8 financial travel tips

May 24, 2018 | Dollars & Sense

Whether you’re traveling to the next state over, or you’re adventuring to the other side of the globe, there are a lot of considerations to take into account when you travel. Do I have everything? Will I make my flight? Are six pairs of shoes too many?

One of the major worries is always money security. Nothing can ruin a trip like being scammed, robbed, or falling into general bad luck, like leaving your passport in the airplane seat pocket. (Whoops.)  Here are a few tips for vacationing and financial safety.

1. Notify your financial institution of your travel plans

Before you embark on your journey, call your financial institution and tell them the dates you’ll be traveling. Otherwise, they might see a charge on your credit card in Newport Beach and assume it’s fraudulent activity. It’ll be a huge pain if your card gets blocked while you’re on vacation. Calling ahead of time will prevent this.

Something to remember, however, is that even if you call to notify of your travel plans, the fraudulent activity system does not turn off completely. Your card can be stolen in Rome too, so it can still get blocked if the activity looks unusual. You have to admit that a charge for $500 worth of gourmet cheese looks a little suspicious if you don’t normally indulge.

2. Make copies of your documents

When you travel, especially when you travel abroad, it’s important to have copies of all of your documentation. Credit cards, passport, driver’s license — all that good stuff. Make two copies of everything, one to take with you in case of emergencies (in a zippered plastic bag to protect from moisture) and one to leave at home with someone you trust. That way, if anything is lost or stolen, you’ll have back-ups in two places. This will make the replacement process slightly easier (it’s not going to be fun).

Having electronic copies is also a great way to store backups without physically carrying them on your person. You might choose to upload your copies to a trusted cloud or send them to your own email account (and friends, just in case).  

3. Use local currency in transactions

When you use your credit card in foreign countries, a lot of times the machine will ask you whether you want the charge to be in the local currency or in dollars. Always pick the local currency to ensure you’re getting a fair deal. Some merchants might upcharge you if you pick USD.

If you’re not good at math (and, really, who is good at math?) there are apps that can help you with currency conversions. Keep in mind some companies have a special transaction fee, so carrying some cash should be an option. Converting cash might end up being easier and cheaper than using credit/debit cards; be sure to check with your financial institution prior to travel.

If you know you’ll be traveling to different countries, you might want to exchange USD cash for the local currency so you don’t have to worry about card transaction fees.

4. Get an EMV chip card

Before you travel abroad, make sure to update your credit card to an EMV chip, if you haven’t already. An EMV chip card works a little bit differently than a traditional magnetic strip. You insert it instead of sliding it, which protects you better against fraud. The U.S. has been slow on the draw with these, but for Europe, magnetic strips are a thing of the past. You might have trouble using your card if it doesn’t have the chip, so trade up your old school card for a shiny new one.

What happens if my credit card or passport get stolen while traveling? 

Do not wait to report your card lost or stolen. This might cost you some money depending on your location but a collect call is worth not having your money taken from you. Here are some numbers for the more popular credit card companies.

  • Visa: tel. 303.967.1096
  • MasterCard: tel. 636.722.7111
  • American Express: tel. 336.393.111

Although we hope it doesn’t happen, if your passport gets stolen or is lost abroad, read the U.S. Department of State’s instructions for what to do so you can get home. The copies of your driver’s license will come in handy.

5. Save money while traveling 

Did you know you can claim VAT returns? The standard European Union Value-Added Tax ranges from 8% to 27% depending on the country. The exact rates vary and change depending on the goods. You won’t be entitled to refunds on the tax you spend on hotels and meals, but you can get back most of the tax you paid on stuff like clothes and trinkets. For the full process, check this out.

6. Watch out for pickpockets 

Unfortunately, you’ll need to remember that you are not at home. Tourists often fall victim to pickpockets because they are the easiest to pickpocket as they’re looking around or in awe admiring a landmark. Easy things to avoid while abroad include:

  • Never leave a bag on the floor or hanging off the back of a chair in a restaurant.
  • Be alert when stepping out of a taxi or rideshare service with your bags. Your focus might be on paying the driver or making sure you’re at the right location; the focus of a thief is on your bags.

7. Review purchases as you go

A simple way to keep track of both your set budget (if you have a set budget for your trip) and your purchases is to check them out online. Most if not all financial institutions have a mobile app that makes this easy (you can find Andigo on the Google Pay Store and the Apple Store).

If your financial institution is falling behind on the times, you might have to resort to opening a page on your mobile browser and logging in that way, or you might consider switching to a modern financial institution like us!

8. Travel insurance

Travel insurance isn’t necessarily a must-have. You might not be traveling with items that would significantly affect you financially. However, if you’re worried about theft, having to cut the trip short, or having to cancel it entirely, travel insurance is something to look into. It’s a great way to protect against the endless tirade of what-ifs. It’s also worth mentioning that having travel insurance might help with the urge to fight for your things against a thief. You should never risk your well-being for items that can be replaced. They are replaceable, you are not! Don’t know where to get travel insurance? Contact your financial institution — they might be affiliated with an insurance agency that can help.

Are you an Andigo Credit Union member? Check out our friends at Liberty Mutual for travel insurance.

Money and financial security can be some of the most stressful factors of your vacation. Keeping your credit cards safe and your documents secure can be the difference between an unforgettable vacation in a good way or in a bad way. If you follow these tips, you’ll be set up for success. Bon voyage!

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