You land at Paris-Charles de Gaulle, take a taxi to the City of Lights, stop to buy a “welcome” glass of J.P. Chenet Pays D’Oc Cabernet – Syrah with a hard cheese sampler at the Le Baron Rouge Cafe. When you arrive at the hotel to check-in, your credit or debit card is declined cause you did not pack you financial travel baggage properly.
Hey Stupid: You forgot to get your ducks properly lined-up. If you are traveling overseas, then it is imperative to take the following ten tips to heart.
Tip #1: Notify Bank or Credit Union on Travel Plans
Traveling, especially international, will likely raise red flags due to the high rate of fraudulent transactions outside the U.S. After a few transactions getting from the airport to the hotel, you may find your card(s) frozen, including ATM cards, until the financial institution knows you are making the transactions. Unfortunately, the bank or credit union will call your home phone or mobile phone. So make sure your phone will work at your destination or make sure you promptly contact the bank to avoid declined transactions.
Tip #2: File Travel Itinerary with State Department
You can do this online and the U.S. State Department can provide invaluable assistance while you’re abroad, especially if a problem emerges. Additionally, the State Department offers up-to-date information and advisories regarding areas you are planning to visit. Some U.S. citizens with special considerations – such as students, women, and LGBTI travelers – may face additional challenges when abroad. If you do decide to travel, make a plan for what to do if something goes wrong overseas.
Tip #3: Download Financial Institution’s Mobile App
Their mobile app enables you to bank online or contact the financial institution should you need to. Check with your institution before traveling to make sure your destination country is not blocked on their firewall; many foreign countries have online risks associated with them. If your destination is blocked, your bank or credit union can help you plan accordingly. Of course, make sure your mobile phone works in your destination.
Public Wi-Fi a No No
Tip #4 Do Not Use Public Wi-Fi
This advice applies not only abroad but in the U.S. too. Hackers and phishers love to monitor public Wi-Fi hotspots at coffee shops, hotel lobbies, libraries, etc. If you must use public Wi-Fi, do not log into any of your financial institutions’ mobile banking websites, or use your debit or credit cards for online purchases. The exception is if you are using a secure one-time passcode, such as you get when you check into some hotels, which includes your name. You can also use your cellular connection on your phone, the most secure when traveling.
Tip #5: Get Credit Card Travel Insurance
Some credit cards, especially high-end cards, include free travel insurance for customers who pay for trips with their card. However, many of these cards limit the trip costs that can be covered, and typically don’t cover medical emergencies during a trip. Therefore, insure the trip costs that are not covered by your credit card. If your card covers $10,000 per trip, and your trip cost is $15,000, you can save money by only insuring the additional $5,000. A lower trip cost typically results in a less expensive policy, however, be aware that some providers require you to insure 100% of your trip cost. Squaremouth is the expert in arranging the appropriate travel insurance for your situation.
Tip #6: Do Not Post Travel Plans on Social Media
Posting your travel plans to share with friends on Facebook or tweeting your excitement as you board the cruise line is alerting the bad guys you are away. Even if someone is babysitting your house or you have a high-tech security system, wait until you return to share information about your trip. The worst is telling the world when you will return.
Freezing Credit/Debit Cards
Tip #7 Use App to Turn Your Credit or Debit Card On or Off
Some credit card issuers such as Discover offer this option but
Card Valet is an app enabling you to set parameters on your debit card and turn it on or off instantly. It’s as simple as registering your debit card (if your financial institution offers it) and then setting parameters for purchases. You can set instant alerts for purchases based on preset spending limits and purchase location. Plus, you can receive an instant alert if a purchase has been denied.
Tip #8 Over-Calculating Non-Refundable Trip Costs
Trip cost is one of the main factors that can drive up the price of a policy. Travelers have the choice of insuring all, some, or none of their trip cost, but travel insurance can only reimburse prepaid and non-refundable trip expenses up to the amount insured. Squaremouth suggests insuring only the trip cost you lose if you cancel. If you are liable to pay a 50% penalty to cancel a hotel reservation, insure that amount rather than the full cost of the hotel to get a less expensive policy.
Tip #9 Overlooking the Least Expensive Travel Policies
When comparing travel insurance, more expensive does not mean better. Each provider tailors their policies toward a specific demographic. If one policy is less expensive than another policy with the same coverage amounts, it’s because the traveler falls in that provider’s sweet spot, not because the coverage is worse. Pick the least expensive policy that meets the coverage you need.
Tip #10: Consider Gift or Prepaid Travel Cards
Buying a prepaid gift card or a reloadable travel card not tied to your bank accounts. This will limit your exposure. Just make sure vendors at your destination accept the brand of gift cards (AmEx, MasterCard, etc.) you’ll be carrying. Many companies use travel cards for international travel, not just for loss exposure, but also for cost control. In some cases you can load a card with the local currency or multiple currencies, which can be at more favorable rates than the conversion rates and associated fees charged by credit or debit card issuers. By the way, Apple Federal Credit Union is a good example of a credit card provider charging no foreign transaction fees with a competitive Visa Product.
One additional tip: Don’t Fry Your Devices: Make sure that you have the right adapters. Check the tech specs of your devices and the electrical standards of your travel destinations.