1. Let Credit Card Issuers Know About Your Travel Plans
The fraud detection systems employed by credit card companies have gotten very good indeed -- sometimes too good. If you do not want your new spending patterns to trigger a fraud alert on your cards, let the issuers know about your travel plans ahead of time.
Just call the number on the back of your card, verify your personal information and let the representative know where you are going, when you plan to arrive and how long you expect to stay. The issuer will then place a travel alert on your file, so you can pay for your hotel, buy some souvenirs and have a great time without worrying about a fraud alert.
2. Pack the Minimum Number of Cards and Keep Them Separate
If your wallet is full of credit cards, it is time to lighten the load. Taking too many cards could make your life difficult if your wallet is lost or stolen while on vacation, so take only the cards you plan to use. Be sure to let the issuers know you will be using those cards while traveling (see Item 1 above).
Once you decide which cards will be accompanying you on vacation, separate them to reduce the risk of travel disruption. Carry one card in your regular wallet, another in a separate one that will go in the hotel safe, and possibly a third in a secret location.
3. Make Copies of the Cards You Plan to Take
You will want an easy way to contact the credit card issuers if your cards are lost or stolen, but when you lose the card, you also lose the toll-free number printed on the back. So before you leave home, make copies of your travel cards, front and back, and upload them to your favorite cloud storage service.
You can also leave a copy of your credit cards with a trusted friend or relative. Never place those copies in your luggage, though. If your suitcase gets lost along the way, the finder will have full access to your credit card accounts.
4. Update Your Login Credentials
It is always a good idea to update the passwords to your credit card accounts, so now is the perfect time to do so. If you have been putting off changing your credit card account passwords, a looming vacation is as good an excuse as any.
Make sure each password is unique and long enough to ward off all but the most sophisticated hacking attempts. Never sign on to your accounts over public Wi-Fi - those networks are rarely secure and can be very risky.
5. Take Advantage of Email and Text Alerts
Most banks now offer email or text alerts, so take advantage of them. You can choose to get an alert after every purchase or only when a suspicious charge is suspected. Either way, you are giving yourself an extra layer of protection against fraud.
If you do see a suspicious charge come through, contact the credit card issuer at once, using the number on the back of your card. Never click links embedded in text messages or emails - they could be legitimate, but they could also be attempts to gather your account number and password.
6. Go Over Your Statements with a Fine-Toothed Comb
Even if your credit card never left your wallet, RFID readers and other remote hacks could have compromised your information. No matter how much or how little you spent on each card, go over every statement with a fine-toothed comb.
Watch out for small purchases that could fly under the radar on a high credit card bill; these are often testing charges to verify the validity of the card. If you fail to shut down those small charges and report the fraud, you could end up with much higher fraudulent charges in the months to come.
Staying safe on vacation is important, from your physical safety to the security of your finances. No matter where you are traveling, pay attention to your surroundings, be street smart and use the six strategies listed above to protect your credit.
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