Traveling with Your Credit Card: Safety Precautions to Consider

It’s summer, which means that many of us are packing up our bags and heading for the hills (or the beach, or the museums). The last thing you want to worry about is your credit card.

Unfortunately, all too many of us face hassles with credit card security while traveling — especially during trips abroad. These problems can range from the annoying to the devastating, but most of them are very preventable. Here’s how to have a worry-free vacation.

Pre-departure Preparations

You wouldn’t leave home without booking your flight or packing your bag, and credit card security is just as important. Make sure to add a few credit card specific tasks to your pre-departure list.

  • Call your card issuer to notify them of your travel plans.

Many credit card issuers have built-in fraud protection that could shut down your card if it’s used outside of your normal purchase pattern. The last thing you want is to have your card denied at that fabulous Italian bistro, so give your card issuer a heads up.

  • Do some research regarding foreign transaction fees.

If you carry multiple credit cards, you should know that there might be a wide variation between your cards when it comes to foreign transaction fees. Call your card issuers or do some digging online to compare fees.

  • Learn how to contact your credit card issuer while abroad.

Toll-free numbers don’t typically work abroad, so you’ll need a different way to contact your credit card issuer if you encounter problems during your travels. Some cards have international numbers printed right on the back. If yours doesn’t, call them up before you leave and ask them what number to use. Write down this number and keep it with your travel documents.

  • Make copies of the front and back of your credit cards.

This is one step that’s frequently overlooked, but if your cards are stolen, having photocopies can be very helpful. Many travelers also do this for passports.

  • Make sure your card will be accepted abroad.

Not all cards are taken around the world. Consider getting an EMV chip card (if yours doesn’t already have this feature), which is more widely accepted abroad – especially in Europe.

EMV Chip Cards

EMV security chip cards are fairly new to the U.S. market, but they have become the go-to standard in other countries. These cards feature embedded microchips that can hold a large volume of dynamic data. They also require entry of a pin in order to complete a transaction, and that means that a thief who simply has your card number can’t use your card.

If you bring an American swipe card abroad, expect it to be rejected at several common locations, including:

  • Gas stations
  • Parking meters
  • Many merchants and retailers
  • Destinations in Europe other than major cities

Handling Your Credit Card While Abroad

So you’ve taken all the precautions before boarding the plane: what about when you’ve reached your destination? There are several steps you can take to avoid fraud, theft, and unnecessary trouble abroad.

  • Avoid use of your credit card in less-than-secure situations.

The street vendor may have a lovely smile and even better food for sale, but this probably isn’t the best place to pull out your credit card.

  • Have your travel companion carry a different card as a back-up.

Even if you plan on relying primarily on one card, it’s not a bad idea to have a back-up along — and to have it carried by someone else. That way, if your wallet or money carrier is lost or stolen, you aren’t completely out of luck.

  • Keep your credit card in sight.

Try to hand your credit card directly to the person who will be processing the transaction. You’ll want to avoid situations where someone takes your card out of sight to process a transaction, because that scenario makes it easy for them to steal your information.

  • Be cautious with ATMs.

ATM fees can be extremely steep for international transactions. In addition, many foreign ATMs (especially outside of western Europe) are not as secure as we may expect from our U.S. counterparts. If you are traveling abroad and you must use an ATM, choose one that is attached to a legitimate business (preferably a bank).

  • Carry cash or travelers checks as back-up.

Try to carry enough local currency or traveler’s checks to get by each day (but not so much that you’re a ripe target for muggers). Credit cards are convenient, but if yours is declined or stolen and you don’t have an alternative method of payment available, you won’t think it’s very convenient. Look into getting a discreet carrying pouch specifically designed for passports and money, which is much more secure than a wallet or purse.

  • Document everything.

Keep receipts of all purchases in case mysterious charges are added to your account later. Keeping receipts also helps with expense tracking, so you can stay on budget.

The Bottom Line

This list may have left you a little uneasy. Don’t worry — you’ve already taken the first step by informing yourself. Credit cards are usually part of the solution — not the problem, when you’re traveling abroad. All you have to do is take proper precautions and exercise a bit of due diligence. Just think about how much more relaxing that well-deserved vacation will be, knowing that you don’t have to spend a moment worrying about your credit cards.

Bon Voyage!

Article Source: Ellen Gans for thesimpledollar.com

7 Safety Tips for Using a Public Computer

How-to-Check-If-Your-Computer-Is-Safe-400x350Public computers in libraries, Internet cafes, airports, and copy shops can be safe if you follow a few simple rules when you use them. Read these tips to help keep your work, personal, or financial information private.

