One of the biggest challenges of traveling today is
traveling safely. The simple act of travel puts your finances
at risk, whether from direct theft, identity theft, pickpocketing or other
nefarious strategies. You need to be
smart, and you need to be careful.
I have traveled throughout the U.S. and to a
number of foreign nations on both personal and professional trips. Along the way, I’ve come to rely on a handful
of strategies to keep money safe. Here are five things to do whenever you travel
far from home.
Inform your bank and
credit card companies before you leave. When
you go far away from home, it’s always a good idea to inform your bank and your
credit card companies.
Why? Your bank may
notice that your card is being used for transactions internationally and shut
down your card without notice or with minimal notice, leaving you without a
card in another part of the country or in a foreign nation. That can be a big problem.
A simple phone call
to your banks and credit card companies before you travel can go a long way
toward preventing a headache if your cards get canceled due to an unexpected
charge from an unusual location.
Carry a minimal and smart wallet. There’s no reason for
you to be strolling about in unfamiliar territory with all your credit cards
and all your money in your wallet. It’s
just a bad idea. A simple pickpocket or
thief can put you in a seriously compromised position.
A solution to this problem is to only carry one credit card when
out and about. Leave a second card –
from another issuer – in a safe place back at the hotel, ideally in a safe if
one is available. If you’re not driving,
leave your drivers license in a secure place, too. That way, if one item gets stolen, you have backups.
Separate your money
and keep some of it secure. Another
strategy is to separate your cash and not keep all of it in the same place.
While traveling, I leave some of my cash in a few different
places in my room, vehicle and hotel safe. That way, if I were to get pickpocketed or be the victim of some other kind
of theft, I’m not in an immediate disastrous situation. I also often keep a small amount of cash wadded up in the
toe of my shoe (like a single $50 bill) in case I need it in an absolute
pinch. (It has come in handy before.)
Use a money belt. Still, none of these strategies actually keep
your pockets safe from prospective thieves.
The solution to that is to use a money belt.
A money belt is a pouch that wraps around your torso
underneath your shirt, keeping your key belongings in a safe place that’s
difficult for anyone to get to. A thief can’t touch a well-placed money belt.
I personally use the Eagle
Creek money belt. If I’m going to need a credit card, I’ll excuse myself to
a restroom before a purchase, remove the card from the money belt, use the
card, then return to the restroom to restore it. I also keep most of my cash in there, extracting any shortly before a purchase might occur.
Use a credit card for
purchases, not a debit card. A
credit card offers many financial
advantages for purchases over a debit card in any situation, but that’s
never quite so true as when traveling.
For starters, a credit card is not linked to your savings or
checking account, so a fraudster couldn’t gain any direct access to your
personal banking accounts. Credit cards also
offer a number of consumer protections
against fraud that often do not extend to debit cards, even ones with a
Visa or a MasterCard logo on them. This
includes things like fraudulent charge protection, which can really help if
your bank can’t contact you when you’re traveling.
When you return home, don’t forget to pay off the balance in
full. That way, you won’t pay interest
and you can accrue credit rewards if you have a rewards program.
A little bit of planning ahead can make an enormous
difference when it comes to traveling with money. It can keep you safe and secure in even the
most challenging circumstances.