Traveling Soon? Take these credit card precautions

Can you imagine the panic and embarrassment of being hundreds or thousands of miles from home, trying to pay for your hotel room – or even your dinner – and having your credit card rejected?

It could happen, even if you have a huge credit line and your account is paid in full.

Because credit card issuers are trying to crack down on fraudulent use, making a purchase far from your usual stomping ground could send up a red flag – one that gets your purchase rejected. So before you leave home, call your card issuers. Tell them where you’re going and how long you expect to be away.

While you’re on the phone, ask if you have a daily ATM withdrawal limit or a daily spending limit. Some cards do and some don’t. Trying to exceed the daily limit could also lead to embarrassment.

You could also have your wallet stolen – or you could simply lose it. So make a list of all the cards you’re taking along, and include the customer service number and other information you’ll need to report a theft. Make copies and put them in separate places, so the list doesn’t get stolen along with the cards.

As a further precaution, keep those cards separated. Put one in your own wallet, another in your traveling companion’s wallet, and perhaps a third in the hotel safe. You don’t want to be left high and dry with no access to funds in case of a loss or theft.

If you generally use a debit card for all expenses, switch to a credit card while you’re traveling. Credit cards are more secure, and if there’s a problem you’ll be disputing a credit line, not looking at an empty bank account.

Keep in mind that skimmers all over the world are hard at work trying to retrieve your credit card data for their own use, so be very careful when using automated machines. If you need to withdraw funds from an ATM, try to choose a machine that’s inside of a bank.

If you need to check your account balances, use your phone, not a public WiFi connection or a public use computer. Also refrain from making credit card purchases over these insecure connections. Revealing your financial information through these connections is like issuing an engraved invitation to credit data harvesters.

As for your phone – think of it as the mini-computer that it really is. It could contain all of your banking and shopping information. So when you’re not using it, lock it. Phones are easily lost or stolen, and yours could be a gold mine for an opportunistic crook.

One last thing – every time you use that credit card, think of it as money coming out of your bank account, because it does have to be repaid. It’s easy to get carried away while on vacation, so instead of happy memories of a good time, you’ll be plagued with high credit card balances for months to come.

An easy way to avoid that problem while keeping your bank account and your credit cards secure is to opt for a travel card. Decide in advance how much you’ll spend on meals, tours, and souvenirs, then purchase a pre-loaded card and keep track of your expenses. Only take your credit cards along for emergencies or unexpected expenses.

Have fun on your vacation – and keep your credit safe.

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Disclaimer: This information has been compiled and provided by as an informational service to the public. While our goal is to provide information that will help consumers to manage their credit and debt, this information should not be considered legal advice. Such advice must be specific to the various circumstances of each person's situation, and the general information provided on these pages should not be used as a substitute for the advice of competent legal counsel.