How to Protect Your Cards While on Vacation
Summer travel season is here! You’ve planned your itinerary and packed your bags, but don’t forget to take a few extra precautions with your finances. The last thing you want is to have your vacation ruined by the stress of card fraud. Here are some steps you can take to protect your credit or debit cards (and your identity) so you can sit back, relax, and enjoy your vacation:
Lighten Your Load
You know to only pack the essentials when it comes to your luggage; the same concept applies to your wallet. Travel light by only bringing the minimum of what you need and leaving the rest at home. Remember to only travel with your Social Security Card if it is absolutely necessary for identification purposes. Only bring your identification documents and the cards you know you plan to use. Bringing multiple credit cards only increases your risk of having one lost or stolen.
You also want to make sure you have the contact number for your card issuer, including the toll-free or international number, so you can quickly and easily contact them if you have any issues with your card. This information should be stored separately from your card.
While there’s no need to bring all of your credit cards, you should bring one “backup” card. This way if the card you are primarily using happens to be lost or stolen, you won’t be left with no way to pay. Additionally, not every card is universally accepted, so you will need to do your research and determine which cards will be the best options for you to bring. Bringing an additional card will ensure you still have access to funds if one card is lost or stolen, or not accepted, and you can still enjoy your vacation.
Spread it Out
The best philosophy when it comes to securing your sensitive information is to divide and conquer. This also applies if you bring more than one card on your journey. If you bring a backup card in case one is lost or stolen, but you store both cards in the same wallet, that defeats the purpose of bringing a backup. If a thief steals your wallet, they will have access to any cards or cash you had inside.
If you are staying somewhere that has an in-room safe, consider leaving your backup card secured in the safe and only bringing your primary card. You can also store any important documents containing sensitive data, the phone numbers for your card issuer, as well as any valuables. It would also be a good idea to break up your cash and leave most of it in the safe, keeping only a certain amount with you. This greatly reduces your risk of having all of your funds stolen.
If you don’t have an in-room safe, you may not be able to leave your backup card behind, but you can still spread out the location of your cards on a smaller scale. If you keep your primary card in your wallet or purse, keep your backup in a pocket on your clothing or in your camera bag.
If your card is used somewhere outside of your normal radius of activity, especially in a different country, that’s usually a big red flag for fraud. If we aren’t made aware that you will be travelling, we may think your card has been stolen and the transactions are fraudulent, which could result in your card being suspended. Make sure you update your cell phone numbers with us before you leave, so that we will be able to contact you if we need to verify any transactions. If you will have a temporary phone during your travels, be sure to provide us with that phone number as well. If you plan to travel internationally, let us know when and once you have arrived back home. That way, if your card is used for an international purchase after you’ve returned, we will know that it is fraudulent and can report it.
Our Card Guard allows you to remotely manage all aspects of your Robins Financial debit and credit cards. Card Guard helps you stay on top of your card use so you can easily detect any fraudulent activity. By using Card Guard, you have the ability to set alerts for different types of card activity, easily turn your cards off and on with just a touch, and set up location match.
You can set card alerts based on transaction amounts or the type of transaction, including: ATM transactions, if the card is declined, or if it’s used for an international transaction. If your card is lost or you suspect it has been stolen, or even if you plan to use cash for all your travel transactions and won’t be using your card for a while, you have the ability to turn your card off. This reduces your risk of falling victim to debit and credit card fraud, and you can turn it right back on if you find it or once you’re ready to use it again. Card Guard also includes a location match feature, which uses the GPS in your mobile phone to send your location information to Visa®, so that we can compare the merchant location where your card was used to your GPS location at the time of the transaction. This feature works internationally and allows easy detection and notification of your card being used without you present.
If you no longer wish to receive notifications of your card activity after you return from your travels, you can disable them just as easily as you set them up.
Monitor Your Accounts
Even if you set up alerts to receive notifications of activity on your account, regularly reviewing your accounts will give you an added layer of protection. Checking your accounts every day will help you keep track of your available balances and limits and help you notice right away if there are any suspicious transactions on your cards. Our convenient and secure Digital Banking allows you to access your account information anytime, anywhere.
Part of the thrill of travel is stepping outside of your norm, but don’t let yourself get so caught up in wanderlust that you let your guard down when it comes to protecting your cards. Scope out your surroundings through the lens of financial safety. Keep your cards in sight as much as possible during transactions. When dining at restaurants and paying with your card, consider asking if you can pay for your meal at the front register if that would make you more comfortable. Or, you can always opt for cash.
If you have to use an ATM while traveling, take extra caution to check for skimming devices that can steal your card information. Never use a machine that looks like it may have been tampered with. As a general rule, a financial institutions ATMs are more likely to have better protection in place than a generic ATM. Robins Financial belongs to a network of over 55,000 ATMs worldwide to provide you ATM access no matter where your travels take you. You can find a surcharge-free ATM near you using our location search. As an added measure of protection, consider changing your PIN to a new number before you depart, then change it again once you return.
Protect Your Device
Chances are, you have a vast amount of personal information stored on your phone. In the event your phone is lost or stolen, you don’t want thieves to be able to access information pertaining to your card. Never store your card number or PIN in your phone’s notes, as anyone with your phone would then have access to that information. Make sure your device is password-protected, as well as any apps that store personal or financial information. Consider disabling automatic logins until you have returned from your travels.
Even after your vacation has ended, you should continue to regularly monitor your accounts and review your statements. If your information was stolen, the thieves may not attempt to use it right away; they may wait for a few months in hopes that their fraudulent transactions on your card will be less easily detected. The scammers may only charge a small purchase at first to test if your card is still active, before splurging at your expense. If you suspect fraudulent activity on your cards, contact us immediately to report it. You can instantly report your card as stolen within Digital Banking to deactivate your card.
At Robins Financial Credit Union, we are committed to protecting the safety and security of our members. To find out more about how we protect our members every day, give us a call or stop by any of our branch locations.