Protect Your Credit While Traveling

Are you traveling for an extended period of time? Whether you are going abroad or staying in the U.S., it’s important to take steps to protect your credit. Here are a few things you could do to help you have a smooth trip.

Pay for Expenses Wisely

You’ll need a way to pay for your expenses each day. Some credit cards offer travel miles, hotel deals and other travel perks. You can take advantage of these opportunities to save money. Also, you often don’t need to take all of your credit cards with you. Consider leaving one or more in a secure location where you are staying. Carry enough cash or credit for the day, but not excessive amounts. If something happens, you want to limit the impact it’ll have. Losing one day’s worth of cash or one card is not pleasant, but losing it all at once could leave you stranded. Traveler’s checks can still a good way to safely carry “cash”, but it is getting harder to find merchants that accept them.

Research Fees and Restrictions

Check into foreign transaction fees for your credit cards, and consider applying for a card with no foreign fees if you don’t have one. Also, find out if there are banking restrictions that will affect you in the countries you are visiting. Do they only accept certain types of cards in the area where you will be traveling? Do banks and ATMs have limited operating hours? Are there remote areas where you will need to charge your accommodations in advance? For those of you with Schwab Accounts, an added benefit is that they don’t charge any foreign transaction fees and they will reimburse all of your ATM fees at the end of each month.

Consider Automatic Bill Pay and e-Delivery

You may want to arrange for automatic bill pay for your credit cards and other recurring expenses while you’re away. Setting this up for a specific day of the month can help you keep track of transactions and plan your vacation cash flow. This could also help you avoid missing a payment, which is one of the biggest things that could negatively impact your credit (and can stay on your credit report for seven years).

While you are at it, consider switching your bills and credit card statements to e-delivery (if that isn’t the current setting already). If you want hard copies of your bills, you can print the online statements and keep them in your filing system. This helps minimize the personal information from piling up in your mailbox. You should also stop your mail delivery temporarily or give a friend access to pick up your mail.

Keep Records

It’s good practice to keep secure copies of important records when you travel, like the front and back of the credit cards you’ll be using and your passport. Doing this can give you easy access to your account numbers and the customer service numbers if you misplace your cards or they are stolen.

The records you maintain are only as safe as how you protect them. If you’re keeping physical copies, store them in a secure location, like your hotel safe. Similarly, if you decide to use an online service, remember to take steps like safeguarding both the device that you use to access the service as well as using passwords wisely. You should also understand the safeguards the service uses to protect your information.

Let Your Lenders Know You’ll Be Out of the Country

If you are traveling internationally, contact your credit card issuers (and us!) to let them know where you will be traveling. Give them the approximate regions and dates if you don’t have a specific itinerary. Also, inform your card issuers if your travel plans change from what you had shared with them.

Think Carefully About Social Media Usage

While we always recommend people pay close attention to their privacy settings on social media, it is doubly important when traveling for an extended period of time. Before traveling, make sure your privacy settings are up to date and that posts can only be seen by those whom you intend. You’ll also want to avoid publicly disclosing the specifics of your travel plans. Crooks have been known to crawl social media looking for people who are out of town and target their residences for break-ins. When in doubt, wait until after you’re home to share pictures and videos of your trip.

Look Out For Signs of Fraud

When making purchases, always check ATMs and card readers for suspicious devices that may skim your information. Also, determine your backup plan for getting cash or replacement cards in the event of theft or fraud. Is there a relative or friend that will be nearby? Where is your nearest bank location? For longer trips, consider placing a fraud alert on file with the credit bureaus or freezing your credit to prevent new cards from being issued while you are away.

Keep your vacation focused on the fun you’ll be having by considering the tips above before and during your trip. Get started now and have a great time on your travels!