How to Protect Your Bank Accounts While Traveling
When visiting a foreign country, it’s a good idea to have some local currency when you arrive to cover your cab ride to the hotel or other immediate needs in case credit cards are not accepted. Because of better exchange rates and wanting to take the easy route, I decided on a foreign trip to just get some money from the ATM at the airport. I carefully chose to use an ATM at the in-airport bank, made my withdrawal, and headed out to start my vacation.
What I didn’t realize was the ATM most likely had a “skimmer” on it, an attachment that criminals put on the ATM that looks very much like part of the machine but steals the data from the magnetic strip on your card as well as your PIN code. In a perfect storm of events that followed, I didn’t realize until I got home and called my bank that criminals had drained my checking account over the 10 days we had been on vacation.
I was panicked, of course, but felt like I would be covered because I used my ATM card which was issued by a large, national bank. However, because my PIN had been stolen and used to access the money, the national bank refused to cover me because they could not verify that it wasn’t me making the withdrawals. In the end, my local bank branch did cover the theft — and earned my lifetime loyalty.
Because of this, I’ve taken extra precautions to protect against bank fraud when traveling abroad. Learn from my experience with these 3 tips:
1. Be Selective When Using ATMs
I am now very selective about which ATMs I use. I avoid ATMs at the airport and either “order” local currency from a bank before traveling or use the currency exchange counters upon arrival at the airport to get a minimal amount of cash for the cab ride. Many hotels have ATM areas that require a room key to access, providing a little more security and privacy.
2. Set Up a Separate Account for Travel
Most importantly, I set up a separate, no-fee account at my bank for the sole purpose of travel. I keep a minimal amount of money in this account which has my ATM card attached to it. When traveling, I can use the bank’s website or mobile app to transfer money into this account. Then I immediately withdraw that money from the ATM. If I am ever a victim of bank fraud again, the thieves would have access to less than $100.
3. Monitor Your Accounts While on Vacation
Because all Hilton Honors members now receive free Wi-Fi in their room when booking directly with Hilton, it’s easy to check mobile banking or your bank website to verify that money is not coming out of your account that you didn’t authorize. Just logging in once or twice on vacation to check the activity on your account could mean catching a bank fraud problem early.
Thieves are always several steps ahead of the general public, but taking a few precautions to protect yourself when you travel can help you become a less likely target and minimize damage if you are preyed upon.
Help fellow travelers and let us know below what you do to safeguard your financial accounts when traveling!
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Robyn fell in love with travel before kids and has found it even more wonderful since her kids have joined the family. She is married to an amazing…