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Top 10 Credit Card Safety Tips While Traveling

July 10, 2019
Sightseeing taking pictures
Top 10 Credit Card Safety Tips While Traveling

So, the suitcases are packed, you've dropped the dog off at the boarding kennel and you remembered to alert the post office to stop your mail. Now you're ready to head out for that well-deserved vacation, right?

Perhaps not if you didn't take the extra precautionary steps to protect your credit cards before you left. Credit card fraud is on the rise as hackers and thieves are getting savvier and gutsier. Although your credit card is susceptible to fraud anywhere you go, you are more likely to be a target while on vacation, especially if you're vacationing outside the US. According to the National Travel and Tourism Office, 2016 set a record as more Americans than ever traveled abroad. Nearly 67 million US citizens left America's borders, up 8% from the previous year. 

What can you do to keep your credit cards safe and avoid transaction delays while traveling? Here are a few of our top suggestions:

1. Always let your card issuer know when you are traveling.
Notify your credit card company in advance of your travel plans any time you are leaving your typical shopping zone (and especially if you're going out of the country). Transactions that occur at locations you don't typically patronize could be flagged by fraud departments and could result in your purchase being denied or delayed. 

2. Lower your cash withdrawal daily limit while you are out of town. 
Make arrangements with your credit card company to temporarily reduce the amount of cash that can be withdrawn daily from an ATM or point-of-sale terminal to limit what a thief could possibly access.

3. Limit the number of cards in your possession.
Data from Experian shows that the average American in 2015 had 2.25 bank-issued cards, plus an array of store credit cards. The more cards you carry with you while traveling, the more chance there is that one will be lost or stolen. Only carry what you have to while traveling. 

4. Choose credit cards over debit cards.
If possible, avoid carrying or using debit cards when traveling because these allow direct access to your savings or checking account. Credit cards, on the other hand, may offer more protections; you may be able to limit your financial liability if they're stolen. 

5. Separate cards.
The age-old warning of "don't put all of  your eggs in one basket" is certainly appropriate in this situation! Instead of one person carrying all the credit cards in one wallet, consider dividing them up so you always have a back-up if one card is lost or stolen.

6. Make copies of your cards.
Before you leave home, be sure to photocopy both sides of your card. If your card is stolen, you will need to contact the issuer, and without the copies, you might not have the company's phone number to call or the credit card number to report. 

7. Keep cards in your possession.
Don't make it easy on would-be thieves by exposing cards in the open or carrying them in an outside pocket of a backpack. If you're headed for an activity that doesn't allow you to carry your cards on you, such as swimming or zip lining, consider using the hotel safe or another locked option.

8. Protect your PIN at ATMs and POS terminals. 
In recent years, more thieves have used card-skimming devices to photograph card numbers and PINs while in use. Always cover your hand while entering your PIN to avoid cameras or other duplicating devices that may have been installed above the ATM or POS screen.

9. Check card activity regularly.
With most credit card statements now available online, it's easier to track transactions through your phone. If you spot any suspicious activity on your statement, notify your credit card company immediately to limit your financial liability. 

10. Beware of what you're signing.
Before signing a credit card receipt, double-check the amount. Don't leave any blank spaces on the receipt. If the amount is quoted in a foreign currency and you can't do the math in your head, download a currency conversion app on your phone to make certain you're not being overcharged. And once you've signed the receipt, take your copy with you and retain it for future use. 

Cortland Bank offers a variety of VISA cards to match individual needs and budgets. If  you're going to be traveling and spending larger amount of money, be sure to ask about cards that offer cash-back rewards. If you plan on traveling abroad, make sure you compare the various foreign transaction fees that may be charged before deciding what card to take. 

Whatever card you choose, hopefully you'll have a better chance of keeping it safe by remembering the above simple tips. Best wishes for a very memorable vacation! 

The information and recommendations contained herein is compiled from sources deemed reliable but is not represented to be accurate or complete. In providing this information, neither Cortland Bank or its affiliates are acting as your agent or is offering you any tax, accounting or legal advice.

By selecting any external link on www.cortlandbank.com, you will leave the Cortland Bank website and be directed to an unaffiliated third-party website that may offer a different privacy policy or level of security. The third-party is responsible for website content and system availability. Cortland Bank does not offer, endorse, recommend or guarantee any product or service available on that entity’s website.

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