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Travel tips to keep your money secure

Mature husband and wife sit on steps in Paris, taking a selfie.
April 28, 2020

By Claire Hegstrom

Planning a trip usually means creating multiple lists, and checking them (at least) twice. There’s a lot to consider when booking your flights, deciding where you’ll stay, and narrowing down the sites you’ll visit, but many travelers forget one very important aspect of trip planning: keeping their money secure. With countless years serving credit union members on the teller line, I’ve heard all of the great…and not so great stories about the importance of financial prep before takeoff.

Here are a few travel tips to make sure your adventure story is picture perfect.

Use a travel-friendly credit card

Credit cards are the safest way to transact in foreign countries because they aren’t linked to your checking account in any way. Aside from personal security, there are also many features your credit card may offer to benefit you while traveling. Alliant’s Visa Platinum Rewards credit card offers two rewards points for every dollar spent (including purchases abroad) and $0 liability for fraudulent charges! Utilizing a card that offers no foreign transaction fees can save you a pretty penny, with the normal rate being a 1% fee per purchase. 

Contact your financial institution

Perhaps one of the most common and easily avoidable travel issues is having your card blocked for suspected fraud in another country. Before you leave your home state, contact your financial institution to tell them you’ll be traveling. Many card carriers let you fill out this information online or in their app. They’ll need every state and country you’ll be passing through, as well as the dates you’ll be gone.

At this time, confirm the phone numbers and email addresses listed on your account are correct. The fraud department would use the information they have on file to confirm purchases before your card is locked.

Pro Tip: Give yourself a few extra days when providing your travel period, you never know when a flight will be delayed. Also, don’t forget to list any states or countries you’ll have a layover in, so you can safely purchase something at the airport.

Set a travel contact for your account

While you’re setting up a travel alert with your financial institution, it may be in your best interest to also list a travel contact on your account. This person can be called if you can’t be reached while traveling, and your financial institution needs to confirm your whereabouts. I’ve seen this most useful in cases where there is limited communication ability. While this person can’t transact on your account or get ahold of any private identity information such as social security number, they will be spoken to regarding your transactions if necessary.

Upload cards to your digital wallet

One of the simplest ways to keep your money secure is by ditching the extra bulk that may go unnoticed if lost or stolen. The majority of the world is equipped to take contactless payment, and in fact, it is preferred over swiping your plastic! All Alliant Visa debit and credit cards are compatible with Google Pay, Apple Pay and Samsung Pay, which you can easily set up on your phone’s mobile wallet in under five minutes. We still recommend bringing physical cards and cash on your trip which can stay locked in your hotel if needed.

Buy travel insurance, but only what you need

Purchasing travel insurance can spare you a lot of heartache if an emergency arises, keeping you from your adventure. But, it’s important to know what is already covered by your credit card carrier before you splurge on an unnecessary policy. For instance, an Alliant Visa Signature Credit Card includes $250,000 in free travel accident insurance and free rental car collision coverage. Baggage and personal item insurance is always a wise purchase (especially when changing flights is required), but make sure to keep receipts for any items specifically purchased for the trip, as some insurance companies require proof of purchase for items over $150.

Bring a backup credit card

Whether from pickpocketing or just simply misplacing a wallet, nothing will send you packing early like not having money to spend. Bring a backup credit card with enough available funds to last the majority of your trip. We recommend taking pictures of your cards, passports, and driver’s license just in case, and keeping your backup cash and cards in a travel safe at your hotel. (Don’t forget to empty the safe before checking out of the hotel!)

Limit your Bluetooth use

When accessing your online and mobile banking apps, make sure to turn your phone’s Bluetooth capabilities off. Unfortunately, Bluetooth is how many criminals secretly connect to your phone, giving them access to credentials that may be required to view your banking transactions.

With these guidelines, you’ll be able to travel knowing your money is protected, and that you’ll have access to your funds so that you can enjoy your trip in its entirety. With that, we wish you a happy adventure. Au revoir!


Claire Hegstrom is an advocate of the credit union movement through and through. Passionate about financial education, she approaches money conversations from a candid and inclusive space focused on growth and awareness. As our credit union founding father, Ed Filene, once said, “Progress is the constant replacing of the best there is with something still better.” Claire hopes reading Money Mentor will help transform your life from the best to even better.

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