Credit card safety 101: Travelling with plastic

Travelling to another country can be risky business. Language barriers, confusing currency and outright criminals can dampen even the most anticipated getaway.


The same thing goes for travelling with a credit card. To be sure, a credit card can help you get out of a jam, but it can also make you a prime target for thieves.

That's why the best defence is sometimes self-defence. Laurie Campbell, executive director at Credit Canada, offers these kung-fu fighting safety tips for travelling abroad with your credit card. What are the dangers of travelling with credit cards? 
Laurie Campbell:
There are many countries that are dangerous in the first place. Travelling with credit cards can be problematic in areas where there is high crime. Ideally, you really only need one all-purpose credit card. Carrying multiple cards make it difficult to keep track of them all. And if you're asked if you have a credit card, always say 'no.' Otherwise, you'll be an easy target for harassment. Why is it important to let your credit card issuer know that you're traveling overseas?
You should always alert your credit card issuer so that they know it's you who is using your credit card and that there is no fraud involved. Some credit card issuers tend to decline purchases to avoid having a credit card used by someone other than the actual cardholder. And be sure to check your balance periodically online to ensure that your credit card information has not been compromised. What types of information about your credit card should you always store in a safe place?
Make sure you've written down the contact information on your credit card in case it gets lost or stolen and you need to report it. Store this information separately from your credit card along with your credit card number and relevant card information. Your credit card itself should be stored safely if you are not planning to take it with you. For example, many hotels have a safety deposit box system or a safe in the rooms. Nothing of value should be left unstored. Why is it worth it, in the long run, to bring a credit card with you on your travels?
Safety is a key factor in bringing a credit card along. If you are in a precarious situation, having a credit card can help you pay for something you may not otherwise be able to pay for. Convenience is another key factor. It is much easier to use credit cards than cash and a lot safer. Debit cards can be problematic in certain countries as they may not work or be accepted.

See related: Credit card travel insurance: Is it enough?; How to minimize your risk of card fraud

Published October 18, 2011

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