Credit Card Tips for Vacationers

Oct 28, 2009

Your credit card is one of the first things you’ll put in your pocket when you head out for vacation – and with good reason.

Many cards offer consumer protection features such as replacement of items that may be stolen or broken, and if your card is stolen, you probably have zero liability as long as you report it in a timely fashion. That makes carrying a credit card both safer and smarter than carrying cash.

But there are a few precautions you should take.

First, look over your credit card agreements and choose the cards that do offer replacement features. Then look at your statements and choose the cards that have the lowest balance and the highest credit limit – you don’t want your vacation to wreck your credit scores. Double-check before you leave home just to make sure your credit limit hasn’t changed since your last statement.

Choose two cards, just in case one does get lost or stolen. Consider one the primary and keep one as a back-up.

Once you’ve chosen the cards you’ll carry, call your credit card issuer and let them know you’ll be on vacation. If you don’t take this step, you could find yourself in a strange place with your credit card charges being denied! You don’t want to be accused of identity theft just because your home is in Oregon and you’re vacationing in New York.

If you’re planning to use a debit card, call your bank and let them know your plans as well.

Now make a photo copy of the cards – front and back – being sure that the contact numbers are clear. If the number listed is an 800 number and you’re going out of the country, call and ask for a toll number because you may not be able to use the 800 number.

When you check into your hotel, put the copy in the safe along with your back-up credit card and any other valuables that shouldn’t be laying around loose in your room.

Since you probably will need a little cash in your pocket while you’re sight-seeing, you’ll probably use an ATM to get it as you need it. Check the fees and take a couple day’s worth of cash out each time.

Be careful about the ATM you use! Some are bogus, so plan ahead and use the ATM at a bank if at all possible. One in your hotel lobby should also be safe.

Be sure to carry your cash and credit cards in an inside pocket – not in a wallet or purse that is easy prey for a pickpocket or a “snatch and run” thief.

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