There are certainly risks involved when traveling abroad, but the chance to collect new priceless experiences makes it all worth it. Nonetheless, you need to take extra caution to protect your money, especially when traveling overseas.
Nothing would ruin an otherwise well-planned vacation like suddenly losing access to money. Between the bank believing authorized purchases are by fraudulent thieves or otherwise charging hefty fees, as well as the chance that the exchange rate doesn’t work in one’s favor, it can be risky to travel without a monetary plan.
It’s always a priority to protect your money, but it’s even more important in this scenario. By taking a few precautions before embarking on your trip, anyone can ensure that a trip is smooth sailing all the way through. Here are some tips on keeping money safe while traveling:
Prior to the Trip
First and foremost, be smart when packing; keep the flashy valuables at home. The United States Department of State recommends avoiding showing off any affluence since it may make one a target for tourist scams.
Make sure to do some research on a travel destination to find out which parts may have more theft crimes. Avoid any parts that have high rates of crime or are known to have tourist scams. There are a few different ways to find out these areas:
- The United States Department of State provides crime data for different countries. This section provides information on safety threats and details common crimes.
- Check the newspapers of the destination. Look for news on Twitter or other sorts of updates from the area to get an idea of the situation there.
- Seek reviews for the destination. There are several websites where one may check the opinions of past travelers — who better to explain a destination than a former visitor?
In the same vein, it’s worth asking friends and family if they’re familiar with anyone who has traveled to this destination. Lastly, one may try contacting travel bloggers who have previously written about the country; they may be more than willing to answer personal questions.
Protecting Money During Travel
Once on the road, take additional precautions.
1. Talk with the credit card company.
Before getting on the plane out, make sure to acquire the bank’s international contact number. The typical 1-800 number that is normally used may not work while abroad. That said, be sure to use a credit card for any major purchase. In most cases, a credit card will have a zero-liability policy, meaning it is not the cardholder’s responsibility if charges occur on a stolen credit card.
Under the Fair Credit Billing Act, the maximum liability a cardholder may have for an unauthorized credit card charge is just $50. In other words, that’s all that one will need to pay should a thief steal one’s credit card. Either way, the sooner the credit card company is informed of the theft, the better.
A backup credit card is also worth considering — perhaps even two. In this case, there is another means of purchases if the primary card gets stolen, and the vacation won’t be ruined. Unlike the primary card, backup cards should be left securely in the hotel.
2. Divide the money.
If only going to follow a single rule when it comes to protecting money, make it this one: Whenever humanly possible, divide traveling money and credit cards into more than one safe places. If everything is in one place, then a thief only needs to find one place to make life very bad.
This idea also works while carrying on one’s person. For instance, keeping some money on one’s person and some in a carried bag. If the bag is stolen, there should still be enough money to at least return to the hotel or access a nearby police station.
3. Use a travel wallet.
A dummy wallet can be a good way to trick an inevitable thief, but it’s also worth looking for a wallet that is specially designed for travel use. After all, travelers who are used to using their wallet on a day to day basis, such as to use coffee gift cards, gym memberships, pocket change or loyalty member punch cards, it is easy to get stretched pockets.
With a travel-only wallet, credit cards won’t accidentally fall out of the pocket while fishing for something else in the pocket. Not only that, but it means you don’t need to repack the day to day wallet; just take whatever is needed on the road in the travel wallet.
4. Don’t use large amounts of cash.
Credit cards may not work for everything, and cash will sometimes be required, but it’s too risky to take large sums of it at once. Unlike credit cards, cash is gone forever once it’s stolen. Not only that, but using big bills to pay for something cheap just makes one a target for theft. Instead, keep the big cash on a debit card that can be withdrawn as needed, or keep it in a hotel safe or on a traveler’s check.
If it must be on your person, keep it tucked away in a pouch under your clothing while keeping the smaller bills handy to reach.
5. Monitor the debit card.
Always keep an eye on the debit card. They’re useful tools for taking out cash for small purchases while abroad, but it has direct ties to the checking account. If it gets stolen, it doesn’t take long to empty the account.
The Electronic Fund Transfer Act protects these transactions, but the cardholder must act quickly in order to limit his or her liability for unauthorized charges.
Aside from that, some countries have fraudulent ATMs that take information when using a debit card. The thieves put the false machines in high traffic areas. While using a credit card is the best bet, if withdrawing money is necessary, stick with an ATM that is in the hotel, in the airport or by a known bank.
Above all, it’s important to keep yourself safe while keeping your money safe. The same precautions that tourists use to protect themselves can help keep their money protected as well. For example:
- Keep aware of surroundings
- Keep away from unsafe areas or known high-theft areas
- Keep away from unknown shortcuts through dangerous places
- Stick with a partner
- Be extra careful while traveling at night
- How to Travel on a Budget
- Credit or Debit: What to Bring on Summer Vacations
- How can I protect credit cards from being scanned by thieves?
- How do credit cards with RFID work?
- Surviving a Vacation Financial Disaster
- How can you protect credit cards from illegal scams?