Vacation Card Safety

Keeping You and Your Debit and Credit Cards Safe During Vacation Travels

Travel season is always a fun time. The kids are out of school, the weather is warm, and hopefully life is slowing down a bit.

But it’s when you relax that sometimes you put yourself at risk for some of the dangers of traveling.  You already know the basics of card safety: Keep your cards with you at all times. Be aware of what’s going on around you when you are at a public ATM.  Hide your card and PIN numbers while checking out at a store. And hang onto those receipts, even at the gas station, don’t leave anything behind.

But since it’s your vacation, make it a point to try a few new things. Here are some ways to make sure your fun in the sun doesn’t turn into a pain in the pockets.


 No. 1: Consider letting your bank or credit card companies know your travel schedule.  

If you live in Birmingham where all of your expenses generally happen, and then try to charge dinner in San Francisco, your card issuer may suspect fraud and suspend your card.

Giving us or your card issuer a rough itinerary of your upcoming trip really becomes a helpful tool for not only making sure you know you’re safe, but also letting us know you’re safe as well.

One good tip is to pad an extra few days or even a week onto your return date when you inform your bank or card issuer.  This way, if something happens and you are delayed, you have the resources to book extra hotel nights or make new travel arrangements without things looking suspicious.

 No. 2: Pack Your Purse or Wallet Smart.

Pack your wallet the way you pack your suitcase by taking only what you actually need.

You most likely won’t need every card you have. Follow the “KISS” method — Keep it simple silly!

  • A debit or ATM card: good for getting cash and especially handy if you want to receive your money in a foreign currency.
  • One or two major credit cards that are widely used. Just make sure to check before you leave to be sure your picks are typically accepted where you’re going.
  • A backup credit card. Just in case the other has issues.

 No. 3: Think About Lowering Your Cash Withdrawal Limits.

Debit cards are handy for getting cash, and they’re also one of the best ways to change currencies on the go if needed.

Most debit cards, especially if they have a MasterCard or Visa logo, will work at cash machines abroad.

Most importantly, remember that with your Southern States Bank debit card you can use any ATM and we will pay the fees.

At Southern States Bank, we can help you adjust your limits so in the event that your debit card or card information is stolen and you’re quick to report it, you’ve kept a bad situation from getting even worse.

 No. 4: Jot Down Emergency Phone Numbers.

Your wallet’s gone. Maybe even your phone, too. What to do? Now you need to report those stolen cards. But what numbers do you dial?

Our advice is to keep a list of phone numbers for your credit card companies in case your wallet is lost or stolen, so you can immediately put a hold on those accounts. But make sure you keep that list separately from your other cards.

 No. 5: Ask Hotels About Card Security.

The hotel industry itself accounted for close to 8 percent of card breaches in 2011. This is down from a whopping 38 percent in 2009, but still a substantial number to consider when thinking about good card safety at hotels.

Travel experts recommend that you always use a credit card when checking into a hotel and making a reservation. Don’t use a debit card so your bank account remains separate and protected.

Also data protection experts advise you to ask if the hotel computers use either encryption or tokenization technology which protects private information.

 No. 6: Don’t Put All Your Cards in One Basket. Or Wallet.

This goes back to our advice about packing a smart wallet. Good advice for any time, and especially when you travel, is to keep at least one card in a separate location.

That could mean splitting cards between you and a spouse or family member, placing a card in the room safe or just putting one card in a different pocket or bag.

When you carry cards, always keep them close to your body. That means a front pocket rather than a back one if you’re a guy. And if you’re a woman carrying a purse, keep it with you — don’t put it down and always keep it zipped or closed.

For those more fashionably daring, one strategy to consider is a money belt. While they might not be featured on travel fashion’s top 10 list — they keep money and cards close to you in a place that isn’t easily accessible to any prying hands. Perfect for walking down small or tight streets where you are close to people.

 No 7: Practice Safe ATMing.

And last, but certainly not least, and a point where many people fall victim to theft, is practicing good safety at the ATM.

When you hit a cash machine, observe your surroundings. That means selecting ATMs in safe, public areas and visiting during daylight hours. You can also choose machines that are in a lobby, rather than out on the street.

As you do at your hometown bank, look out for people who could be cribbing card numbers or peeping PINs. Beware of strangers plying the “did you drop this?” technique where as you look on the ground, they are behind your back withdrawing cash.

Summer is a time to be worrying what bathing suit is going to look good and what restaurant you’re going to enjoy that night on the beach. But make sure someone doesn’t turn your dream vacation into a nightmare of money woes.