Safeguard Your Cash: Personal Safety Tips for Traveling Abroad - Page 2

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Protect Your Cash Abroad
Don't let a wily thief ruin your vacation.  (Andreas Schlegel/Getty Images)

On the Road
6. Stay alert, especially at tourist attractions.
"Watch out for scammers and people trying to distract you," says Chris Noble of WorldNomads.com. "If a stranger comes up to you and starts talking about trivial matters, or if you're sprayed with a water pistol, covered in ketchup, or asked for directions, you may be in the process of being pick-pocketed." Never open up a map in the middle of a busy thoroughfare; instead, study it at a coffee shop or in your hotel room, or better yet, download a map on your phone or get directions in advance. It's also a good idea to check your credit and debit card receipts carefully before signing. Stores and restaurants that cater to tourists often offer two prices, based on local currency and the U.S. dollar. While you may think you're being charged 100 pesos—currently around ten bucks—you may actually be agreeing to pay 100 dollars upon signature.

7. Always use credit cards.
After all, if your card is lost or stolen, you're typically only liable for $50 of the fraudulently charged amount if you report the loss within a couple of days. With a debit card, your liability increases to $500, and even more if you don't notice the theft for a longer period of time. And if your debit card is connected to other bank accounts, like a savings account to cover overdrafts, a few charges could clean out your money in a matter of days. At the same time, many airline frequent-flier credit cards offer travel benefits, so you may be covered if you have to cancel a trip or lose your luggage.

8. Never use credit cards.
You'll usually save money on purchases if you pay in the local currency, says Jeff Jung, a frequent traveler who runs CareerBreakSecrets.com. "Assuming you have an honest deal, if you pay with dollars, the merchant must convert them into the local currency. For his trouble and to hedge against fluctuations, he'll likely charge you more," he advises. If you still want to pay in dollars, make sure you have new bills, since many countries—especially in Latin America—will not accept bills that are torn or marked. Finally, use ATMs to obtain foreign currency, not corner exchange shops. ATMs are pegged to the markets down to the penny and therefore offer the best exchange rate, even with the additional fee.

9. Play it safe at ATMs.
Lisa Shusterman, author of Around the World in Easy Ways, spent a year traveling the world with her family and has a few words of wisdom when it comes to using ATMs overseas. First, she suggests that if you use a stand-alone ATM, make sure it's affiliated with a bank, so you have some protection against fraud. Next, always hide the keypad when entering your PIN. Withdraw cash only during banking hours and only from ATMs in the town in which you are staying. And if you're planning a day trip, obtain your cash before you leave town. Finally, don't use an ATM the day before you leave, especially on the weekend. "If an ATM eats your card on a Saturday, when the bank is closed, and you're on a day trip an hour away from where you're staying—and all of this occurs the day before you're supposed to leave for Rome—you'll thank me," she says.

10. Here's what to do when your wallet is stolen while traveling.
If (God forbid) your credit card is lost or stolen, call the issuer and cancel the card as quickly as possible to mitigate any losses. According to Siciliano, the company should offer to ship a replacement card to you overnight at no charge. If you need some cash to tide you over, your friends and family can wire money to you anywhere in the world via Western Union. For additional security, they can send the money via the U.S. Embassy in the country where you're traveling.

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