4 Travel Tips for staying connected and safe

Even with the summer almost over, it still is a perfect time to share a few tips on ways to keep your information and money safe. We all know traveling can be hectic and it is easy to forget to do things like setting up travel alerts, scheduling bill payments and safeguarding accounts against theft. Now, more than ever, keeping your data and accounts secure is a top priority for credit unions and, of course, you.

A few tips before you head out on vacation:

1. Keep information and cards secure

Traveling means venturing into the unknown. That’s the fun of it, but it can also mean opening yourself up to theft, both physical and identity. Roughly 33 percent of identify fraud takes place during travel and in many cases could have been avoided with the right safety precautions. Make sure to keep your information and cards safe means:

  • Carrying cards securely. Be mindful of pickpockets and purse snatchers. Best practice: bring at least two different forms of payment and keep each in a separate secure location. If one is lost or stolen, you won’t be left penniless.
  • Practice good data hygiene. Public wifi is just that: public. If you must check your account balance or make a payment, use your phone’s cellular data, which should be encrypted. Close apps (versus staying logged in), including social media and games, when you aren’t using them. Additionally, if visiting an ATM, be wary of your surroundings and to cover the keypad when typing in your PIN.
  • Notify your financial institution when you’re planning to travel. They won’t shut down your card when an out-of-town charge comes through.

Services like CardNav allow members to create travel notifications, set and adjust geographical boundaries for card use, receive transaction alerts and more. Setting up alerts in CardNav before traveling helps you track spending activity on the road, which helps to control spending and catch fraudulent activity.

2. Avoid fees and surcharges

Using the wrong ATM can be a costly mistake. Although fees vary from one financial institution to another, Nerdwallet reports that average out-of-network ATM fees hit $4.57 in March 2018. If you are traveling abroad, you can expect to pay an additional $1 to $6 per transaction and a 1- to 3 percent fee at a typical ATM.

Travelers can keep ATM fees to a minimum by checking where the nearest surcharge-free ATM is within their bank network. Members on the CO-OP network can find one of the 30,000 surcharge-free ATMs and 5,000+ shared branches using the CO-OP Locator app.

3. Monitor accounts and make payments

Being away doesn’t have to mean being disconnected. Keep in mind to leverage online/mobile banking to periodically check account balances and monitor transactions for fraud, or use bill pay to take care of that stray bill they might have been forgotten before leaving for your vacation. Does the dog sitter need a few emergency dollars? Person-to-person payment apps like Venmo, Zelle or Real Pay make sending and receiving money easy and fast, even when you’re far away.

Setting up a digital wallet like Apple Pay or Android Pay can also be a good idea. Digital wallets are an excellent alternative to cards and can be extremely useful if a wallet and cards are lost or stolen.

4. Set a Budget

According to a 2017 survey by LearnVest, 74 percent of Americans have gone into debt paying for a vacation – and that doesn’t account for the trauma of running out of money or credit from overspending while on the road.

Establishing budgets by category and setting mobile alerts can help you track spending wherever you go. That way, you won’t run out of resources when they’re far from home, or return home to an empty bank account and exhausted credit lines.

Keeping their members safe and connected while they travel is a top priority for credit unions. With the right tools and services, credit unions provide a superior member experience – on vacation and back at home.