It’s almost Memorial Day…the “unofficial” start to summer. Where will your summer plans take you? To the neighborhood pool or a faraway dream spot? You know the trip to the neighborhood pool requires sunscreen, maybe a hat and enough cash for a few poolside snacks. But what about the trip to that faraway dream spot? What should you do to keep that dream from turning into a nightmare? Here are just a few tips to get you started.
- The first step starts before you ever leave home. Call your bank and credit card companies to let them know where and when you’ll be traveling. By doing this, you may avoid hassles when using your credit card for that amazing souvenir that you simply MUST have. Plus, should you have an issue with a lost or stolen card, the company will already know you’re traveling and may be able to replace that card a bit more quickly.
- Still before you leave, decide which cards you’re going to take. Make a note of the pertinent information and store it securely on your phone or somewhere separate from the card itself. It’s wise to take just a couple of cards to minimize the potential loss. Don’t carry both cards in the same place while you’re out and about. Carry one in your wallet and one in your money belt. (BONUS TIP: Remember that 800 numbers can only be used in the US and Canada so be sure to jot down the international customer service line that can usually be found on the back of your card. If it’s not there, check their website or call their US customer service number to get it before you leave.)
- Now that you’ve arrived and are ready to head out to see that cathedral or museum you’ve been dreaming about, use a credit card for any purchases. There are several reasons for this, the main one being that a credit card is not directly tied to your bank account back home so if it is compromised or stolen, the culprit will not be able drain your bank accounts while you’re dining at a local sidewalk café. In addition, most credit cards offer purchase protections that are not available with debit cards (even those that may carry the MasterCard or Visa logo). These benefits include protection from fraudulent charges as well as, depending on the card, protection against loss or breakage of your treasure as you bring it home (check your card details for specifics).
- The easiest way to get cash while abroad is at an ATM. But, of course, there are a few caveats here as well. Be careful of ATMs that look as though they’ve been tampered with or are in a deserted location. Stick to ATMs that are in or near banks, hotels, the airport or train stations. Once you’ve gotten the cash you need, stash that ATM card back in your money belt or in the hotel safe and use your credit cards for your purchases (see above).
- Watch out for pickpockets. Be extra careful in crowds, while getting on or off trains and buses and while getting in and out of taxis. What about that beautiful view that is just waiting to be photographed? Be extra careful here, too. While all your attention is focused on getting just the right shot from just the right angle, the local pickpocket may have his attention focused on all the things you’re not paying attention to – your wallet, your purse, your backpack, etc. Don’t make things easy for them!
These are just a few tips to help you avoid a financial fiasco while you’re traveling. For additional information, check out www.bankrate.com, www.clark.com and www.smartertravel.com (among others). There’s a great summer adventure awaiting you…get out there and enjoy it!