Stop! Look! Think! Tips to Protect Your Money When Traveling with Cards

People often seek convenience in their lives, which is why they use debit, credit and prepaid cards when traveling any distance away from their homes. You might believe that modern technologies have made these cards 100 percent safe, but you can still experience theft and fraud that severely damage your finances. Although major card issuers usually offer zero fraud liability protection, you can lose a lot of time and money if someone steals your card information. Banks and other financial institutions don't immediately reimburse stolen funds. They must first perform an investigation.

Whether you're merely making a grocery run or traveling for business or vacation reasons, any type of theft and fraud scenario can cause a disruption to your plans. If you lose your debit card, you might even find yourself unable to pay critical, non-travel-related, regular bills while awaiting a resolution. To reduce risk when traveling with payment cards, follow these important tips:

Prepare Ahead of The Trip

Anyone who uses one or more payment cards can protect themselves in part with a bit of preparation. For example, never take any cards with you that you don't need so that you can stop a thief from gaining access to all of your cards if you lose your wallet or purse. This tip is also important because some people keep their wallets and purses so packed with payment cards, store loyalty cards, cash, receipts and other items that they accidentially pull out more than one card and lose the second one while trying to pay at a store or use an ATM.

Additionally, check if the issuer of your card can send you transaction confirmation notifications via text messages so that you're always aware of any possible theft taking place in real time. If you don't need much cash while traveling, lower your ATM withdrawal amount so that anyone who steals your card can't use it to take a lot of cash from your account. To protect your bank account and prevent a longer reimbursement process if theft occurs, use a credit card or prepaid card instead of your debit card, especially on long-distance trips.

Consider the Risk in Every Space

If you don't maintain awareness of what's happening around you while traveling, you open yourself up to payment card theft. For example, a lot of cardholders while in a rush during a trip don't stand close enough to an ATM keypad or screen to block important details about their transaction from people behind them in a line. As a result, a person in line might easily see your PIN number or the total balance remaining in your account. It would then take little effort for them to steal your wallet or purse and use the information to steal your money.

Another problem is data skimming. Some thieves install card skimmers on ATMs and at gas pumps to collect data from swiped transactions. At grocery store checkouts and restaurants, unscrupulous people also skim data with a skimmer on their belt or next to the register before running a standard transaction. They're able to commit theft so easily because they know that many cardholders don't have great situational awareness and fail to consider these risks when rushing or shopping.

To lower the risk, always keep your card transactions hidden from others in public spaces. Use encrypted chip cards in chip readers instead of older magnetic stripe technology. Also, never hand your card to anyone else to run a transaction unless you can see what they're doing with it at all times.

Remember to Use Common Sense

All spaces are potentially risky, but some spaces are obviously riskier than others, which is why it's so important to use common sense when traveling. For example, many public spaces have unscure Wi-Fi access points. For this reason, never perform an app or browser payment card transaction while using a personal device on public Wi-Fi.

It's also important to remember that many places aren't as secure as they might appear from outside. For example, although most hotels use secure card readers to lock and unlock room doors, their rooms often have thin walls, especially when connected to another room by a door. As a result, never read out your payment card number loudly while on the phone arranging any services, such as food delivery or travel tickets.

Some people also forget to use common sense when upset. Lodgings and restaurants often experience point-of-sale equipment outages. In these scenarios, a cardholder while upset might unthinkingly place their card with the numbers facing up on a counter in plain view of other people in line even though they would normally keep it in their hand or wallet. You can protect your card by simply taking a deep breath and reminding yourself to keep the card in your hand, wallet or purse until you can use it.

Things to Keep in Mind

It is possible to lower the risk of credit card theft while traveling any distance away from your home. You merely need to remember before and during the trip that preparation, situational awareness and common sense are critical things to keep in mind at all times.

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