Summer’s here and with it comes the classic vacation: the great American road trip. It’s important to check more than your brakes and tires when you’re preparing to hit the highway. Make sure your credit is in good shape so you’re ready for any financial bumps that may be along the road. Here are some tips for how to plan ahead.
Understand Your Trip Budget’s Possible Impact on Your Credit Score
The last thing on your mind when you’re heading out on vacation is your credit scores, but a vacation can have an unexpected impact on them. Will you be using one or more credit cards to pay for the trip? High credit card balances can sometimes drive up your credit utilization rates, which means if your card balances are too high in relation to your total available credit, it may lower your scores. Consider paying with cash, using a debit card, or prepaying some of your expenses to spread out the impact, especially if you’re planning to apply for a mortgage or other loan shortly after you return home.
Use Your Credit Card Benefits
Many credit cards have perks that are perfect for a summer road trip, such as cash back on gas purchases, member roadside assistance and additional insurance coverage if you’re renting a car. Call your credit card company to find out what member benefits are available to you. This way you’ll know which card to use more heavily if one of them offers benefits that will save you money.
Don’t Get Tripped Up By Breaking Down
Unexpected issues can happen on road trips. You might have a flat tire, a breakdown or run into a delay that requires you to stay an extra night in a hotel. Prepare financially for these issues with an active roadside membership plan. Ensure that you have an available credit card balance — or cash in your accounts — to cover an emergency.
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Let Your Credit Card Companies Know You’re Traveling
Nothing’s more frustrating than stopping to fuel up and finding out that your credit or debit card has been frozen. A lender or bank may freeze your credit if it detects unusual activity, at least until it can verify that the activity is legitimate. While many people notify their banks and card companies before traveling abroad, even domestic travel can set off a fraud alert for suspicious activity.
Always call credit card companies in advance to let them know about your travel plans and include all of states you could potentially drive through, not just the destination.
Check Your Credit Reports After a Trip
Travel can sometimes make you more vulnerable to identity theft since you’re using your credit card more frequently in lots of different locations. Check your free credit reports two to three months after your trip for any transactions or new accounts you don’t recognize. Being vigilant for unknown transactions lets you take action quickly. Check your free credit score while you’re at it to find how — or even if — your trip has affected it.
A road trip can be a budget-friendly and exciting way to see the country. Check your credit report today to make sure your credit is in great shape before you hit the road.