In the summer of 2009, I spent six weeks in Fiji working with a nonprofit organization. Between working in villages during the week and frequenting beaches over the weekend, I had the time of my life.
But all the excitement of the trip disappeared when I came home to a nasty surprise: a collection notice. As it turned out, I let a friend borrow my video rental store membership card to rent a game before I left, and he never returned it.
Fortunately, I was able to pay off the debt without hurting my credit, but the process took weeks and involved several discussions with the movie rental store and the collection company. And I wouldn’t expect that to happen every time.
If you’re heading overseas for a while, it’s important to know how to protect your credit while you’re gone.
How to protect your credit while you’re abroad
Roughly 15.4 million Americans fell victim to identity theft in 2016, according to a study by Javelin Strategy & Research. And if you’re planning a long trip abroad, your absence can put you at risk.
“When a person is traveling, they may not be getting regular delivery of their mail or phone calls that might alert them to a compromised identity,” said Robert Siciliano, personal security and identity theft expert. “This means that bill collectors via phone or email may not be able to contact them.”
Here are five ways to make sure you don’t come back home to a credit emergency.
1. Alert your bank and creditors
Your first line of defense is making sure your current accounts don’t get compromised. Call your bank and creditors and let them know you’re going to be away and for how long. Some banks and lenders also allow you to set up a travel alert through your online account.
If you plan to use a debit or credit card while you’re away, let the issuer know where you’ll be. That way, your purchases in the country you’re visiting won’t be flagged as fraud.
2. Set up a fraud alert or freeze on your credit report
Monitoring credit isn’t my idea of a good time, and it definitely isn’t something I want to do while I’m visiting another country. To keep identity thieves from creating new accounts in your name, you have two options: You can set up a fraud alert or place a freeze on your credit report.
An initial fraud alert — which is used if you’re not already a fraud victim — lasts for 90 days. If you’re being deployed with the military, you can even request an active-duty alert, which lasts for one year.
When you or someone else tries to open a credit account, a fraud alert requires that the creditor verifies your identity before approving the application.
Generally, that process involves contacting you at the phone number you provided when you requested the alert. The creditor then runs through a series of identity verification questions, which can include asking about past phone numbers and addresses, an existing monthly payment on another account, or a past or current employer.
Fraud alerts are free, and you have to request one with only one of the bureaus. Once the bureau receives it, the bureau will forward it to the other two.
Credit freezes are more secure, according to Siciliano.
“[A freeze] locks down your credit from new account fraud,” he said. So, it might be a better option if you’re planning to be gone for months at a time.
The main drawback to freezing your credit is that it might not be free, especially if you’re not already a victim of identity theft. What’s more, some states allow the credit bureaus to charge a fee to temporarily lift or permanently remove the freeze.
Check the fees for your state to determine if a freeze is worth it.
3. Set your monthly payments on autopay
It can be hard to remember to make all your monthly payments while you’re away. Missing one will not only result in a late payment fee, but it can also damage your credit if it’s more than 30 days late. That’s when the credit bureaus consider a payment late, even if the lender charged you a late fee on the first day.
To avoid this problem, make a list of your recurring monthly payments and set up autopay. And don’t forget recurring charges that happen less frequently, such as car insurance and annual memberships.
4. Protect your mail from fraudsters
Allowing your mail to continue to come can leave it vulnerable to identity thieves. On average, the U.S. Postal Inspection Service arrests around 10,000 suspects per year for mail theft. There are three things you can do to make sure it doesn’t happen to you:
- Hold it: The United States Postal Service (USPS) allows you to hold your mail for up to 30 days at a time. Once the hold is over, you can choose to receive the held mail at once or pick it up from your local post office.
- Forward it: If you’re going to be gone for longer than 30 days, you can request — online or in person — that your mail be forwarded to a family member or friend. Forwarding times range from 15 days to one year, and the service costs $1.
- Ask for help: If you don’t want to hold or forward your mail, you can ask a family member or friend to pick it up every day and hold it for you until you get back.
Regardless of which option you choose, protecting your mail keeps potentially sensitive information safe.
5. Keep an eye on your accounts
The fastest way to spot account fraud as it’s happening is to check your accounts frequently. “Review your credit card statements monthly and look for unexpected charges,” said Siciliano.
