Taking a vacation is meant to be relaxing and refreshing. It is a big investment—and one that sometimes takes several months or years to save up for. The last thing you want to worry about while you are having fun on your travels is to deal with identity theft or credit card fraud. Take a look at these simple tips to help your protect your credit when you travel.
This post has been sponsored by Lexington Law. Please know that all opinions are mine alone and are honestly conveyed.
Take only one or two credit cards
When you are going on vacation, you don’t need to take all of the credit cards in your wallet. In fact, you should really only need to take one or two credit cards with you—along with your driver’s license. If your wallet happens to get stolen, it is much easier to call and cancel one or two cards, rather than every credit card that you may typically carry in your wallet. It also is a great way to concisely track all the charges that you make. This will provide a list of all charges from the trip in one location, so you can easily tell how much money you’ve spent (and if you stayed within budget!)… and if the charges were accurate.
Don’t use your debit card
While your debit card offers secure purchases by having you enter your PIN, your credit card probably offers better fraud and travel protection than your debit card does. So, if something fraudulent were to take place while you are on vacation, it could go unnoticed until the point that your account is overdrawing. Because your debit card pulls money straight from your bank account, it may be harder to recover that money once it has left your account—even for a fraudulent charge. As with a credit card, there is a process to follow for disputed charges, however, when dealing with your debit card, the money is not credited back to your account until after the dispute has been settled. This could leave you without access to your money for several weeks. With a credit card, it is just the charge that you are disputing—no money has left your account yet. It is typically much easier to dispute charges on your credit card to get items reversed or removed in the case of fraud, and avoid having cash from your bank account tied up during the process.
Notify your credit card company of your travel dates
It is always a good idea to let your credit card company know when you will be traveling. If you don’t notify them, and unusual activity begins occurring on your account, the credit card company may temporarily lock your account, thinking that it is fraudulent charges. The last thing that you want to happen is not be able to pay for items on your vacation!
Use cash when possible
While you may not be able to pay for all of your travel expenses with cash, using cash when you can definitely minimizes your exposure to identity or credit theft. You probably will need to use a credit card to secure the hotel and airline reservations, but you can utilize cash to pay for smaller items, such as meals, gas, or souvenirs.
Don’t use public WiFi
Public WiFi is convenient, however, it is typically not secure, so it may be easier for a hacker to have access to your personal information. Instead of utilizing public WiFi, there are a couple of alternatives that you could use:
- Make your smartphone into a Hotspot—using your phone as a Hotspot for data for your other devices is a great option because you are not on public Wifi, however, it does use your data from your smartphone plan. So, unless you have unlimited data, you could end up owing for the extra data usage. Make sure you know your data levels and potential charges before utilizing this option.
- Borrow a Hotspot from your local library—did you know that your local library offers Hotspots for free? Of course, each library is different, so you may need to call around to see if your local library offers Hotspots, and if so, what their rules are regarding the usage of the Hotspot.
Leave your social security card at home
This is something that you should be doing anyways, but, if you are currently carrying it with you—take your social security card out of your wallet, and leave it at home. Typically, your driver’s license, a passport, or some sort of state issued identification is all you will need in order to write a check or use a credit or debit card. So unless you need it for a specific purpose, kept it at home in a safe place.
Secure your smartphone
Make sure your smartphone is password protected. This is probably something that you should do anyways, but especially important when you will be traveling. If you were to lose your smartphone or if it were stolen, you want to make sure that no one else is able to access your phone and the apps that you have on it—especially if some of those are connected to personal information, banking, or credit cards. Utilize banking apps on your smartphone is convenient, however, it can open you up to identity theft or credit card fraud if someone else is able to easily access that information.
Stay off social media
While it is really tempting to count down your vacation plans on your personal social media, it can also potentially open you up to hackers and thieves who may try to take advantage of the situation. Whenever you are dealing with personal accounts, it is best to post pictures and videos after you return from vacation.
Saving receipts can not only help you keep track of all your vacation expenses, but can also be a great way to verify charges that may show up on your credit card account from your trip. When you are on vacation, it may be easy to have an additional expense show up that you may not notice because you might have several atypical expenses showing up on your credit card statement at that time. Keeping all of you vacation receipts (for both cash and credit purchases) is a quick way to identify anything that doesn’t belong.
Monitor your credit
Do you know what’s showing up on your report? If there has been fraudulent activity, do you know where to start to get it cleared up? The professionals at Lexington Law can help assess your situation and guide you through the process.