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7 Best Ways to Keep Your Money Safe When Traveling

Are you eagerly counting down the days to your next vacation? After working hard throughout the year, you deserve a few days of relaxation and fun. But regardless of how excited you are to take your next trip, it’s always crucial that you plan wisely and always remember to take plenty of precautions. After all, nothing can ruin your trip faster than losing your bankroll. Pickpockets often target tourists, and if you’re careless with your wallet or purse, someone could swipe your money from under your nose.

Don’t be an easy target. Here are some simple ways to keep your money safe when traveling.

How to Keep Your Money Safe While on Vacation

1. Use Credit, and Limit Cash
Using credit as your primary method of payment on vacation can be dangerous, as there may be a greater temptation to overspend. By using cash you can more easily adhere to a specific budget, as it forces you to spend within a certain range. But cash isn’t replaceable – and if you drop your wallet or if someone steals your money, you can lose all of your vacation funds.

However, if someone steals your credit card, you’re not liable for unauthorized charges. Even with a debit card, your bank will refund fraudulent purchases, although it may take a few days for the funds to hit your account. Therefore, bring some cash on your vacation – but don’t carry too much. Keep one or two credit cards in your wallet, and give yourself a daily spending limit to stay within your vacation budget. Only charge what you can afford to pay off in full the next time you receive a statement.

Check to see which forms of payment are primarily accepted at your destination – you may find, for instance, that your Discover Card is rendered almost useless in certain foreign countries. Visit your credit card’s official website and view its country acceptance map.

Also, always be aware of foreign transaction fees, as some credit card providers charge a fee of 2% to 3% to convert the currency. If you’re planning a trip abroad, look for cards that do not have a foreign transaction fee.

2. Use the Multi-Stash Method
If you need to rely on cash, never carry all of it in your wallet. Instead, break it up and hide various amounts of it in different spots to reduce the impact of theft. For example, you might keep some money in your wallet, and hide the remaining funds in a shoe or sock inside your suitcase. Or, you can keep money inside a hotel room safe, if one is available. If you have to bring a lot of cash when sightseeing, ask one of your companions to carry some of this money in his or her wallet.

Furthermore, do not leave cash or credit cards lying around your hotel room. Theft doesn’t only occur outside the hotel – hotel workers have access to your room, and if your room door is accidentally left unlocked, other hotel guests can enter and steal your belongings.

In all likelihood, there are ATMs near your hotel or resort, which alleviates the need to withdraw all of your vacation money at once. The bank is the safest place for your vacation cash, and you should only withdraw cash on an as-needed basis.

3. Record Your Account and Customer Service Numbers
The sooner you report a stolen credit card or debit card, the better. Of course, it’s difficult to report the card stolen if you don’t have access to your account information or the customer service number on the back of the card.

Plan for the worst and make multiple copies of the front and back of your credit and debit cards before leaving home, or write down your account and customer service numbers. Keep this information in a safe location separate from your credit cards. For example, you might place a copy in the hotel safe, leave a copy on your laptop, or give a copy to a friend.

4. Avoid Secluded ATMs
Secluded ATMs can welcome trouble, as any machine that isn’t visible from the street or nearby locations can give a would-be thief the right set of circumstances to steal your money. Use money machines located inside your hotel or near busy areas, and plan your ATM visits wisely. Do not visit machines at night or in the early morning hours. If you have a vehicle, make use of drive-up ATMs. Keep your engine running and lock your doors, and ask a friend to accompany you. There is strength in numbers, and you’ll be less of a target with another person.

Avoid Secluded Atms

5. Keep Cash Out of Sight
While it’s fun to let loose on vacation, you must always remain aware of the people around you. Whether you’re shopping, going on an excursion, or dining at a restaurant, never pull out large sums of cash in front of others, as this can draw the wrong kind of attention. Organize your money before heading out, and only bring what you need for the day.

6. Use a Money Belt
Whether you have cash or credit cards, there is no safer place for funds than on your body. A money belt is a travel necessity that reduces the risk of theft. These belts have a fabric zipped pouch, and they fit comfortably across your waist or stomach.

Position the belt on your body before dressing, and then place your clothes over the belt. This is not only the perfect place for credit cards and cash, but also your passport or driver’s license. Zip the pouch and your cash is safe from pickpockets.

7. Protect Your Devices With Passwords
Losing or having your phone or laptop stolen can give someone access to your financial apps and other personal information. A thief may pull up your bank account or credit card information and make fraudulent purchases. To ensure your safety, password-protect each device to keep your information safe, and program devices to auto-lock after one or two minutes of inactivity.

Final Word

The way you handle your money on vacation either increases or decreases your risk of theft. Thieves bet on the fact that tourists will let their guards down, and for those who do, they are ready to sweep in and grab cash and credit cards. Carry as little cash as possible, use discernment, and regularly monitor your credit and bank statements.

What are some other ways to protect your money while on vacation?

Valencia Higuera is a personal finance junkie who enjoys reading articles on budgeting, saving money, and credit cards. She has written personal finance articles and blogs for several online publications. She holds a B.A in English from Old Dominion University and currently lives in Chesapeake, Virginia.