When Matt Matheson was traveling in southern France, he suddenly noticed his pockets felt lighter. Without his realizing, a pickpocket had stolen his wallet, which contained a credit card, debit card, license and $200 in cash.
Fortunately, Matheson, a finance blogger at Method to Your Money, was also traveling with a secret money belt, which contained traveler’s checks, his passport and an extra debit and credit card. He acted fast, notifying his bank and credit cards to watch out for suspicious activity.
Although Matheson was out $200, the situation could have been a lot worse if he hadn’t taken precautions. Besides wearing a money belt, here are nine other ways you can protect yourself financially while you’re traveling:
1. Tell your bank where you’re going
Before hitting the skies, seas or open road, make sure to let your bank know you might be making charges in another state or country. That way, it won’t lock your account if it sees a withdrawal from an unfamiliar place.
“As a former employee in the banking industry, I can’t tell you the number of times I received calls from panicked customers that their card had been blocked while traveling,” said Annie Brown, a former call center representative for SAFE Credit Union who now works on her lifestyle blog, Savvy Honey.
Although banking security is generally helpful, it could hurt you if you’re abroad with no way to take out money because your bank has put a block on your account.
“To get it lifted, you’ll have to call the fraud department, which can be a hassle if you’re abroad,” said Brown.
And once you’ve filled your banks in on your upcoming travel plans, tell your credit card companies as well.
“Because credit card companies are on high alert for fraud, sudden charges from a different country will look like suspicious activity and could cause your credit card company to freeze your account,” said financial attorney Leslie Tayne of Tayne Law Group P.C.
2. Use credit when you can
While we’re on the subject of credit cards, note that it could make sense to rely on plastic more than cash, since they tend to have built-in protections.
Jordan Tarver, a financial analyst who also writes for FitSmallBusiness.com, recommends using your credit card as much as possible when you’re traveling.
“Using credit cards instead of cash means you that you can recoup your losses much faster,” said Tarver. “If someone stole your wallet and cash, the chances of getting your money back are slim. However, if your credit card is stolen, all future purchases made aren’t your responsibility.”
So to protect yourself from theft, consider favoring credit cards over cash whenever possible (unless you’re prone to overspending with plastic — in that case, stick with cash to stay within your budget).
3. Watch out for foreign transaction fees
If you’ll be relying on credit cards while traveling internationally, make sure to use ones that don’t charge foreign transaction fees.
“Know about foreign transaction fees,” advised Tayne. “If you opt to do most of your spending on a credit or debit card, you may be getting slammed with a foreign transaction fee.”
Fortunately, some cards don’t charge these fees at all, so if needed, consider applying for one of those before your trip. The best travel credit cards also offer points back on your spending, as well as perks like rental insurance or reimbursement for lost luggage.
Some even offer concierge services to help you book accommodations or get access to airport lounges. As long as you can spend responsibly, a card with no foreign transaction fees could help your trip go off without a hitch.
4. Be cautious when withdrawing money
Even if you’re mainly using credit cards, it’s always useful to have at least a small amount of cash when traveling. To save yourself exchange fees, withdraw cash from an ATM when you arrive at your destination. But be careful about when and where you take out money, as well as how much you withdraw.
“Avoid isolated or secluded ATMs where criminals may be lurking,” said Chane Steiner, CEO of Crediful. “It is also much safer to use an ATM at or near your hotel and during daylight hours. If possible, always bring a friend to tag along.”
While taking a bunch of money out at once can help you avoid foreign transaction fees, you also want to avoid carrying too much money on your person at once.
“Carrying a bunch of foreign cash around when you’re traveling is never a good idea,” said Tarver. “Instead, use an ATM close to your hotel and leave it secured in your hotel room. Each day, take what you need.”
It can also be helpful to choose an ATM at a bank so you’ll be protected by security cameras or other safety measures. And if anyone not connected with the bank approaches you offering help, beware — it could very well be a scammer trying to get a glimpse of your ATM pin.
5. Make sure your bills are taken care of at home
When you’re on vacation, it’s easy to forget about responsibilities back at home. But an unpaid bill could come back to haunt you, so make sure your finances are running on auto-pilot while you’re away.
“Prepay or schedule any bills that will need to be paid while you are on vacation,” advised Matilda Geroulis, travel expert and cofounder of The Travel Sisters. “I don’t want to miss a payment, and get hit with late fees, because I don’t check my email as often while I travel.”
If you have student loans, setting up auto-pay could also have the added benefit of lowering your interest rate, often by 0.25%. It can likewise be helpful to set up automatic payments on your credit cards or any other recurring bills, so long as you’re sure you won’t cause an overdraft on your bank account.
By doing this, you can rest easy knowing your bills are being paid (and your credit score is being protected) without having to worry about logging into your accounts from abroad.
6. Don’t sign into your accounts on public WiFi
If you do need to check on your balances, be careful about where you’re signing in to your financial accounts.
“Criminals are notorious for hacking public WiFi networks,” said Justin Lavelle, online safety expert and chief communications director of online background-check platform BeenVerified.com.
