Safeguarding Your Bankcard While Traveling

shutterstock_141996160It’s one of a traveler’s worst nightmares. You realize that your bankcard—the credit or debit card you’ve been using for many or most of your travel purchases—has been lost, stolen, or compromised in some way. People respond differently, of course. Some immediately swing into action to resolve the problem. Others, such as myself, must first deal with a sick, queasy feeling in the stomach. In either case, however, the problem is real and serious, and it must be addressed quickly.

Since resolving these kinds of bankcard issues can be a hassle, one of the best strategies is to minimize risk as much as possible. Here are a few tips to keep in mind before and during your trip:

  1. Protect Your Cards. Before you leave, decide which card or cards you are going to use and take a backup (which you should keep in a place separate from the cards you’ll be using). Leave any other cards you have at home. When you travel, keep these cards in a money belt instead of your wallet. Either during your trip or after your return home, check the balances on the cards you use to see if there are any transactions you didn’t make.
  2. Use Your Cards Only When You Have To. Though it may seem old-fashion in this digital age, many travel authorities recommend using cash as often as possible when traveling. When you can’t use cash, use only credit cards for purchases. And use debit cards only to make large withdrawals from local ATMs. After you do, immediately put the cash and the card into your money belt. Why? In many places, waiters at restaurants or clerks in hotels have been known to take cell phone photos of bankcards and then using the information to make purchases.
  3. Don’t Write Your PIN on Your Debit Card. According to the issuing banks, this is a fairly common practice. But this is also giving anyone who has the card total access to it. Make sure you know your PIN number like you know your own birthday. If you are unsure you can remember, write it down somewhere other than on your card.
  4. Write the International Contact Numbers for Your Bankcard Issuer(s) on a Separate Piece of Paper and Keep Separate from Your Card(s). On the back of every bankcard, you’ll see contact phone numbers for both U.S. and international calls. But, if your card is lost or stolen, these numbers won’t help you if this is the only place you have them. So, write them down and keep them elsewhere. A good place would be with other important travel documents such as your passport or travel insurance information.
  5. Consider an International Travel Account. If security is a worry for you, another strategy is to set up an international travel account through your bank. If your card or card number is stolen, the thief will only have access to the money in this account and all of your other accounts will be safe. Your personal banker will have more information on how this works.

If you want to learn more about safeguarding your bankcard while traveling, just contact your card issuer and chat with a representative. Card businesses are traditionally big profit centers for banks, and they are always interested in helping people minimize the bank’s risk as well as cardholder risk.

And speaking about minimizing financial risk when traveling, you are also welcome to talk about travel insurance with one of our licensed professionals at 1-877-219-8169 or email us at You’re under no obligation to buy insurance from us. We’re just happy to help people better understand their various insurance options so they can travel more confidently…and securely.

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