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Protect Yourself and Your Bank Account When You Travel

woman in yellow shirt stands on a scenic, tropical outdoor deck holding suitcases

Somehow summer is already just around the corner! That means more people will be traveling and going on vacation. Do you have any vacation plans? Wherever this summer takes you, be sure to stay safe and secure your personal belongings.

Hackers and thieves could obtain your sensitive information at places you may need to stop at along the way like ATMs, gas stations, and airports. So we came up with some helpful travel tips to protect you and your financial information when you set out on your trip.

Protecting your financial information while you’re on vacation will require some extra preparation. We know you probably have a to-do list that’s jam-packed with things to take care of before your trip, but taking these additional steps can save you from the distress of having your money wiped or even your identity stolen.

Decide What Method of Payment to Bring

First, you should figure out what type of payment will be best to use during your trip. When deciding upon the type of payment you’ll use, you’ll want to consider a variety of factors including:

  • Potential fees (i.e. transaction fees or activation fees)
  • If the payment method will be accepted at your destination
  • General security risks

You may initially gravitate towards bringing your credit card, as they’re accepted in a majority of places across the globe. Oftentimes, you must have a credit card on hand to pay for a hotel or rental car. You can also get reward points on certain purchases which is always a plus. But before you head off on your adventure, you should check to see if your card charges foreign transaction fees.

Credit card transaction fees are often times tacked onto any purchase you make while overseas. They can definitely become troublesome if you’re trying to carefully budget when you’re away. Additionally, if your card was stolen and someone made fraudulent charges, trying to remove the charges from your account can eat up quite a bit of your (vacation) time.

Using a debit card can be helpful if you want to avoid paying credit card interest charges. But if you are traveling out of the country, you must make sure that your debit card is part of a global network like Cirrus or Plus so you’ll know if your card will be accepted.

Cash is accepted virtually everywhere, which makes it a popular choice of payment method. However, carrying it can be risky. If the cash is stolen, it can’t be replaced. So if you’re going to an ATM, we recommend only taking out what you need for a few days rather than what you anticipate needing for the duration of your trip. Also, if you’ll be heading overseas, take out some foreign currency ahead of time just in case you can’t find an ATM or currency exchange bureau upon arrival.

Get a Tamper-Proof RFID Blocking Case/Wallet

Many credit and debit cards now have RFID chips that enable contactless payments. The tap-to-pay option makes transactions convenient, but there are also some risks with this technology. With security in mind, more stores have started selling special phone cases and wallets designed to impede your cards’ RFID signals – preventing hackers from wirelessly stealing your information.

Let Your Bank Be Your Second Set of Eyes While You’re Away

It’s highly recommended that you inform your bank when you’re going on vacation so they can be on the lookout for any suspicious charges. Another great way to always be aware of changes to your account would be to set up account alerts. This can come in handy and offer you some peace of mind while you’re gone.

Create Strong Account Security

It’s too easy to set your phone down and accidentally leave it behind somewhere. If you were to lose your phone when you’re in another city, would your accounts be safe from prying eyes? It’s always a good idea to opt for a strong password and two-factor authentication to secure your email and financial accounts. A password manager such as 1Password can help you take your password security to the next level. You should also lock your phone with a secure passcode, and utilize the fingerprint or face scan feature.

This leads to our next point: you’ll want to stay vigilant all throughout your trip. We know in a new or exciting place, anyone would want to feel carefree and get lost in the wonder of it all. But while you may be site seeing or admiring your surroundings, don’t forget to stay aware of your surroundings!

Take the Steps to Deter Pickpocketing

That’s one of the main reasons tourists often fall victim to pickpocketing. Pickpocketers are drawn to people who aren’t paying close attention to their belongings or are carrying their items in a way that isn’t secure. For instance, phones can be swiped easily from your back pocket. So you may want to put it somewhere that you have eyes on.

Many jackets and bags now have hidden pockets that keep your personal belongings out of reach. And speaking of bags, if you decide to carry a bag with you through your travels, use one that zips. Carry it with the zippers facing forward so if someone comes up from behind, it’ll be difficult for them to remove anything valuable without getting your attention.

Additionally, if you want to buy souvenirs or food from a street vendor, don’t bring your wallet out until you’re ready to pay. Keep your money safe while traveling by keeping it out of sight (as much as possible).

Keep Your Information Safe While Traveling Through Airports and Coffee Shops

If you will be taking a flight to your destination, you might want to think twice about using those airport USB charging stations to charge your phone. While they may seem harmless, they are one of cybercriminals’ favorite tools. Hackers can modify the USB sockets so that when you plug your phone in, malware can be passed to your phone which will give them access to all your personal information. Avoid this by using a charging block instead of plugging the charging cable directly into the USB port.

You should also refrain from using unsecured public Wi-Fi networks. Free Wi-Fi is always enticing – you can save on data usage. But using an open network – one that provides a connection without the need for any authentication details like a valid email address – is extremely risky. Someone with malicious intent could be connected to that network just waiting for their next big data breach. If you need to log onto a public Wi-Fi, avoid doing things that reveal your sensitive information like online shopping or checking your banking.

But What if You’re Still a Victim of Theft?

Report the theft to the authorities immediately. If someone steals your credit or debit card, you should contact your bank immediately. They can protect your bank account by canceling your card, so the thief can’t use any of your money. You can freeze your credit report and set up credit report monitoring to further safeguard your information. We recommend also having a backup debit/credit card or cash on you as well so you’ll still have access to some funds on your travels.

If you plan on going on a trip this summer, your friends at Highlands Community Bank wish you safe travels! We’re proud to be your neighbors in the Alleghany Highlands area. Never hesitate to reach out to us with inquiries or if you need assistance.

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