit card company if you’re unsatisfied with the quality of a purchase that you make with your card or if a credit card purchase gets lost or stolen.

Pack a backup credit card.
It’s best to travel with a backup credit card or two. That way, if a card gets lost or stolen, you’ll have another card you can use for major purchases such as hotel rooms and rental cars. And you can continue with your vacation without a hitch. Keep your backup cards secure in the hotel safe so they’ll be there if you should need them.

Watch out for bogus ATMs.
Getting cash while on vacation is easy if you pack your trusty ATM/debit card. Just be sure the cash machine is legit before inserting your card.

Thieves place phony ATM machines at high-traffic tourist areas. So stick to ATMs that are near banks or in airports or in hotels.

Visa and MasterCard have worldwide ATM locators on their Web sites. So it’s easy to find legitimate ATM locations in the areas where you’ll be traveling.

Keep a close eye on that debit card.
Debit cards are handy for withdrawing cash from ATMs and making small purchases while traveling. But you’ll want to keep close tabs on your debit card at all times. It is linked directly to your checking account, and if a thief nabs the card, your account could be emptied in no time.

ATM and debit card transactions are protected under the Electronic Fund Transfer Act. But you’ll need to act fast to limit your liability for the fraudulent transactions. Use your mobile banking app to login and check your balance and transactions as you travel.

To limit your liability to $50, you’ll need to report the bogus debit card charges to your bank within two business days. After that, you could be on the hook for as much as $500 in unauthorized charges. (There is a $500 liability limit for up to 60 days after the bank statement reflecting the fraud is delivered to you.)

So keep a close watch on your debit card. And contact your bank immediately if your ATM/debit card is lost or stolen.

Tell your bank and credit card companies about your travel plans.
Be sure to alert your bank and credit card companies of your upcoming travel plans. If you don’t, they may think a thief — not you — is making all those fun-filled vacation purchases and shut down your credit or ATM card.

Just make a quick call to your bank and credit card companies before your trip. This is especially important for folks traveling outside the United States. Let your bank and your credit card companies know the countries you’ll be visiting and when you’ll be returning to the States.

Review your purchases.
When you return from your vacation, or even while you travel, review your credit card purchases, debit card purchases and ATM withdrawals immediately through your online banking or mobile banking app. Don’t wait for your monthly statements.

If a thief has nabbed your card information, you’ll want to alert your bank and credit card companies as soon as possible.