With summer season in full swing, travel is heating up. Summer is vacation season, after all — the kids are out of school, the open road is calling and you still have plenty of vacation time to use. But if you’re not careful, your summer family vacation could transform from rest and relaxation to all-out nightmare. And when we talk about being careful, we mean as it pertains to your credit cards.
Yes, credit cards remain the top way to pay for goods and services while you’re on vacation. And don’t think that local scammers in tourist hotspots don’t know this. On this note, we encourage you to do more than just the basics to keep your credit cards secure. Here’s a look at some tips for keeping your information safeguarded.
Tips to Keep Your Credit Cards Safe During Travel
- Inquire about card security: When you’re on the road, chances are the largest expense is going to be that of your lodging accommodations. What’s more is that the hotel industry accounts for about 8 percent of all card hacks these days. Make sure that the hotel uses encryption technology when it runs your card, as this is a better safeguarder of your confidential information. Also be sure to always use a credit card — and not a debit card — on large purchases, if not every purchase. It’s much easier to report fraud and receive a timely refund than if you used debit.
- Don’t use public Wi-Fi to access confidential sites: We get how you might need to stay connected while you’re away, but never — and we mean never! — access any confidential webpages (i.e., credit card, online banking, etc.) using public Wi-Fi. Usually such networks are far less secure and trustworthy than your home network. You never know who may be spying on it.
- Card carrying tips: Think about where you’re storing your wallet (and credit cards) before you jet out for a day of sightseeing at your destination. Are you carrying it in your back pocket, a backpack or in a purse? You may want to think twice about this, as backpacks and purses provide easy access to thieves, and professional pick pocketers usually have no problem swiping a wallet out of your back pocket. Consider keeping your wallet in your front pocket at a minimum. If you want to further improve your wallet security, consider using a fanny pack, money belt or a shoulder strap bag.
- Be safe around ATMs: ATMs are another hotspot for hacking activity, especially in heavy tourist areas. If you do need to pull out money to have petty cash on hand, make sure that you’re doing it near a well-lit ATM and are only accessing it during daytime hours. We’d even suggest opting for an ATM that’s located indoors rather than one out in public. Also be aware of any unusual activity around ATMs, as thieves have all kinds of tips and tricks to get your PIN number these days.
- Use common sense: Finally, it’s worth reinforcing some common sense points to help keep your credit cards safe. For starters, slim down on your wallet so that it’s only containing the necessities. This way, you won’t be fumbling around in it to find what you need. Also, pick pocketers always zero in on the big, thick wallets. Secondly, consider contacting your bank and letting them know your travel plans. Be sure to write down important contact numbers on a piece of paper in your luggage in case your cards get swiped. This will make it much easier to cancel it. One other thing that you’ll want to do is check your credit card statement upon your return to make sure that all charges were made by you. File a fraud report immediately if something is awry.