5 Tips for Avoiding Credit Card Hassles While Travelling

By James Daw, Freelance Writer

Toronto, ON (Sept. 27, 2013) – The loss, theft, or misuse of your credit card would cause needless inconvenience during what should be a carefree vacation. And the farther you stray from home, the worse the hassle factor could be. The good news is that Canada’s federally regulated financial institutions have made a public commitment to protect those who carry a card for personal use, provided they are careful and obey the card issuer’s rules. Fifty dollars is the most you should have to pay if a thief or fraud artist goes on a spending spree.

Consumer protection policies may vary by company, however. So the Financial Consumer Agency of Canada urges consumers to check for details with their own card issuers. There are general descriptions of the rules on their websites, but you may wish to seek clarification.

Along with keeping your personal identification number (PIN) safe, promptly reporting a lost or stolen card, co-operating with investigators, and keeping a record of communications regarding your missing card, there are some additional tips to avoid credit card-related hassle while travelling.

1. Limit your exposure to loss.

Travel with only one or two credit or debit cards, and check that the expiry dates will cover your time away. Request a low spending limit for the card you will carry around. Keep in mind that you might need a back-up card with a high spending limit to cover an emergency medical bill until the emergency assistance department of your travel health insurance provider steps up. Keep the cards out of sight—in a safe, inside locked luggage, in a clever hiding place while in your hotel or hostel, or in a well-hidden money belt or concealed pocket while walking around or travelling in a crowd.

2. Choose and use your PIN with care

Take cards that require a four-digit PIN in order to use them. Your choice of PIN should be memorable, but should not be so obvious a thief could guess it from your birth date, or the other personal information stored along with your card. Don’t be lulled into complacency because you have a card with a PIN. There are still retailers around the world that do not have terminals that will recognize cards with an embedded microchip. They will still accept payments by having the holder of the card sign a receipt. (When have you ever had a retailer ask to compare your signature with the photo on some form of photo identification card?) An experienced thief might know where to shop to use a stolen card. Online and telephone purchases would not require the thief to provide a PIN.

3. Be aware of your surroundings

Always keep your card in sight to reduce the risk of having the information from the magnetic strip on the back of the card skimmed. Shield your hand when keying in your PIN. Remember that you could leave a digital trail if you use your credit card on the computer in the lobby of your hotel or at a local cyber café. So make it a habit not to use your credit card number on public computers, or make sure the site is secure (e.g., sites that show a padlock in the lower right corner or have a URL beginning with ‘https’) and remove all information before leaving.

4. Be ready to cancel a stolen card

Be prepared to cancel or put a hold on your credit card as soon as you realize it is lost, stolen, or compromised. Carry a photocopy showing the account number, expiration date, authorization number, and your signature on the cards. Record telephone numbers for the bank or other financial institution that issued your card, the numbers for Visa, MasterCard, or American Express in the countries you are to visit, and instructions for calling the Canadian office of your institution from overseas. Keep this information stored away from your cards. Borrow a telephone, ask for help if necessary, or work out an arrangement with a friend or family member (to contact the card issuer on your behalf) before travelling. Once you are back home, check your credit card statements and online accounts, and report any suspicious activity to your financial institution.

Where to call to report lost or stolen cards:

5. Protect your identity and credit score

Notify credit bureaus if a thief has obtained enough personal information to commit identity theft, as he or she could then apply for additional loans or credit cards in your name. This advice is likely more important when travelling within Canada or the United States than overseas. Still, you have nothing to lose but a minor fee if you take this additional precaution. You could save yourself a lot more inconvenience later. Note also that some travel insurance policies, and all-perils home insurance policies, include financial compensation for losses due to identity theft.

Most of us will return home with our credit cards safely tucked in our wallets, and only our own bills to pay. But some tourists will become targets for crime. So, as contradictory as it may seem, the key to a carefree vacation is being aware of the risks and taking steps to avoid inconvenience and financial loss.

About Ingle International

A trusted name in the industry since 1946, Ingle International provides customized insurance solutions for anyone studying, working, or living anywhere in the world. Representing insurers worldwide, Ingle International will find the right insurance product to suit the unique travel needs of groups and individuals.

This article, written by James Daw, is provided by Ingle International. Ingle International has partnered with Insurance-Canada to provide Canadian travellers with the right travel insurance and the information they need for safe and healthy travels.

Source: Ingle International Inc.