Vacation packing checklists can be handy, but not everybody needs them. A keep-my-money-safe checklist, on the other hand, can benefit just about every traveler.
When you’re away from home, your accounts are prime targets for identity thieves, pickpockets and scammers. According to the Federal Trade Commission, credit card fraud was the most common form of identity theft reported last year. Bank fraud rounded out the top five.
Take these steps before your next vacation to avoid falling victim to these types of crimes.
Sign up for bank alerts
Register to have your financial institution notify you about account activity. Your bank or credit union might, for example, be able to send a text message or email whenever your balance drops below a certain amount. It might also ping you if a suspicious transaction is made. If you didn’t authorize the charge, report it immediately.
Know your bank’s fraud department phone number
If you lose your debit or credit card, call the bank’s fraud department as soon as possible. That’s especially crucial if you’re reporting a lost debit card. When you notify your bank within two days of learning about the loss, the maximum amount you would be liable for is $50. Postpone it any longer, and you could lose $500. Waiting 60 days or more after your bank statement is sent your way could leave you losing everything a criminal takes out of the account.
Credit cards come with more protection. The most you could lose is $50, even if you wait more than two days to notify your bank.
There’s another reason to have your bank’s phone number on hand: to avoid phishing scams. That’s when someone reaches out and claims to represent your bank before asking for personal information. Call your bank to determine whether a request is legitimate.
Memorize online login information
Log on to your accounts from time to time while you travel to keep track of transaction activity. Having a strong password is essential to protecting your online accounts, but don’t write down your bank username and password. It’s easy for that information to wind up in the wrong hands. Instead, memorize your login information, or use a secure password manager.
Avoid using public Wi-Fi when banking online. Doing so might allow others to see information you transmit. Use a private network instead.
Carefully choose your cards for travel
The more credit and debit cards you take on a trip, the more you could lose. Consider having no more than three: a primary credit card (ideally one with travel perks), a debit card to access cash and a backup credit card in case the others are lost or stolen. Keep the backup plastic separate from the other cards, perhaps in a hotel safe.
It’s also smart to limit the amount of cash you’re carrying, especially if you’re traveling abroad. If a card is lost or stolen, it can be replaced. But if cash disappears, it’s probably gone for good.
Turn on ‘find my device’ apps
Enable the features that let you locate or control your smartphone, tablet or computer in the event that it goes missing. This is especially important if you use the device for online banking. Even if you’re not able to physically retrieve the device, you could erase its data, ensuring no one else can access it to empty your accounts.
Password-protect the home screen, too. That way, if a criminal swipes your device, it would be difficult to get past the locked image, much less reach the banking app.
Hold the mail
If you regularly receive paper bank statements and other financial documents, you don’t want them sitting in your mailbox for too long. Ask the post office to hold your deliveries until you return.
Your vacation budget should cover travel, lodging and food, not bank theft. Follow these steps to keep your money and accounts secure during your next trip.