“It’s likely that while traveling, you’ll use free WiFi to access the Internet, possibly at the airport, hotel, coffee shops and other public places,” Lavelle said. “If you are using free WiFi, be sure to log out of all personal accounts, and never make transactions or pay bills while on public WiFi.”
For maximum security, consider using a Virtual Private Network (VPN) to encrypt your online activity. Just as a money belt can protect you from pickpockets, the VPN could protect you from online hackers.
7. Watch out for scams
Along with protecting yourself online, Lavelle said, it’s also crucial to watch out for scams against tourists. The first he mentioned was the “broken taxi meter scam.”
“It is not uncommon for taxi drivers near train stations or airports to notify passengers that their meter is broken,” said Lavelle. “If the meter is not utilized, passengers can be held responsible for outrageous taxi fees. If the driver insists the ride is cheaper without the meter or refuses to turn the meter on, get out of the taxi and request a different taxi driver.”
The second scam Lavelle mentioned also involves taxi drivers: “While en route to the hotel, the driver may say the hotel is closed or overbooked, (and) then try to lure you to a more expensive property where he gets a kick back,” he said. “To avoid being scammed, contact the hotel upon arrival to ensure the reservation is confirmed.”
Another scam involves someone offering you a “gift” of jewelry or flowers and then demanding money for it. Protect yourself by refusing free gifts from strangers.
Finally, as mentioned above, be aware of your wallet or purse to avoid pickpockets. “A person may accidentally spill something on your clothing or bump you from behind,” Lavelle said. “This is a mere distraction to keep your focus on the spill and not on personal belongings.”
8. Consider travel insurance
Hopefully your trip will go off without a hitch, but sometimes even the best laid plans go awry. From missed flights to lost luggage to medical emergencies, you might run into unexpected expenses along the way.
A travel insurance plan can protect your finances in case of an emergency. Medical insurance plans should cover emergency healthcare expenses you incur abroad, while comprehensive plans would also cover travel delays.
“If you are traveling to a small town or someplace remote in a foreign country, you might have to be medically evacuated to a nearby city in the case of a medical emergency,” said Geroulis. “The costs of medical care or emergency evacuation can be catastrophic for your finances, so it is worth it to buy travel insurance.”
Of course, you might decide to risk it if you’re going on a short trip or already have some coverage from your credit card. But if you want to be extra cautious about protecting your finances, consider a travel insurance plan to cover you while you’re away.
9. Make a travel budget, and stick to it
Using a VPN and avoiding scams will protect your money from other people, but you might also need to take steps to protect your money from yourself.
When you’re on vacation, it’s easy to splurge on hotels, restaurants and shopping. But when you get back home, your credit card balances might make your eyes water. Avoid overspending by designing a budget. Break your spending into categories, such as lodging and food, and set limits on how much you want to spend in each.
“Make a travel budget before you leave,” suggested Ben Watson, a CPA and personal finance expert who also serves as Virtual CFO at DollarSprout.com. “Having a set amount of money for the trip and divided into specific categories will help keep you from overspending or letting the vacation follow your wallet home.”
You might do this on a simple spreadsheet or use a budget-tracking app. By crafting a spending plan — and sticking to it — you can avoid draining your bank account or going into debt to pay for your trip.
Interested in refinancing student loans?Here are the top 7 lenders of 2019!
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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 7.49% APR (with Auto Pay). Variable rate loan rates range from 2.14% APR (with Auto Pay) to 6.79% 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 September 6, 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 09/06/2019. 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 Laurel Road.
Laurel Road Disclosures
However, if the borrower chooses to make monthly payments automatically by electronic funds transfer (EFT) from a bank account, the fixed rate will decrease by 0.25%, and will increase back up to the regular fixed interest rate described in the preceding paragraph if the borrower stops making (or we stop accepting) monthly payments automatically by EFT from the designated borrower’s bank account.
However, if the borrower chooses to make monthly payments automatically by electronic funds transfer (EFT) from a bank account, the variable rate will decrease by 0.25%, and will increase back up to the regular variable interest rate described in the preceding paragraph if the borrower stops making (or we stop accepting) monthly payments automatically by EFT from the designated borrower’s bank account.
All credit products are subject to credit approval.
Laurel Road began originating student loans in 2013 and has since helped thousands of professionals with undergraduate and postgraduate degrees consolidate and refinance more than $4 billion in federal and private school loans. Laurel Road also offers a suite of online graduate school loan products and personal loans that help simplify lending through customized technology and personalized service. In April 2019, Laurel Road was acquired by KeyBank, one of the nation’s largest bank-based financial services companies. 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. All loans are provided by KeyBank National Association, a nationally chartered bank. Member FDIC. For more information, visit www.laurelroad.com.
4 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.
5 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 2.19% effective August 10, 2019.
6 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.
7 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 08/01/2019. Variable interest rates may increase after consummation.
|2.14% – 6.79%1||Undergrad & Graduate|
|2.14% – 7.84%2||Undergrad & Graduate|
|2.43% – 6.65%3||Undergrad & Graduate|
|2.43% – 7.60%4||Undergrad & Graduate|
|2.14% – 8.01%5||Undergrad & Graduate|
|2.06% – 8.93%6||Undergrad & Graduate|
|2.74% – 7.24%7||Undergrad & Graduate|