Home > Credit Cards > 5 Ways to Keep Your Credit Cards Safe When You Travel

Comments 0 Comments

Hitting the road soon? Your credit card can be one of the most valuable things you bring, but there are some risks as well.

If your credit card is lost, you could be left without a method of payment for critical services like a hotel room or a rental car. And if it’s stolen, you may also have to deal with time-consuming efforts to report fraudulent transactions, as you combat identity theft. Finally, there is always the risk that your credit card issuer will mistakenly assume that your card is being used fraudulently when you try to make charges from an exotic vacation destination.

Thankfully, there are some simple steps that you can take help keep your credit cards safe as you travel.

1. Contact your credit card issuer in advance. 

If you are planning a trip outside of the United States, it never hurts to contact your bank or credit union to let them know where you will be going. Include all of the countries that you will be visiting, even if it is just for a day trip or a change of planes. This way, your card issuer should not place any security holds on your account when you need it tmost.

2. Check your activity online. 

When you are away from home, you will want to check in with your card issuer. Doing so allows you to catch any fraudulent transactions early, and avoid missing payments. But be careful: Logging into your bank accounts from a publicly accessible computer can be extremely risky. The computer may have spyware installed, or someone could be looking over your shoulder and recording keystrokes. So the best practice is to use your own smartphone or laptop, and make sure you are using a trusted Internet connection, not connecting to a random WiFi signal. Nevertheless, no matter where you travel, the Fair Credit Billing Act limits your liability for fraudulent transactions to $50, and nearly all credit card issuers have zero-liability policies that waive even that.

3. Protect contactless transmissions. 

Some credit cards are equipped to be compatible with Radio Frequency Identification(RFID) systems, which allow your credit card information to be transmitted wirelessly. These are credit cards that are part of the Visa PayWave, MasterCard PayPass, American Express ExpressPay and Discover Zip programs. Unfortunately, it is possible for thieves to access your credit cards just by being near your wallet. Although these types of cards are now becoming less common as cards with smart chips (which don’t have this vulnerability) are being deployed, those who still have an RFID-equipped card might consider using a wallet specifically designed to shield your cards from being attacked.

4. Split up your cards. 

Most travelers will carry more than one credit card, just in case one is lost, stolen or otherwise becomes unusable. Others just prefer to utilize the rewards and benefits of multiple cards. Either way, it’s a good idea not to place all of your eggs in one basket. Consider leaving at least one card in your hotel (possibly in a sealed envelope inside the safe), and and one in your wallet so you will not be left without a method of payment should either your wallet, or your belongings in your hotel, become compromised. And remember that you should never pack credit cards in your checked baggage or in any other place that will be outside of your control.

5. Set your cash advance limit to zero. 

Using your credit card may be the worst possible way to withdraw cash, as most cards charge cash advance fees, a high interest rate, and have no grace period. To avoid ever incurring these expenses, either accidentally or fraudulently, you can contact your card issuer and have them set your cash advance limit to zero, effectively eliminating this option unless you call to have it reversed. Instead, consider using a debit card to access cash, which will can have much lower fees and will never have interest charges.

If you’re considering applying for a new credit card to take with you on your travels, here are a few credit cards with some of the best travel rewards and perks. Rewards credit cards are difficult to get approved for if you have a bad credit score, so check your credit scores before you apply (you can see two of your credit scores for free on Credit.com) to see where you stand.

More on Credit Cards:

Image: iStock

Hi Impact

Citi Rewards+℠ Card

Apply Now
on Citi's secure website
Card Details
Intro Apr:
0% for 15 months on Purchases

Ongoing Apr:
13.49% - 23.49% (Variable)

Balance Transfer:
0% for 15 months on Balance Transfers

Annual Fee:

Credit Needed:
Snapshot of Card Features
  • The Citi Rewards+℠ Card - the only credit card that automatically rounds up to the nearest 10 points on every purchase - with no cap.
  • Earn 15,000 bonus points after you spend $1,000 in purchases with your card within 3 months of account opening; redeemable for $150 in gift cards at thankyou.com
  • 0% Intro APR on balance transfers and purchases for 15 months. After that, the variable APR will be 13.49% - 23.49%, based on your creditworthiness. Balance transfer fee — either $5 or 3% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater.
  • Earn 2X ThankYou® Points at Supermarkets and Gas Stations for the first $6,000 per year and then 1X Points thereafter. Plus, earn 1X Points on All Other Purchases.
  • The standard variable APR for Citi Flex Plan is 13.49% - 23.49%, based on your creditworthiness. Citi Flex Plan offers are made available at Citi's discretion.

