Staying Secure While Traveling Abroad

An important part of your vacation planning process should include consideration of how you will handle money and expenditures on your trip. In most cases, a credit card is the best option when you travel, especially in a foreign country.

Listed below are guidelines and important steps you can take to prepare for your trip abroad. The list highlights specific information regarding the use of debit cards, credit cards, and currency.

  • Notify your bank of your travel plans.
    • Before you leave, notify your bank, credit card company, or other financial institution that you are traveling abroad and provide them with the specific dates and locations/areas for your travels, as often an unusual change in charging habits or location may result in the fraud department placing restrictions on your account. To contact your credit card company, call the telephone number listed on the back of your card.
  • Consider limiting the cash you carry.
    • Verify and understand the exchange rate before you travel. Avoid carrying cash and consider alternate forms of payment such as credit cards. If you choose to carry cash, carry only enough for one day’s safety net in the event you run into problems with your credit card.
  • Select appropriate debit and credit cards for your destination.
    • Worldwide, Visa®, and MasterCard® are the most widely accepted cards. Carry only the cards you will need with you on your trip and leave the others in a safe place at home. Generally one ATM/debit card for access to cash if needed and one or two credit cards are recommended.
  • Confirm your card limits and expiration dates.
    • Check the expiration dates on your card(s) to make sure they will be useable for the entire trip length. Most cards have daily purchase and cash advance limits. You may wish to confirm these with your bank or card company prior to your departure. Generally these limits can be temporarily adjusted to suit your travel needs.
  • Find out what fees to expect.
    • When you contact your bank or card issuer, ask about their foreign currency exchange or foreign transaction fee(s). Fees generally range from 1%-2%.
  • Confirm contact information for your card issuer.
    • Typically the customer service 800 numbers printed on the back of your card are not usable abroad. Thus, when you contact your bank or card issuer, ask for the appropriate telephone number for the region you are traveling to.
  • Back up your critical information.
    • You will want to have a list of your card(s) information and telephone numbers for card issuers in the event they are lost or stolen. Additionally, you should photocopy your passport and airline tickets and keep these in the same place in case those are lost or stolen along with your cards. Keep this separate from your wallet and cards. If you have any secure information on it, you should keep it in a hotel safe or a secure area on the internet that you can safely access. It is also a good idea to leave copies of the front and back of each card, and any other important documents you are carrying, with a trusted friend or close relative back home.
  • Confirm acceptance of your card prior to your purchase.
    • The presence of a card logo on a door, window, or cash register is not a guarantee of acceptance, so it is important to ask prior to committing to the service or meal lest you will be seeking other payment methods.
  • Keep all your receipts.
    • This is a good rule of thumb for all card expenditures but particularly for those made abroad. If a charge appears later that is inaccurate, you will have the proof available for your dispute. Keep them for several months in the event charges are delayed, which is not unusual with foreign transactions.
  • Treat your plastic as if it was cash.
    • Don't leave your card unattended in your luggage or hotel room; store it in your wallet or money belt, and keep these out of view of others while traveling. Beware of pickpocket scams; a common scenario is someone bumping into you and another distracting you while the pickpocket lifts your wallet or grabs a purse.
  • Beware of duplicate charges.
    • This may most often occur when you have used a card to hold a reservation for lodging or car rental, and then you pay the bill in cash instead. As stated above, keep all your receipts, whether it is cash or credit, to ensure you have proof of payment in the event of this sort of error.

A few preventative measures will help keep the loss or theft of your wallet a minor annoyance instead of a vacation-halting affair, making your trip a more relaxing and safer adventure. For further travel information safety tips and specific information about the destination you are traveling to, visit to the U.S. Passports & International Travel website:  http://travel.state.gov/content/passports/english/go/checklist.html

First Bank & Trust provides this information as a courtesy because we are concerned about your personal and financial safety during travel. The advice and information contained here is presented for general education purposes and to increase overall travel security awareness. The information provided is intended to be accurate and helpful, but it should not be considered an exhaustive list of personal and financial security protection measures.