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The Resource Center Identity Theft & Protection | article

Identity Theft Risk Factor: Taking Your Credit Cards With You on Travel

Whether you’re lounging on a sandy beach or walking through the streets of Paris, a vacation is a time for rest, relaxation and relieving stress. But it can be less fun to soak up the sun or take pictures of the Eiffel Tower if you are worried about the safety of your credit reports and scores.

Here are a few helpful tips before you lock your front door and hop on a plane. They may help you sleep a bit more peacefully during your flight.

1. Take only what you need.
Traveling with multiple cards is generally not a smart move because the more you carry the more at risk you may be if you lose your wallet or purse. So limit the number of credit cards you carry to two — one primary card and one back-up.

Also, avoid carrying documents containing your personal or financial details when you travel. For women, this can require you to clean out your purse. If you must take them with you, keep them close or locked in a hotel safe. Otherwise, losing your personal information may put you at risk for identity theft.

2. Rely on cash or credit.
Although using your debit card may be a helpful way to avoid taking on debt, when you’re traveling, debit cards may not provide the same level of fraud protection as your credit cards.

For example, if your credit card is stolen, many major credit card issuers only hold you accountable for the first $50 that someone charges to your account. Others, such as American Express, offer even stronger fraud protection, which eliminates any consumer liability from bogus charges.

Debit cards, on the other hand, have a different set of rules. If you spot a charge you didn’t make on your debit account within two days of it appearing, you will only be responsible for $50. However, noticing the charges after the two-day window may result in your liability rising to $500. And after 60 days, you could be responsible for the entire charge.

3. Notify your credit card company of your travel plans.
If you’re vacationing overseas, it’s important to alert your credit card companies at least one week in advance. By informing them of your travel plans, you can avoid the inconvenience of them freezing your account or denying funds due to concerns that your card may have been compromised.

Taking these kinds of extra precautions before you leave on a vacation can help you protect your credit cards from falling into malicious hands, which could also be the key to helping you keep your good credit score intact.

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