As numerous hacks over the past few years have shown us, our money is never truly safe, even at seemingly secure institutions.
While the chance of a data breach happening to the average traveler is low, you and your dollars are still vulnerable when vacationing in unfamiliar surroundings. A stolen or misplaced wallet or purse can mean your cards and cash are gone — and your identity is suddenly at risk. Ambitious pickpockets exist in even the most unlikely locations — and in a foreign country, theft or fraud can put an end to your trip.
Luckily, there are ways to protect your money when traveling at home or abroad. Consider these seven tips to keep your credit cards and personal finances secure the next time you go adventuring.
Keep Your Bank in the Know
Banks and credit card providers are known to temporarily freeze accounts if they notice more spending or withdrawals than usual. It's only a safety precaution in the event your card may have been stolen. "If your credit card account suddenly shows purchases thousands of miles from your home, your card issuer might decline them as suspicious," writes Chanelle Bessette for NerdWallet. Prevent this by telling the card companies about your upcoming travel itinerary. And in the event you do misplace your plastic, it'll be easier to notify them.
SEE ALSO: The 9 Best Travel Credit Cards for 2018
Get a Travel Debit Card
When I visited Europe, I opened a temporary travel checking account through my bank and left my regular debit cards at home. It'll have a set expiration date for when you return home, and a balance you set yourself. Having just the one card on your person not only keeps your spending disciplined while you travel, but if you lose the card, a thief only has access to that card, not the funds in your main account back home.
Avoid Nonbank ATMs
You should try to limit your ATM usage anyway, especially in other countries where fees (combined with differences in the currency exchange rate) can cost you money. But if you must make withdrawals from your checking account, stick exclusively with official bank ATMs. According to Forbes, ATM scams do happen from time to time. The site recommends using an ATM in a high-traffic area or bank lobby and inspecting it for anything visibly suspicious.
Protect Your Phone
Guarding your money during a vacation isn't just about protecting your cash or cards. If your phone falls into the wrong hands, your bank account information can be accessible to a stranger who'll go on a spending spree with your money. Always keep your smartphone and laptop PIN- and password-enabled on the welcome screen. Money Crashers also recommends setting up your devices to auto-lock after a minute or two of inactivity.
Lock Up Your Money
Even though you're on vacation, away from the cares of work and home, that doesn't mean you should stop being mindful of your banking activity. Experts recommend that if you bring cash or other credit cards with you, don't carry them all at once; instead, lock them up, whether in your hotel room's safe or a hostel locker. Keep paper and digital copies of your card and account numbers, in case they've been compromised and you need to report the fraudulent activity. Don't get paranoid, but stay vigilant. Never lose sight of your wallet and cash wherever you go.
Frequently log on to your bank account to monitor your activity, either on your laptop or via your bank's smartphone app. And make sure the WiFi connection is secure. It may seem like a hassle, but you never know when you might spot some suspicious, unauthorized activity.
Stash Your Cash
No, not under the mattress or inside the Bible in the hotel nightstand. Those are popular places where thieves look. Carry cash sparingly, and carry it on you strategically. Experts recommend using a money belt, worn underneath your clothes. Hide some cash inside the lining of your shoes or inside your sock, or look for outerwear with hidden zippers that aren't readily spotted. Some women may even use their bra cups to hide money!
SEE ALSO: How to Buy a Men's Wallet
While keeping your wallet in your back pocket is not recommended (making for an easy steal), aim to keep some money in there; an empty wallet could tip off a potential mugger that your cash is indeed hidden somewhere else on your body. Some experts advocate the carrying of a "dummy" wallet. Keep a few bucks inside as a decoy for thieves to take without jeopardizing the rest of your funds.
Make It Look Like You're Home
It's not all about guarding the assets you have with you on vacation. If your house looks like it's been unattended, burglars can tell you haven't been home, making it a prime spot for a robbery. You might want to put a hold on your mail; letting your mail and newspapers build up is one way that thieves can tell there's nobody picking them up.
Ask a trusted friend or family member to pick up packages delivered to your door, and use timers on your inside and outside lights to give the impression your house is occupied. It would be a shame if protecting your money on vacation meant losing it on the return home.
Readers, how do you keep your money secure when you're traveling? Have you ever lost money or had it stolen while on vacation? Share your thoughts in the comments below!