Using Your Credit Cards Whilst on Holiday

Chris Marshall asked:

More and more holiday makers are taking their credit cards on holiday with them to pay for goods rather than carrying large amounts of foreign currency. Of course this offers great convenience and at times added security but there important steps you should take to ensure that using your credit card abroad is not too costly and of course safe.

Before you go on your holiday contact your credit card issuer to ensure that you will be able to use your card where you are going. Also take this opportunity to enquire about any charges or fees you may be charged when using your card in order to avoid any nasty shocks when your statement arrives. You should check several weeks before you go away that all the cards you are taking are current (ie. not going to expire whilst you are away), that the signature is clear on the back of the card and that you know all relevant PIN (personal identification number) numbers.

The UK banking industry claims that losses from credit and debit cards, issued in Britain and then used by fraudsters overseas, total almost 140 million pounds each year, and that much of this loss occurs because people have their cards stolen whilst they’re on holiday.

The following simple precautions should go some way in preventing yourself having your credit cards stolen whilst on holiday. Firstly, always treat your credit and debit cards as carefully as you would cash and don’t keep your cheque book with your cards. Never leave plastic cards and other valuables unattended anywhere at all, not even your hotel room. Use your hotel room’s safety deposit box if it has one or if not, ask to use a safe in the hotel itself. Always keep your plastic cards on your person while travelling to and from your holiday destination. Rucksacks or suitcases are not safe places to store your cards.

When in crowds, keep your bag either strapped across your body or held firmly. Turn the clasp towards you, making it even harder for a pickpocket to get at. A concealed money belt is an ideal way to carry your cards and valuables.

If you are driving whilst on holiday, keep handbags and wallets out of sight of opportunist thieves – especially in slow moving traffic and at traffic lights or junctions. Always remove plastic cards and other valuables from parked cars. In addition, the hot weather means less clothing, which can also mean that personal items such as wallets in back pockets are more visible. Take extra care to ensure that valuables are safely concealed.

Most importantly, keep an eye on plastic cards when paying in shops and restaurants. Check your statement carefully when you return home. And make sure you have a note of the emergency 24-hour telephone numbers for your cards before you travel, so that you can report any theft/loss immediately. You will find these on your last statement or in the telephone directory, or on the back of your cards. Keep a note of this number somewhere away from your cards incase your wallet is stolen. You could always leave the number with someone back home who you could contact in the event of an emergency.

Finally, don’t tell anyone your PIN, even if they claim to be from the police or your bank, and don’t write it down anywhere at all.

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