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Travel Tips: Don’t Leave Home without Making Financial Preparations

In the haste of preparing for a trip, it’s easy to forget those finance-related steps you really should take before leaving. Here’s how you can avoid a lot of grief, save money and improve your chances for a pleasant journey.

Decide on the amount of cash or credit you may need on the trip. For your security, it’s not a good idea to take a lot of cash anywhere. If it’s lost or stolen, you can’t replace it. Only carry enough cash for cab rides, tips, and other small expenses. Otherwise, use credit cards because they are readily accepted by merchants and easily replaceable if lost or stolen. In addition, always take your credit and debit/ATM card receipts with you, and never give anyone your personal identification number (PIN). If your cards are lost or stolen in the U.S. or abroad, immediately report them to your bank or card issuer. In general, federal law limits your liability for unauthorized charges on a credit or debit card if your card is lost or stolen, but you must notify the bank or card issuer within certain time frames

Pay bills before you leave, if possible. You don’t want essential services to be cut off while you’re away on a long trip. Check the due dates on all bills — especially utilities and auto insurance — to see if payments will come due in your absence. If so, be sure to make those payments before you leave or pay them online from wherever you are. An upcoming trip is also a good reason to consider signing up for direct deposit. With direct deposit, you don’t have to worry about the possible theft of the checks by mail and you know the funds will be in your account on a certain date.

Stash your valuables. Consider putting jewelry and other valuable items in a safe deposit box at your financial institution. Don’t flaunt your cash, charge cards, fancy clothes, or expensive jewelry (or even expensive-looking jewelry) that you choose to travel with. Among the people you may be impressing could be robbers. Avoid pickpockets by making sure your bag or purse is closed.

Copy important documents and make a list of important numbers.

Make two copies of your passport identification page, driver’s license, vehicle registration, airline or other tickets, and your itinerary. Leave one at home with a relative or friend and carry the other one with you separately from the items themselves; don’t pack it. Do the same with your list of important numbers. It could include phone numbers for your credit card company, bank, and insurance companies.

Understand what credit card blocking is about. It most often occurs when you rent a car or check into a hotel and present your credit card. The clerk could electronically ask the bank that issued the card to “block” (reserve) part of your line of credit to cover the expected cost before you go out and use it for your other vacation purchases. There is nothing sinister or illegal about it, as long as the amount blocked isn’t out of line with what the customer is likely to pay at the end of the transaction.