Vacationers worried about carrying too much cash often take along a debit card, so they can access cash from their checking accounts as they need it. This can be a good move, or a poor one should the card be lost or stolen.
In order to fall under the $50 maximum liability clause in your debit card agreement, bogus charges must be reported within two business days, so it’s vital to your financial well-being to keep a close eye on that card and report its loss immediately. Your liability is limited to $500 if you notify the bank within 60 days of a bank statement showing bogus charges, but that won’t help you much if you’re in a foreign country and suddenly have a bank account with a zero balance. An active thief could clean you out within hours!
Be sure you carry the necessary information for notifying your bank immediately of any loss. Keep the information in your hotel safe, and also leave a copy with someone at home that you can reach in a hurry. This is one time when “overkill” could be beneficial.
Be careful with your debit card before you leave home, as well. Unless your bank balance is very large, don’t use the debit card to reserve a hotel room or a car rental that you intend to pay for later with a credit card. Funds for these charges will be immediately “frozen,” which could leave you with no money to pay the house payment before you leave home.
When planning your trip, check your card issuer’s web sites to locate ATM’s in the city or cities you’ll be visiting. Unfortunately, some ATM machines in high-traffic tourist locations are bogus. So before you insert your card, be sure that the machine you’re using is legitimate. Generally, ATM’ in airports or hotels are “for real.”
Before you leave, call your bank and let them know that you’ll be on vacation. Tell them where you’re going and how long you’ll be gone. Otherwise, they could see unusual charges and assume that your card has been stolen. If that happens, they’ll freeze the account until they can contact you.
Once at your destination, use your in-room safe or the hotel safe to keep your extra cash, your travelers’ checks, your debit cards, and your credit cards safe. While you’re at it, place your passport, travel tickets, and your itinerary in the safe too.
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