Summer Personal Finance: Traveling Safely with a Credit Card

Now that it's summer vacation time, you're going to want to pay very close attention to your finances, particularly anything involving your credit card. It's real easy to get careless with the plastic when you're having a good time, so here are a few tips to keep in mind so the worst does not happen.

Notify the Credit Card Company That You're Traveling

Credit card companies are very sensitive to any possible fraud or theft they detect. And if a card holder from Montana is suddenly charging several hundred dollars in Florida, or possibly even another country, there's a decent chance they will act on it.

Call your credit card company beforehand, and let them know where you're going and for how long. That way, they can put a note in their computer so when somediv gets suspicious about your account's sudden increase in spending, they can pull up your file, see that it's just you having fun, and not issue a false fraud alert that ultimately wastes everydiv's time.

Check Your Balance and Limit Before You Leave

When you're on vacation, it's easy to forget your responsibilities and budget, and simply swipe away whenever you see something that looks nice. This can lead to major financial issues post-vacation, so make sure you know your balance, as well as your card's limit, before boarding the plane.

You obviously don't have to spend until you reach your maximum (in fact, we highly suggest not doing that), but it's still good to know where the credit wall is so you don't suddenly crash into it.

Memorize (or Jot Down) All Your Card Information, In Case of Loss or Theft

Let's say your credit card gets lost or stolen. That's never a good thing, but the quicker you act, and the more information you can provide to your credit card company, the easier it will be to lessen the damage.

Whether it be on your phone or on a piece of paper stashed somewhere that isn't your wallet, jot down your card's account number, expiration date, and security code, as well as the issuing company's phone number. Should a theft or loss occur, call them immediately and tell them what happened.

Giving them all your information will go a long way toward having them freeze your account immediately and without hassle, as you will have given them confidence that you are indeed you, and that everything you say is on the up and up.

Upgrade to a Microchip Card if Possible

In most Western European countries, credit cards have evolved, upgrading from the old-school magnetic strip to a built in microchip that transmits your information securely, and makes it much, much more difficult for some hacker to steal your card information.

The United States is tentatively scheduled to convert to microchip cards by October 2015, but that doesn't mean you can't get one now. In fact, if at all possible, we highly suggest you do (especially since, if you're vacationing in Western Europe, a good number of merchants will actively refuse magnetic strip cards.) Here's a short list of microchip cards currently available in the US.

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