  • Don’t save your login information: Always log out of websites by clicking “log out” on the site. It’s not enough to simply close the browser window or type in another address. Many programs (especially social networking websites, web mail, and instant messenger programs) include automatic login features that will save your user name and password. Disable this option so no one can login as you.
  • Important – Don’t leave the computer unattended with sensitive information on the screen: If you have to leave the public computer, log out of all programs and close all windows that might display sensitive information.
  • Erase your tracks: Internet Explorer offers InPrivate browsing that leaves no trace of specific web activity. Internet Explorer also keeps a record of your passwords and every page you visit, even after you’ve closed them and logged out.
  • Disable the feature that stores passwords: Before you go to the web, turn off the Internet Explorer feature that “remembers” your passwords. 1. In Internet Explorer, click Tools , and then click Internet Options. 2. Click the Content tab, and then click Settings, next to AutoComplete. 3. Click to clear the check box for User names on passwords and forms.
  • Delete your temporary Internet files and your history: When you finish your use of a public computer, you can help protect your private information by deleting your temporary Internet files.
  • Watch for over-the-shoulder snoops: When you use a public computer, be on the lookout for thieves who look over your shoulder or watch as you enter sensitive passwords to collect your information.
  • Don’t enter sensitive information into a public computer: These measures provide some protection against casual hackers who use a public computer after you have. But keep in mind that an industrious thief might have installed sophisticated software on the public computer that records every keystroke and then emails that information back to the thief. Then it doesn’t matter if you haven’t saved your information or if you’ve erased your tracks. They still have access to this information. If you really want to be safe, avoid typing your credit card number or any other financial or otherwise sensitive information into any public computer.

Get protected against the risks of ID theft & fraud and do it for less than you can imagine with our ID Theft Protection Products. To enroll in our ID Theft Protection services, visit our webpage for additional details and information.

T.H.I.N.K First because There’s Harm INot Knowing

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You Thought You Were Safe? 6 Myths and Realities of Online Security

Online-security-is-a-big-deal-for-eCommerce-shoppers-_16000800_800755930_0_0_7073129_300Even at the best of times, surfing the Web involves a delicate dance between security and freedom. After all, while you have the freedom to visit any site in the world, the thought that your favorite website might be infected with malware can put a dent in your plans. When it comes to privacy on the Internet, nobody is completely secure.

For years, security experts have offered a more-or-less unchanging menu of advice. But do things like shredding your documents and changing your passwords really keep you safe? Bo Holland, founder and CEO of identity theft protection company AllClearID shared his thoughts on the most important moves for ensuring your safety … as well as the ones that aren’t quite as important anymore.

  1. Shredding: For years, security professionals have emphasized the importance of shredding your personal documents before you throw them out. But Holland notes that shredding isn’t as much of a priority as it used to be. “There aren’t nearly as many documents with personal information out there as there were even just two years ago,” he explains. “These days, it’s much easier to get your information off your computer.”
  2. Strong Passwords: Passwords are your first line of defense against intruders. But, as Holland points out, even the most careful people sometimes have password breaches. “I’ve helped chief privacy officers from health care and security firms,” he notes. “If they’re getting hit, then anyone is vulnerable.” While Holland notes the importance of having a good password, he emphasizes that the most important thing is paying attention to password breach notifications. If you hear that one of your passwords may have been breached, he counsels, change it immediately. And, because many of your accounts may be linked, he notes, it’s not a bad idea to change the rest of your passwords as well.
  3. Keep on Top of Updates: One piece of advice that you don’t often hear is to keep on top of software updates. But, Holland argues, updating your operating system, your software, and your security programs is one of the easiest and most important ways to ensure your security. Software companies spend a lot of time and money trying to stay ahead of online intruders — it only makes sense to take advantage of their work.
  4. Double Check Your Financial Institution: Even if you are convinced that your security is state-of-the-art and your password is unbreakable, it never hurts to double-check your most sensitive accounts. Holland suggests regularly checking your financial and credit card statements to ensure that there aren’t any inappropriate charges on your accounts.
  5. Set Email and Text Alerts: When a breach happens, a fast response can mean the difference between a minor annoyance and a major pain in the neck. With that in mind, Holland suggests talking to your financial institution about having transaction alerts placed on your account. Every time your account is credited with a transaction over a particular amount — $50, for example — your financial institutions will send you an e-mail or text notification. If it’s an expected transaction, you can discard the message; if not, you’ll be able to respond immediately.
  6. Check Your Free Credit Report: Every year, you are entitled to a free credit report from each of the reporting bureaus. Holland suggests taking advantage of this free service, noting that your credit report is a great way to track your outstanding debts and ensure that nobody is trying to open false accounts in your name.

You can monitor your credit score and protect yourself and your loved ones from Identity Theft by enrolling in First Financial’s ID Theft Protection service! For more information or to enroll, click here.

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