By Jill Jaracz


5 Min. To Read

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Memorial Day marks the start of the summer travel season, and while it's exciting to go on vacation, smart travelers know that preparation is part of making sure you have a financially safe vacation. Visa, MasterCard and Discover recommend taking some financial precautions as part of your travel preparation includes making sure your credit cards stay safe and can work when you need them.

When you start packing, make a list of the credit cards you plan to take. It's a good idea to have more than one card so you have a backup just in case. Jot down the emergency contact phone number, just in case your card is lost or stolen. Keep this list in a safe place, away from your wallet or purse, in case you need to call the card's service number and cancel it. You can also put this information into your smart phone, although you should make sure it's secured once you've added it.

Also set or learn the PIN number for your credit card, in case you need a cash advance during your trip. It's best if you can memorize this number, but if you can't, don't write it down on your card or on any paper that also has your card number on it.

If you're traveling through multiple states in a short time period or traveling internationally, it's especially important to alert your card issuer about your travel plans, as sudden foreign charges may trigger fraud alerts. Call them a couple of days before your departure and let them know your travel dates and the states or countries you'll be traveling to. The issuer will put a notice on your card so that it won't be declined when you try to buy something. This will also help the issuer identify fraudulent charges more quickly.

While you're on the phone with the credit card issuer, also make sure your account is covered with zero liability protection so you won't be held responsible in case your card is compromised and someone makes unauthorized purchases with it.

You'll also want to ask if your card has daily spending or withdrawal limits, particularly if you're traveling out of the country. Also find out what kinds of foreign transaction fees your card issuing bank charges so that you'll know what to expect when you get your statement once you're home. Discover notes that some credit cards don't have foreign conversion fees, so this may be an option to look into.

International travel may also pose some headaches if you don't have an EMV chip card, notes MasterCard. While these are still rare in the U.S., they're the dominant type of card in many other countries, particularly in Europe. In fact, you may find that it can be difficult to use your regular credit card, because some stores, restaurants and gas stations abroad no longer have terminals that will accept a purely magnetic stripe card.

When shopping abroad, you can also ask merchants if they levy a fee for foreign transactions. Some merchants may also offer Dynamic Currency Conversion, the option of having the merchant--instead of the credit card network--convert the purchase into your home currency. While this is convenient, this service may also cost you more money in fees, so you should be able to find out the fees and decline this service if it's offered to you.

During your trip, save the receipts from the purchases you made with your cards. That way you can easily check them against your statement when you get home and have the assurance that the purchases on your statement are legitimate.

Don't forget that many credit cards offer travel-specific benefits and protections. For example, Visa cards include car rental collision damage waiver insurance and emergency card replacement and cash disbursement service. Selected Visa cards, such as Visa Signature, include a 24/7 concierge service, lost luggage reimbursement, roadside dispatch, travel and emergency assistance services and travel accident insurance. Check your card agreement or member handbook for the benefits included on your specific credit card.

Taking these preparations can help you have a more enjoyable and carefree vacation. Even if the worst happens and something goes wrong with your credit cards, pre-planning can make a bad circumstance easier to manage.

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