Alternatively, you can ask to receive transaction alerts by email or text. That way, you can keep track of purchases on your account and verify there aren’t any unauthorized ones.
For example, you can set the transaction threshold to $0.00 so every transaction comes through, allowing you to keep track of even small fraudulent purchases.
If you do see something unauthorized, you can quickly call the bank or credit card issuer to report the fraudulent activity.
Preparation brings peace of mind
If you’re preparing for an extended trip abroad, you likely already have a long to-do list. Don’t forget to add figuring out how to protect your credit to that list. If you neglect to do so and become a victim of fraud, it can ruin the trip and cause credit problems that take weeks or months to resolve.
Interested in refinancing student loans?Here are the top 8 lenders of 2019!
|Lender||Variable APR||Eligible Degrees|
|Check out the testimonials and our in-depth reviews!
1 Important Disclosures for Earnest.
To qualify, you must be a U.S. citizen or possess a 10-year (non-conditional) Permanent Resident Card, reside in a state Earnest lends in, and satisfy our minimum eligibility criteria. You may find more information on loan eligibility here: https://www.earnest.com/eligibility. Not all applicants will be approved for a loan, and not all applicants will qualify for the lowest rate. Approval and interest rate depend on the review of a complete application.
Earnest fixed rate loan rates range from 3.45% APR (with Auto Pay) to 6.99% APR (with Auto Pay). Variable rate loan rates range from 1.99% APR (with Auto Pay) to 6.89% APR (with Auto Pay). For variable rate loans, although the interest rate will vary after you are approved, the interest rate will never exceed 8.95% for loan terms 10 years or less. For loan terms of 10 years to 15 years, the interest rate will never exceed 9.95%. For loan terms over 15 years, the interest rate will never exceed 11.95% (the maximum rates for these loans). Earnest variable interest rate loans are based on a publicly available index, the one month London Interbank Offered Rate (LIBOR). Your rate will be calculated each month by adding a margin between 1.82% and 5.50% to the one month LIBOR. The rate will not increase more than once per month. Earnest rate ranges are current as of November 21, 2019, and are subject to change based on market conditions and borrower eligibility.
Auto Pay discount: If you make monthly principal and interest payments by an automatic, monthly deduction from a savings or checking account, your rate will be reduced by one quarter of one percent (0.25%) for so long as you continue to make automatic, electronic monthly payments. This benefit is suspended during periods of deferment and forbearance.
The information provided on this page is updated as of 11/21/2019. Earnest reserves the right to change, pause, or terminate product offerings at any time without notice. Earnest loans are originated by Earnest Operations LLC. California Finance Lender License 6054788. NMLS # 1204917. Earnest Operations LLC is located at 302 2nd Street, Suite 401N, San Francisco, CA 94107. Terms and Conditions apply. Visit https://www.earnest.com/terms-of-service, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org, or call 888-601-2801 for more information on our student loan refinance product.
© 2018 Earnest LLC. All rights reserved. Earnest LLC and its subsidiaries, including Earnest Operations LLC, are not sponsored by or agencies of the United States of America.
2 Important Disclosures for SoFi.
3 Important Disclosures for Figure.
Figure’s Student Refinance Loan is a private loan. If you refinance federal loans, you forfeit certain flexible repayment options associated with those loans. If you expect to incur financial hardship that would impact your ability to repay, you should consider federal consolidation alternatives.
4 Important Disclosures for Laurel Road.
Laurel Road Disclosures
Laurel Road is a brand of KeyBank National Association offering online lending products in all 50 U.S. states, Washington, D.C., and Puerto Rico. Mortgage lending is not offered in Puerto Rico. All loans are provided by KeyBank National Association.
ANNUAL PERCENTAGE RATE (“APR”)
There are no origination fees or prepayment penalties associated with the loan. Lender may assess a late fee if any part of a payment is not received within 15 days of the payment due date. Any late fee assessed shall not exceed 5% of the late payment or $28, whichever is less. A borrower may be charged $20 for any payment (including a check or an electronic payment) that is returned unpaid due to non-sufficient funds (NSF) or a closed account.
For bachelor’s degrees and higher, up to 100% of outstanding private and federal student loans (minimum $5,000) are eligible for refinancing. If you are refinancing greater than $300,000 in student loan debt, Lender may refinance the loans into 2 or more new loans.
