Come Home With Your Credit Card: A Traveller’s Checklist

You’ve got big travel plans. Along with the fun will come some packing and unpacking, dashing here and there, queuing, gawking, jostling, and flexing of your credit cards in public. So be prepared.

Guard those handy bits of plastic. Theft and loss, or identity theft, will deprive you of time, money, and enjoyment. The farther from home you go, the more hassle there could be. Our checklist will help you minimize the inconvenience that inevitably accompanies a card gone missing.

  • Decide what to carry. Decide carefully which credit and debit cards to take with you. Consider a low spending limit for the one you will keep accessible but hidden while out in public, and a higher limit for back-up card only you could find.
  • Choose your PIN carefully. You should only carry cards for which you have a four-digit personal identification number that only you know. Do NOT choose a number that is the same as your age, address, or other series of numbers carried with you.
  • Photocopy or scan your cards. Scan the front and back of each card and hide the images separately from your cards. (While you are at it, make back-up copies of such things as airline tickets, itinerary, passport, or driver’s licence, prescriptions, vaccination record, travel insurance policy, emergency help line, and other contact numbers.) Leave another set of copies at home with a friend or family member.
  • Keep an eye on your cards. Beware of the risk of a cashier or waiter using a device to ‘skim’ the information on your card’s magnet strip to create a copy or a stranger watching you enter your PIN.
  • Know how to report a loss. Notify your card issuer as soon as you realize a card has been lost or stolen. Notify credit bureaus if you have lost personal identification information that may have been stolen. Record their contact telephone numbers, and learn how to reach them from the country you are visiting, using a landline or a cellular telephone.
  • Hang onto the evidence. Be prepared to prove where you were and which charges you incurred before your card was lost or stolen. So hang onto store receipts, transit passes, and admission receipts. In some circumstances, you may be expected to file a police report. Retain a copy of the complaint and contact information for the investigating officer.

Why all the bother? Yes, we realize that cards were designed for convenience, and all these precautions may sound like too much of a bother. But we know from the bitter experience of those who have lived through it that theft or loss of a credit card can be extremely stressful. So before you leave for a trip, put the emphasis on the first four recommendations.

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