Keeping your identity safe and your finances in order when you travel can be tricky. Use this simple checklist to make sure you are prepared for a big vacation:
3 months before:
- Calculate how much you will spend per day during your vacation.
- Create a plan for saving the amount of money you'll need. Avoid relying on credit cards to fund your vacation.
- Research your vacation destination. Will it be easy to find ATMs? Can you use credit cards? Will you need to take a lot of cash with you?
1 month before:
- Make copies of your passports, credit cards, and travel itinerary. Keep one copy with you and leave one at home with a friend or relative that you can contact in an emergency.
- Verify that your credit cards will work internationally by calling your creditors or researching online.
- Investigate what fees you may be charged for using your credit cards and ATM cards overseas.
- Request traveler's checks from your bank to take with you for emergencies.
- Place sensitive records, valuables, and financial documents stored at home in a locked drawer or safe deposit box. A house sitter or robber could steal these files to commit identity theft while you are away.
1 week before:
- Call your credit card issuers to let them know that you'll be traveling internationally. If you don't alert your creditors, they may lock your accounts at the first sign of a suspicious charge from a foreign country.
- Pack lightly, especially if it is going to be inexpensive to shop at your destination. It's fun to bring home new shampoo and clothes from a foreign country as souvenirs.
- Request a mail hold through the US Post Office online.
- Put a vacation hold on any newspapers delivered to your home.
- Pay your credit card, utility, phone, and loan bills in advance online or by mail. You wouldn't want to damage your credit with a late payment while traveling.
- Remove unnecessary identification cards and credit cards from your wallet. Also, leave your checkbook at home.
- Withdraw some cash from the bank to take with you on your trip.
During your trip:
- Enjoy your vacation!
- Carry your credit cards, traveler's checks, cash, and valuables with you on the plane instead of in a checked piece of luggage.
- Use credit cards instead of ATM cards when possible. Fraudulent charges through a credit card are easier to report and remove.
- When traveling internationally, try to make a few large ATM withdrawals instead of many smaller withdrawals. You may be charged a fee for each transaction.
- Avoid using your credit cards to get cash from an ATM or bank. This transaction usually comes with expensive fees and high interest rates.
- Keep receipts of your ATM and credit card transactions for future reference.
- Store your emergency cash, traveler's checks, photocopies of your documents, and other valuables in a hotel safe or locked suitcase when you are away from your room.
- Exchange your currency with an established bank. Hotels, vendors, and people converting money on the street will probably offer expensive exchange rates.
- If possible, occasionally check your bank and credit card accounts online from a secure internet café.
- Keep a close eye on your purse or wallet. If your wallet is lost or stolen, report it immediately to prevent identity theft.
When you return:
- Share your vacation souvenirs and photos with friends!
- Check your accounts for signs of unauthorized purchases or identity theft. Use the receipts you saved to evaluate your bills.
- Check your credit reports and credit scores for signs of international identity theft.
- Collect mail that was held by the US Post Office.
- Deposit any unused cash or traveler's checks back into your bank account.
- Convert leftover international currency back to US dollars at your local bank.
- Use the money you saved before your trip to pay off vacation credit card balances right away.
- Store the photocopies of your passport and credit cards in a safe place for future reference…or future travels!