Credit card fraud and money safety abroad

Credit cards are handy for travel expenses, but they can also put you at risk. Keep your credit card information safe when you’re away from home.

Credit cards are a good way to keep track of expenses abroad. They are generally safer than carrying around cash, but their potential spending power makes them a target for scammers and thieves. A few simple precautions can cut your risk and help you have a trouble-free holiday.

When your credit card goes missing or is stolen in your home country it’s a worrying time but you probably know what to do: report the theft straight away to the police then call your bank to cancel the card and order a new one. While you wait for the new card it is likely that you have access to an alternative source of money. But what if your card is lost or stolen on holiday or just before you travel?

Pre-departure planning
You’ll probably check your account balance before you go, but you should also check the expiry dates on your cards, especially if you’re going on a long trip. There’s nothing worse than being stuck overseas with an expired and useless credit card when the new one is sitting at home in your mailbox.

Having a back-up copy is also essential. Take a note of your credit card account number and the emergency contact telephone number just in case your card is stolen and you have to cancel it. Card provider Visa says it’s a good idea to keep these numbers in a safe place separate from your cards and other luggage.

You could also leave a copy with a friend at home, along with your passport ID page, airline ticket and itinerary. Having a single source to call for these details can make it that much easier to get your holiday back on track if you are unlucky enough to have your valuables lost or stolen while travelling. Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada has advice on how to replace items if you are a victim of theft or loss.

Beware of taking along unnecessary information that could put you at risk. Jennifer Brown, Public Affairs Manager from American Express Canada, advises travellers to clear out their wallets before they leave for vacation. Leave non-essential personal identification and payment methods at home. Take only those documents required for travel, in case of emergencies, and for replacing lost or stolen credit and charge cards. Brown says to carry a diversified wallet: that means a small amount of local currency for incidental expenses, a refundable form of travel cash for protection against the loss or theft of cash (such as traveller’s cheques), and credit and charge cards for major purchases.

Your credit card provider probably has a host of measures in place to try and prevent unauthorised use of your card. When you travel it is a good idea to give them a call and let them know your plans. This will prevent your account being flagged for unusual activity and perhaps having your card refused or payment delayed while overseas. Card Watch works to raise awareness of plastic card fraud in the UK.