ELIGIBILITY & ELIGIBLE LOANS
Borrower, and Co-signer if applicable, must be a U.S. Citizen or Permanent Resident with a valid I-551 card (which must show a minimum of 10 years between “Resident Since” date and “Card Expires” date or has no expiration date); state that they are of at least borrowing age in the state of residence at the time of application; and meet Lender underwriting criteria (including, for example, employment, debt-to-income, disposable income, and credit history requirements).
Graduates may refinance any unsubsidized or subsidized Federal or private student loan that was used exclusively for qualified higher education expenses (as defined in 26 USC Section 221) at an accredited U.S. undergraduate or graduate school. Any federal loans refinanced with Lender are private loans and do not have the same repayment options that federal loan program offers such as Income Based Repayment or Income Contingent Repayment.
All loans must be in grace or repayment status and cannot be in default. Borrower must have graduated or be enrolled in good standing in the final term preceding graduation from an accredited Title IV U.S. school and must be employed, or have an eligible offer of employment. Parents looking to refinance loans taken out on behalf of a child should refer to https://www.laurelroad.com/refinance-student-loans/refinance-parent-plus-loans/ for applicable terms and conditions.
For Associates Degrees: Only associates degrees earned in one of the following are eligible for refinancing: Cardiovascular Technologist (CVT); Dental Hygiene; Diagnostic Medical Sonography; EMT/Paramedics; Nuclear Technician; Nursing; Occupational Therapy Assistant; Pharmacy Technician; Physical Therapy Assistant; Radiation Therapy; Radiologic/MRI Technologist; Respiratory Therapy; or Surgical Technologist. To refinance an Associates degree, a borrower must also either be currently enrolled and in the final term of an associate degree program at a Title IV eligible school with an offer of employment in the same field in which they will receive an eligible associate degree OR have graduated from a school that is Title IV eligible with an eligible associate and have been employed, for a minimum of 12 months, in the same field of study of the associate degree earned.
The interest rate you are offered will depend on your credit profile, income, and total debt payments as well as your choice of fixed or variable and choice of term. For applicants who are currently medical or dental residents, your rate offer may also vary depending on whether you have secured employment for after residency.
The repayment of any refinanced student loan will commence (1) immediately after disbursement by us, or (2) after any grace or in-school deferment period, existing prior to refinancing and/or consolidation with us, has expired.
POSTPONING OR REDUCING PAYMENTS
After loan disbursement, if a borrower documents a qualifying economic hardship, we may agree in our discretion to allow for full or partial forbearance of payments for one or more 3-month time periods (not to exceed 12 months in the aggregate during the term of your loan), provided that we receive acceptable documentation (including updating documentation) of the nature and expected duration of the borrower’s economic hardship.
We may agree under certain circumstances to allow a borrower to make $100/month payments for a period of time immediately after loan disbursement if the borrower is employed full-time as an intern, resident, or similar postgraduate trainee at the time of loan disbursement. These payments may not be enough to cover all of the interest that accrues on the loan. Unpaid accrued interest will be added to your loan and monthly payments of principal and interest will begin when the post-graduate training program ends.
We may agree under certain circumstances to allow postponement (deferral) of monthly payments of principal and interest for a period of time immediately following loan disbursement (not to exceed 6 months after the borrower’s graduation with an eligible degree), if the borrower is an eligible student in the borrower’s final term at the time of loan disbursement or graduated less than 6 months before loan disbursement, and has accepted an offer of (or has already begun) full-time employment.
If Lender agrees (in its sole discretion) to postpone or reduce any monthly payment(s) for a period of time, interest on the loan will continue to accrue for each day principal is owed. Although the borrower might not be required to make payments during such a period, the borrower may continue to make payments during such a period. Making payments, or paying some of the interest, will reduce the total amount that will be required to be paid over the life of the loan. Interest not paid during any period when Lender has agreed to postpone or reduce any monthly payment will be added to the principal balance through capitalization (compounding) at the end of such a period, one month before the borrower is required to resume making regular monthly payments.
KEYBANK NATIONAL ASSOCIATION RESERVES THE RIGHT TO MODIFY OR DISCONTINUE PRODUCTS AND BENEFITS AT ANY TIME WITHOUT NOTICE.