Card Details +

Comments on articles and responses to those comments are not provided or commissioned by a bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by a bank advertiser. It is not a bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

Please note that our comments are moderated, so it may take a little time before you see them on the page. Thanks for your patience.

Credit.com receives compensation for the financial products and services advertised on this site if our users apply for and sign up for any of them.

Hello, Reader!

Thanks for checking out Credit.com. We hope you find the site and the journalism we produce useful. We wanted to take some time to tell you a bit about ourselves.

Our People

The Credit.com editorial team is staffed by a team of editors and reporters, each with many years of financial reporting experience. We’ve worked for places like the New York Times, American Banker, Frontline, TheStreet.com, Business Insider, ABC News, NBC News, CNBC and many others. We also employ a few freelancers and more than 50 contributors (these are typically subject matter experts from the worlds of finance, academia, politics, business and elsewhere).

Our Reporting

We take great pains to ensure that the articles, video and graphics you see on Credit.com are thoroughly reported and fact-checked. Each story is read by two separate editors, and we adhere to the highest editorial standards. We’re not perfect, however, and if you see something that you think is wrong, please email us at editorial team [at] credit [dot] com,

The Credit.com editorial team is committed to providing our readers and viewers with sound, well-reported and understandable information designed to inform and empower. We won’t tell you what to do. We will, however, do our best to explain the consequences of various actions, thereby arming you with the information you need to make decisions that are in your best interests. We also write about things relating to money and finance we think are interesting and want to share.

In addition to appearing on Credit.com, our articles are syndicated to dozens of other news sites. We have more than 100 partners, including MSN, ABC News, CBS News, Yahoo, Marketwatch, Scripps, Money Magazine and many others. This network operates similarly to the Associated Press or Reuters, except we focus almost exclusively on issues relating to personal finance. These are not advertorial or paid placements, rather we provide these articles to our partners in most cases for free. These relationships create more awareness of Credit.com in general and they result in more traffic to us as well.

Our Business Model

Credit.com’s journalism is largely supported by an e-commerce business model. Rather than rely on revenue from display ad impressions, Credit.com maintains a financial marketplace separate from its editorial pages. When someone navigates to those pages, and applies for a credit card, for example, Credit.com will get paid what is essentially a finder’s fee if that person ends up getting the card. That doesn’t mean, however, that our editorial decisions are informed by the products available in our marketplace. The editorial team chooses what to write about and how to write about it independently of the decisions and priorities of the business side of the company. In fact, we maintain a strict and important firewall between the editorial and business departments. Our mission as journalists is to serve the reader, not the advertiser. In that sense, we are no different from any other news organization that is supported by ad revenue.

Visitors to Credit.com are also able to register for a free Credit.com account, which gives them access to a tool called The Credit Report Card. This tool provides users with two free credit scores and a breakdown of the information in their Experian credit report, updated twice monthly. Again, this tool is entirely free, and we mention that frequently in our articles, because we think that it’s a good thing for users to have access to data like this. Separate from its educational value, there is also a business angle to the Credit Report Card. Registered users can be matched with products and services for which they are most likely to qualify. In other words, if you register and you find that your credit is less than stellar, Credit.com won’t recommend a high-end platinum credit card that requires an excellent credit score You’d likely get rejected, and that’s no good for you or Credit.com. You’d be no closer to getting a product you need, there’d be a wasted inquiry on your credit report, and Credit.com wouldn’t get paid. These are essentially what are commonly referred to as "targeted ads" in the world of the Internet. Despite all of this, however, even if you never apply for any product, the Credit Report Card will remain free, and none of this will impact how the editorial team reports on credit and credit scores.

Your Stories

Lastly, much of what we do is informed by our own experiences as well as the experiences of our readers. We want to tell your stories if you’re interested in sharing them. Please email us at story ideas [at] credit [dot] com with ideas or visit us on Facebook or Twitter.

Thanks for stopping by.

- The Credit.com Editorial Team