5 Ways to Protect Your Finances While on Vacation

Whether you’re headed to Paris to see the sights or going on a cruise to explore a far-off island, it’s essential that part of your vacation planning includes protecting your finances. As your vacation draws near, make sure you do more than just pack your suitcase. Take a few minutes to review your finances before hopping on your plane (or ship). What should you be doing? Here are a few ways you can protect your money and identity while traveling.

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 1. Lighten your load

“Limit what documents you are going to carry with you,” Linda Foley, co-founder of the Identity Theft Resource Center, said to Bankrate. “Clean out your wallet and purse before you take that trip.”

Before you take off for paradise, strip down your wallet to the bare essentials. Only carry the credit cards you’ll be using on your trip, leaving everything else at home. Have an ATM/debit card with you for withdrawing cash. If you have anything that has your Social Security number on it, make sure you remove it from your wallet or purse. Bankrate writes that the Identity Theft Resource Center suggests making a copy of your health insurance card and removing the last four digits of your Social Security number. Bring the photocopy with you on your trip and leave the original card at your house.

2. Take credit and debit card precautions

This is particularly relevant if you’re traveling overseas, but it doesn’t hurt to take these precautions regardless of where you’re going. Run through this checklist, from The Huffington Post, before your next trip to ensure your credit and debit cards are protected.

  • Let your card issuers know where you’re going and how long you’re traveling for, so they’ll be on guard against unauthorized transactions. Bank fraud departments have great systems that let them know if there is unusual account activity, so if a problem arises while you’re away from home, they can freeze the account until they get in touch with you. It’s also worth providing your cellphone number to them if you haven’t already, so you can get to the bottom of the problem sooner. Some banks make it even easier by sending you a text or email whenever transactions over a certain amount are made.
  • Should you lose a card or have one stolen, make sure you immediately report the card to your issuer to prevent any unwanted purchases or withdrawals from popping up on it.
  • Always carry at least two cards with you. This way, if one gets damaged or temporarily frozen, you have a backup. It can sometimes take a few days for the bank to mail you a new card, and you don’t want to be stuck somewhere without one.
  • Have a list of card issuers’ fraud hotlines and your account numbers, and carry them with you. Keep them separate from your wallet in case it gets stolen or lost. You could even leave a copy with a trusted friend, or program the numbers into your cellphone for quick access.
  • Ensure you have the right numbers for banks’ toll-free hotlines. Sometimes their standard numbers don’t work internationally, so make sure you have numbers that are usable when you’re overseas. The numbers won’t do you any good if they don’t actually work.
  • Try to stay away from standalone, strange-looking ATMs that aren’t located in secure areas. These ATMs can sometimes be altered or have hidden cameras that can “shoulder surf” your account information. This isn’t always the case, but better safe than sorry.
  • Again, when traveling internationally, be wary of potential card skimming. This is when dishonest restaurants or stores use a portable reader that copies information from your credit or debit card’s magnetic strip.
  • When you’re traveling, hang on to all of your receipts, and then check them against your statement. Keep an eye out for any transactions that you didn’t authorize. A good way to do to this, especially with your debit cards, is through online banking.

 3. Arrange for payments

Make sure you don’t forget about your bills while you’re away. If you’re only going to be gone a week or two, try and prepay any bills due during the time you’re away. That way, you won’t need to spend your precious vacation days stressing about past-due accounts. If you’re going to be away for longer than two weeks, talk to your creditors, including your phone company, landlord or mortgage holder, card issuers and bank, and make arrangements to set up recurring auto-payments, says Top5.

4. Separate important items

When traveling, NetCredit suggests separating all of your important items. Let’s say your bag has your credit cards, cash, passport, personal documents, and cellphone, and that bag is then stolen. You’re now completely out of luck. However, if you strategically divvy up these items between your carry on, money belt, bag, and even a companion, there’s a good chance you’ll still have all of your needed items (or most of them) when your plane lands.

 5. Stop your mail

Have the post office put a hold on your mail while you’re abroad. Not only does this keep your mail from literally piling up, but it prevents thieves from accessing your private information, such as your credit card statements. The U.S. Postal Service will hold your mail for up to 30 consecutive days, so if you’re going to be away longer than that, plan ahead. You can have them send your mail weekly to a temporary address, which should be a family member or close friend.

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