This information is current as of November 8, 2019 and is subject to change.
5 Important Disclosures for Splash Financial.
Splash Financial Disclosures
Terms and Conditions apply. Splash reserves the right to modify or discontinue products and benefits at any time without notice. Rates and terms are also subject to change at any time without notice. Offers are subject to credit approval. To qualify, a borrower must be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident in an eligible state and meet applicable underwriting requirements. Not all borrowers receive the lowest rate. Lowest rates are reserved for the highest qualified borrowers.
6 Important Disclosures for CommonBond.
Offered terms are subject to change. Loans are offered by CommonBond Lending, LLC (NMLS # 1175900). If you are approved for a loan, the interest rate offered will depend on your credit profile, your application, the loan term selected and will be within the ranges of rates shown. All Annual Percentage Rates (APRs) displayed assume borrowers enroll in auto pay and account for the 0.25% reduction in interest rate. All variable rates are based on a 1-month LIBOR assumption of 1.9299999999999997% effective October 10, 2019.
7 Important Disclosures for LendKey.
Refinancing via LendKey.com is only available for applicants with qualified private education loans from an eligible institution. Loans that were used for exam preparation classes, including, but not limited to, loans for LSAT, MCAT, GMAT, and GRE preparation, are not eligible for refinancing with a lender via LendKey.com. If you currently have any of these exam preparation loans, you should not include them in an application to refinance your student loans on this website. Applicants must be either U.S. citizens or Permanent Residents in an eligible state to qualify for a loan. Certain membership requirements (including the opening of a share account and any applicable association fees in connection with membership) may apply in the event that an applicant wishes to accept a loan offer from a credit union lender. Lenders participating on LendKey.com reserve the right to modify or discontinue the products, terms, and benefits offered on this website at any time without notice. LendKey Technologies, Inc. is not affiliated with, nor does it endorse, any educational institution.
Subject to floor rate and may require the automatic payments be made from a checking or savings account with the lender. The rate reduction will be removed and the rate will be increased by 0.25% upon any cancellation or failed collection attempt of the automatic payment and will be suspended during any period of deferment or forbearance. As a result, during the forbearance or suspension period, and/or if the automatic payment is canceled, any increase will take the form of higher payments. The lowest advertised variable APR is only available for loan terms of 5 years and is reserved for applicants with FICO scores of at least 810.
As of 11/07/2019 student loan refinancing rates range from 1.90% to 8.65% Variable APR with AutoPay and 3.49% to 7.75% Fixed APR with AutoPay.
8 Important Disclosures for College Ave.
College Ave Disclosures
College Ave Student Loans products are made available through either Firstrust Bank, member FDIC or M.Y. Safra Bank, FSB, member FDIC. All loans are subject to individual approval and adherence to underwriting guidelines. Program restrictions, other terms, and conditions apply.
1College Ave Refi Education loans are not currently available to residents of Maine.
2All rates shown include autopay discount. The 0.25% auto-pay interest rate reduction applies as long as a valid bank account is designated for required monthly payments. Variable rates may increase after consummation.
3$5,000 is the minimum requirement to refinance. The maximum loan amount is $300,000 for those with medical, dental, pharmacy or veterinary doctorate degrees, and $150,000 for all other undergraduate or graduate degrees.
4This informational repayment example uses typical loan terms for a refi borrower with a Full Principal & Interest Repayment and a 10-year repayment term, has a $40,000 loan and a 5.5% Annual Percentage Rate (“APR”): 120 monthly payments of $434.11 while in the repayment period, for a total amount of payments of $52,092.61. Loans will never have a full principal and interest monthly payment of less than $50. Your actual rates and repayment terms may vary.
Information advertised valid as of 12/1/2019. Variable interest rates may increase after consummation.
|1.99% – 6.89%1||Undergrad & Graduate|
|2.31% – 7.36%2||Undergrad & Graduate|
|2.21% – 6.21%3||Undergrad & Graduate|
|1.99% – 6.65%4||Undergrad & Graduate|
|2.43% – 7.60%5||Undergrad & Graduate|
|2.02% – 6.30%6||Undergrad & Graduate|
|1.90% – 8.65%7||Undergrad & Graduate|
|2.37% – 5.87%8||Undergrad & Graduate|