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As the world continues to resume normalcy, the summer travel season is almost upon us, and it seems like more and more people are putting vacation plans in place. It’s been a while since most of us have ventured far from our homes, but don’t let the lack of travel throughout the past year leave you rusty on your pre-travel security measures. As you’re eager to pack up your bags and hop in the car or jump on a plane, it’s important to remember that your financial security deserves some energy and attention before you commence your “out-of-office” persona. Here are five tips on how to keep your money safe and your financial life secure before vacation mode takes over.
Turn on Bank Transaction (cash and credit card) Email Alerts
This is a great thing to do in general for your everyday financial security. By turning on these notifications, you will receive an alert on your phone via a text message, your banking app, or email – depending on which form of notification you select – every time a transaction is made on your accounts, whether that be an ATM withdrawal, a credit card purchase, a statement payment, etc. You want to know about any money movements in your accounts to ensure you recognize the payment as your own. These alerts make it much easier to catch fraudulent transactions immediately as opposed to (hopefully) catching the sham transactions when you review your statements at the end of the month. With alerts turned on for all transactions on your accounts, you will know right away if and when something is amiss. Additionally, having these alerts can help you keep tabs on your cash flow and spending, especially if you share the accounts with your partner or other family members.
Set Credit Card Travel Notices
Even if you are simply going to be in a different state in this U.S., this a worthwhile step to take to ensure your bank doesn’t flag your transactions as unusual activity given the different location. With most banks, you can set a travel notice in a few quick and easy steps through your banking app or through your bank’s website. Typically, you will provide where you are traveling to, and be specific to ensure your cards work during your travels, as most companies will set a temporary freeze on your accounts if a travel notice was not set and the bank does not recognize your location as somewhere you routinely use your cards. You can also set a specific time frame for the notice so you do not need to worry about removing the notice once you return home. When you set a travel notice through your bank, the notice automatically applies across accounts, so all credit or debit cards you have with that bank will have the notice applied to them. Setting a travel notice is especially important when you are traveling to a foreign country where you may not have consistent internet service. In such a scenario, if you forget to notify your bank about your travels, you may be left with a temporarily frozen account until you can hop on the internet to confirm the transactions as your own. When you set a travel notice, you will often be able to leave a comment to let your bank know the best way to contact you, if necessary. For example, if you plan to not use your cell phone much, consider providing your hotel’s phone number and let your bank know that is where you will be staying and can be reached in the case of an emergency. Put simply: make good use of the travel notice form fields, and provide your bank with as much information as possible to alleviate any potential security stresses on your trip.
Take Care of Bill Payments Before Leaving Home
If you need to pay any bills, transfer money, or do any other form of online banking, make sure you take care of these tasks in the comfort and, most importantly, security of your own home prior to hitting the road. You have no idea how secure the networks will be where you are vacationing, and you do not want to expose yourself and your finances to unnecessary risks. Public wi-fi networks are especially important to steer clear of because these networks can be fraudulent hotbeds and open invitations for hackers. Some public networks may seem safe on the surface but can be a sham network created by hackers to look like a safe system to connect to. This can happen in a hotel, at a restaurant, and at popular tourist attractions. Overall, you do not want to be in the position of having to pay a bill and use a potentially unsafe network to log into a financial account. If you do need and want internet access while you are traveling, consider purchasing a mobile hotspot device that allows you to enable strong encryption for your hotspot and protect it with a robust password that you change frequently to ensure you are fortified against hackers and random users trying to find an internet connection. Overall, do your best to stay away from public wi-fi networks in general, as any account – social media, email, etc. – you log into once on that network is now at risk of being hacked.
Burglar-Proof Your Home
No matter where you live – a house, townhouse, apartment, condo, etc. – you want to prevent your home from becoming a target for a break-in and burglary when you are miles away. The summer months are popular vacation times and, unsurprisingly, double as peak burglary season. We all inevitably have valuables in our homes that we want to make sure are protected while we are away. If possible, make sure no valuables or electronics are visible from the outside, and if they are, draw your blinds or curtains to shield your interior from any curious onlookers. Additionally, make sure any important documents and valuables are secure in a safe or lockbox. Consider setting timers on interior and exterior lights to make it look like you are home while you are away, and make sure your security system is set and working properly if you have one. Outside the house, ask a neighbor to pick up your mail while you’re away so that it doesn’t pile up and blatantly give away your traveling status, and temporarily remove any hidden spare keys.
Research the Common Scams in the Area You’re Traveling
You will never regret being overprepared and taking extra precautions when it comes to your financial security. Consider buying a wallet or purse with RFID-blocking technology. This is also something that is prudent to have in general, especially with a majority of credit cards now featuring chips, as there are concerns over chip-enabled credit cards being hacked wirelessly. Certain cards have had more problems than others, and although radio-frequency ID theft has so far not been a problem with newer cards that feature more secure chip technology, it is better to play it safe, especially when traveling. Additionally, make sure your phone is password or fingerprint-protected, as, these days, our phones are teeming with personal financial information. You can also download apps that will allow you to remotely wipe your phone if it is lost or stolen.
Your financial security is of the utmost importance while you are traveling, and you want to make sure you can enjoy your vacation to the fullest. You don’t want your anticipated relaxation time to be interrupted or derailed by unnecessary financial security risks. Keep in mind that protecting your financial security is not exclusively reserved for when you travel or are away from home. You want to use these tips to protect your finances at all times – before, during, and after vacation – including throughout your day-to-day life.