Platinum card

Maybe I’ve been hanging out in all the wrong (online) places, but in the last two years I’ve had to cancel and replace one of my credit cards twice due to fraudulent activity appearing on my statements. On top of that, I recently had to do the same thing with my corporate AmEx card, for the same reason.

These experiences got me thinking (always dangerous!) of what would happen if I were to discover while I was traveling that someone had appropriated my credit card number – or to make matters worse – if I was traveling internationally?

You can never fully protect your credit card number for an account you actively use, but there are some strategies you can employ to minimize the risk and give yourself greater peace of mind when you’re traveling with credit cards, either domestically or internationally.

Top 4 tips for traveling with credit cards:

1. As I mentioned in my post focused on the essential items you should carry in your briefcase/daily bag, one of the most important things is something you need to do before you leave home.

Make photocopies of your credit cards – front and back – and leave a copy with your husband/wife/S.O. and bring one copy with you, keeping it in your briefcase (NOT your checked luggage!) If you go this route, cut out or black out your name and the expiration date on the photocopies.

An alternative to this – and the option I prefer – is to create a fake Contact in your cell phone, PDA or BlackBerry. Give the person a name with some significance to you, and enter phone numbers that contain your credit card information. An example: you have an American Airlines card and the number is 1234 5678 9876 5432, and the security code is 335. Enter “Bob’s” work phone number as AA123-456-7898 xt765432   On the next line (“Work 2″ on a BlackBerry) enter 335 888-555-1212 with this last phone number being the 24 hour contact number for the issuing bank (and 335 is of course the security code from the back of the card.) If you wish, you could find a way to put the expiration date in this type of record as well.

Following this method, if you should lose your credit card while traveling, you’ll have the information on hand so you can call the card issuing bank right away, vs. making a lot of calls back home to try to find the data.

As a bonus, if you opt for the second approach and password protect your cell phone, PDA, or BlackBerry, your information will be completely safe!

2. If you spend 99% of your time domestically but suddenly plan on traveling internationally, call your card’s (or cards’, more on this in a moment) issuing bank before leaving the country. If charges suddenly start appearing on the card from outside the U.S., your bank may very well place the card on hold. Let them know upfront where you’ll be traveling to and when to avoid this!

3. In this case it’s really best to have at least two credit card accounts. If your only card is lost and the account is put on hold while you’re on the road, you’re completely without the convenience that a credit card offers. If a husband and wife are traveling, each with individual cards but on the same account, it’d be wise to open another account before traveling abroad or extensively in the U.S.

4. Another worthwhile conversation to have with your cards’ issuing banks is what sort of foreign currency conversion fees you can expect them to charge. Generally it’s 1%, but if you carry cards from different banks, check with them and determine which one offers the best deal on currency conversion. Visa and MasterCard charge 1% at present; NOTE: Capital One does not charge a currency conversion fee at the time of this writing!

5. Be aware that some overseas ATMs only accept 4 digit PINs. If your PIN is longer than 4 digits, check with your bank about having it revised before you leave home.

6. Always a good practice, it’s especially important to save all your receipts when traveling internationally, and check them against your statement online or when it arrives in the mail.

7. Aside from ATMs, the best place to exchange money is at banks – the larger the better; they offer low fees and decent rates. Avoid storefront currency exchangers and kiosks – they are notorious for exorbitant fees!

8. If traveling internationally, don’t leave home without some foreign currency. Your local bank will charge higher fees generally, but you’ll need some foreign currency upon arrival – for cabs and the like. Another option are airport currency exchangers. If you are arriving at your destination in the middle of the night, you’ll have greater peace of mind if you’ve taken care of this before leaving home. Your local bank may waive fees if you’re a loyal, good customer. Dont’ wait until the day before your trip to deal with this issue!

Please share your tips for traveling with credit cards – or other useful travel tips! Travel safe!!

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