Planning an international vacation? Make sure your banking info is protected before, during, and after your trip with this guide from Fifth Third Bank.
One part of planning an international trip is making sure you’ll be able to pay for things that you need—without having to worry about your banking information being compromised. But in fact, 52% of travelers are concerned that their credit card or other sensitive digital information will get stolen while they're traveling, according to a survey by Morning Consult for IBM.
Put your mind at ease by taking steps to protect yourself before, during and after your trip:
Before You Travel
Give your bank the heads up. Let your financial institution know that you’re going away, and where you’re going to be. This accomplishes two things: First, it keeps your bank from marking your sudden overseas charges as “fraudulent” and freezing your cards. Second, it may speed up your bank’s response if anything fraudulent actually occurs while you’re away.
Make photocopies. Make copies of all your important financial items, such as your credit cards (get front and back, so you have bank contact info), your driver’s license, and your passport. You can also use your smartphone to take photos or scans. Send a set to a trusted family member or friend and keep a copy yourself. If your items are stolen, your set of copies can come in handy.
Plan to “carry on” your cash. Don’t put any of your financial documents (including cash) in your checked luggage. If it’s lost or compromised, you’ll be starting your trip off at a big disadvantage.
Sign up for alerts. If your bank offers notifications on purchases or unusual activity, opt in to them. It’s a good way to stay on top of your banking activity and make sure no one’s hacked your account while you’re sightseeing.
On Your Trip
Travel with as little as possible. Leave all your extra credit cards at home and travel only with the ones you need. Leave your checkbook at home, too—you likely won’t need it, and it’s got a lot of personal information on it. Leave your passport in the hotel safe, and don’t travel with all your cash. If you have multiple credit cards on the trip, take only one with you when you go out, and leave the rest with your passport. That way, if some items are lost or stolen, you still have back-up.
Use your credit card. If your debit card is hacked, thieves will have direct access to your bank account, which can be a real bump in your travel road. It could take days for your bank to restore your lost cash. If your credit card is compromised, you can report the fraud and have the charges canceled without any dire effects to your travel circumstances.
Be smart about carrying money. Keeping your wallet in your back pocket is just asking to get pickpocketed on the tour bus. Look into a money belt or other secure way to carry your financial essentials. Carry only as much cash as you might need for the day, and leave the rest in the hotel safe.
Use friendly ATMs. Get cash in the local currency from ATMs affiliated with your home bank to avoid fees, if possible. Use your debit card, not a credit card, for this.
What To Do If You Lose Your Wallet
Alert your bank and cancel cards as needed. If you took photocopies or photos of your cards before you left, use that information to call your card providers, let them know your card has been stolen, and determine the best way for them to send you a new one.
File a police report. Many credit card companies require this in order to issue you a new card.
Call the DMV. If you need a new driver’s license, make a call to the Department of Motor Vehicles in your state.
Find an embassy. If you’re traveling internationally and you lost your passport, locate the nearest U.S. Embassy. They can assist you with replacing your passport and, if needed, having someone back home wire you cash.
After You Get Home
Keep an eye out. Don’t just whistle past your credit card bills when you return from your trip. Take regular looks at your bank and credit card statements to make sure you recognize all transactions. Thieves often try small charges first to see if you notice them before they break out the big charges, so a little attentiveness can go a long way.
Reroute recurring charges as needed. If you lost your wallet while you were away, go through old statements (which you can usually find online) to find recurring charges to those credit cards, such as your gym membership or other subscriptions. Make sure to give them your updated billing information.
Travel should be a fun and enlightening investment in your overall happiness. By taking precautions ahead of time and while traveling, you can ensure you protect yourself against financial fraud or theft during your trip—and can fully enjoy the new experiences that go along with a trip abroad.