Travel calls for careful planning, in particular if you plan to travel outside the United States.
Here are some important steps you can take to prepare for a safe trip.
• Notify your bank and your credit card provider if you are planning on using a debit or credit card during your trip.
Banks and financial services companies sometimes think that fraud may be occurring if transactions are suddenly happening in Bali when you are from Fargo, North Dakota and they will turn off access to your account as a security measure. A travel note will reduce the chance of a declined transaction; however, suspicious activity is still closely monitored and alerted.
• American Federal customers can conveniently notify the bank of their travel plans outside their normal purchasing areas. Customers can submit a “Travel Notification” from the American Federal website, by sending a Secure Message in Online and Mobile Banking, or by contacting their local American Federal office.
• Activate email or text message security alerts on your accounts. Remember to add your mobile phone number to your account profile.
• Take multiple payment forms with you when you travel and store them safely in various locations. Speak with your local American Federal Banker about a credit card or purchase a Travel Money card.
• Document member service phone numbers for each of your debit and credit cards so you can reach your bank or credit card company in case of any emergency.
• Make sure your debit and credit card will work in a foreign country you are visiting when you travel internationally. European banks have switched almost completely to the chip-and-PIN technology, and fewer businesses abroad are accepting magnetic-strip cards.
• Do not leave cash, debit or credit cards, passports or other important travel documents in a hotel room. Instead, use the hotel safe or bring the items with you.
• Although debit and credit cards are typically safer than using cash, carry a little local cash overseas. Not every place takes credit cards, in particular some trains and buses.
• Check and understand the exchange rate before you travel to a foreign country. Learning that one Danish Krone is equal to 10 U.S. cents may be a surprise.
• Use a bank or ATM in a foreign country. The conversion centers in the airport or around the city may charge higher fees and the conversion rate may not be exact.
• Check for a foreign country’s entrance and exit fees. Some countries require travelers to pay to enter or leave. These fees are not included in the price of an airline ticket.
• When you return home, monitor your statements, bills and online accounts for unfamiliar charges or fraudulent activity from overseas travel.
Other Important Travel Tips
• Check in with your insurance carrier and health care provider before your travel. Make certain you have the proper vaccinations and that you have renewed essential prescriptions. Know where medical emergency facilities are located in the areas where you plan to travel abroad. Ask your medical insurance provider if your policy applies overseas for emergencies. If it does not, you will want to consider adding extra coverage or consider buying supplemental insurance.
• Bring a photocopy of your passport and keep it in a safe place when you travel internationally. If your passport is lost or stolen, you want to be able to prove your U.S. citizenship. For extra backup, leave a photocopy of your passport at home or with your insurance carrier representative. Also, consider making an electronic version you can store in your email account as well.
• Make a list of the contents of your wallet and make photocopies of other important travel documents in case they are lost or stolen, and store them separately from the originals. This includes airline tickets, a driver’s license, credit cards brought on the trip, and hotel and vehicle rental confirmations. Leave your Social Security Card at home.
• Secure your electronics with strong passcodes, know the ID numbers of your devices, apply up-to-date anti-virus software and consider activating your global capabilities. There is usually a charge to activate, but it may be much less than the roaming charges.
• Bring a charger adapter and check the voltage of your electronics. Foreign countries have different size plugs and voltage. If you want to use your electronic devices, make sure you can charge them.
• If you plan to drive oversees, you may need to obtain an International Driving Permit (IDP). Many foreign countries do not recognize a U.S. driver’s license without an accompanying IDP, and it is illegal to drive without a valid license and insurance in most places.
• Register at the U.S. embassy or consulate in a foreign country you visit. If there is a problem, this will make it easier for the United States to contact you and get you to safety.
• Be aware of any travel alerts and warnings for your destination. The U.S. State Department issues “Travel Warnings” to recommend postponing travel to a foreign country because of civil unrest, dangerous conditions, terrorist activity, a health alert or, in some cases, because of troubled or no diplomatic relations with the country and they may have great difficulty in assisting a U.S. citizen in distress. Enroll in the “Smart Traveler Enrollment Program” (STEP) when your travel abroad. You will be updated with important safety and security announcements.