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Have debit card, will travel

By Claes Bell · Bankrate.com
Tuesday, June 5, 2012
Posted: 4 pm ET

Vacations can be a trying time for debit card users.

Not only do you swipe your card plenty of times in some of the riskiest places to use debit cards -- restaurants, ATMs and gas stations -- but it's easy to lose track of your spending and overdraw if you're not careful. Then of course, there's the joy of making a debit purchase on the road only to have it declined because your bank thinks you're a identity thief on a nationwide spending spree.

To help you avoid all that unpleasantness, the Independent Community Bankers Association has some tips for travelers embarking on summer vacations soon:

  • Let your community bank know when and where you will be traveling to avoid account holds or transaction rejections when out-of-the-ordinary transactions are presented for processing or posted.
  • If you're traveling overseas, keep in mind that ATMs in many countries only accept four-digit personal identification numbers (PINs) and some countries have keyboards with numbers only, while others do not acknowledge zeros. Ask your community bank if you should create a new PIN for your account before you take your trip.
  • Carry a back-up card that you keep in a separate place. Families or couples may get even greater back-up coverage if each person takes a different card.
  • Make copies of all the cards you'll be carrying. Be sure to copy the front and back of the card. Take a copy with you and give a copy to someone you trust back home. Be sure to also include the security code for the card and the customer service phone number.
  • Set up transaction alerts for credit and debit cards. This will allow you to be informed much faster of any transactions that occur on your cards and shut down fraudulent activity.
  • Check your balance before you leave. Know the limits on how much you can withdraw. Save all your receipts.
  • Thoroughly check any ATMs that you use; fraudsters are increasingly altering the facades of ATMs in an effort to capture card data. Ensure the card reader does not look tampered with and pull on it to ensure it's not a layover.

If you're going overseas, I'd add making sure whatever restaurant or store you're shopping at accepts cards that don't have an EMV chip embedded inside. Some merchants overseas no longer accept conventional cards, and it's good to know that before you've loaded up with merchandise or worse, eaten a meal.

What do you think? Any tips to add for debit card users on the road?

Follow me on Twitter: @ClaesBell.

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