Top 10 Travel Tips to Help Protect Your Credit
Setting sail for a glorious vacation? Whether you're planning a trip to Katmandu or Kansas City, you'll have a better time if you’re not worrying about the credit card bills waiting for you when you get back. Here are 10 quick travel tips to help make sure identity theft – and a drop in your credit score as a consequence – doesn’t come along on your trip.
1. Keep your receipts
Whenever you use a credit card or debit card, keep a record of it and check it against your statement when you get back. If you have online access during your vacation, you can even keep tabs on balances while you’re away, although not all merchants may process transactions as quickly as you’re used to.
2. Verify that you were charged correctly
If you spent cash in a foreign country, make sure you were charged correctly. (You might not be able to go back to Paris to complain, but you can let the credit card issuer know and they can follow up with the merchant.) Allow for exchange rates and also make sure you weren't "double billed" – sometimes careless or less scrupulous hotel staff might bill the credit card with which you made your reservation, even if you paid cash when you checked out.
3. Write down account numbers and contact information
Make sure you have information in a safe place (preferably with someone back at home) with all your credit card account numbers and how to get in touch with the card issuers in case of theft.
4. Travel with cards from more than one bank or credit issuer
It's a good idea to have more than one card, so that if one is stolen and you've got to close an account, you have emergency access to another.
5. Credit is safer if you're pickpocketed
In addition to allowing you to track all your spending, using credit protects you in case you do get pickpocketed. The cash in your wallet can disappear forever, but if you call the credit card company immediately, you may end up not being liable for anything bought with your stolen card.
6. Beware of debit card or ATM fees
If you're determined to spend cash, debit cards and ATM cards make it easy to get cash in another city or the local currency in a foreign country. Just be aware of the fees some banks charge for using cards at other banks and/or for currency conversion.
7. Find out if credit card issuers charge fees for overseas use
Some credit card companies charge either foreign transaction or currency conversion fees. So do the math and figure out whether ATM/debit fees would be lower than fees for using a credit card, or vice versa, and pay accordingly.
8. Know your expiration dates and limits
If your credit card has expired, you don't want to find out when you're trying to pay your hotel bill in Hawaii. The same is true for knowing how much you can charge; in case of an emergency, know how much cash you’ll have access to and how much you can charge.
9. Check that the cards you want to use are accepted
Some cards are more widely accepted than others, so do a little homework in advance about which cards to take. Also, if you're traveling overseas and see a credit card insignia on the door of a restaurant and store, double check that they accept the card, anyway. Some merchants have been known to post the logos but not take the cards!
10. Let card issuers know your plans
Whether you're leaving the country or just visiting another part of it, it's a good idea to tell the card company in advance. If a pattern of unusual charges appear, some credit card issuers may suspect fraud and try to protect you by shutting down that card.
Now that you know more travel tips to help protect your credit, get your Credit Report and Score.