How to Financially Protect Yourself When Traveling Abroad

We should have gotten “best friends” in our high school yearbook’s “Senior Cream of the Crop”. Meghan and I were high school soul sisters. After high school, she went to Duquesne University, and I become a bobcat at Ohio University. We remained best friends, despite living our college experiences apart. After we graduated from college, she stayed in Pittsburgh while I headed west to Arizona. Divided by 2,000 miles, we still survived our 20s together by making annual visits and having each other on speed dial. As we approached our 30th birthdays, we decided to take a girls trip to celebrate our friendship and travel to Italy, Greece, Croatia, and the Cyclades Islands.

Our expedition started with an arrival in Venice where we toured the romantic city, from the Piazza San Marco to Harry’s Bar, where the delicious Bellini originates. Of course we had to take a Venetian gondola ride along the canals and experience the charming Venetian squares, Campo San Polo, and Campo San Margherita. From Venice, we embarked on a 10-day cruise throughout the Aegean Sea. Cruising through the royal blue seawater and soaking in the sun as we headed to Bari was indescribable. Meghan and I were charmed by the historic architecture of Bali and the seaside city’s mesmerizing sunsets. We wandered along the narrow streets in the quaint Historic Center and stopped at Osteria Travi Buco for the most delicious Italian fare.

Departing from Italy, we were Santorini bound—my most desired destination of the trip. I even dedicated an entire Pinterest board to the dreamy island. I couldn’t take enough Instagram pictures of the steep cliffs that plummeted into the sparkling aqua Aegean Sea. Oh, and Fira was exactly how I imagined it. I was completely enamored by the unreal scenic views, colorful city streets and the exuberant city’s high energy. We traveled to a few other Cyclades islands, but Santorini was by far the best, as cliche as that may sound.

Unfortunately, in Fira I lost my credit card. At some point, between shopping in the crowded streets and indulging in the lively party scene, my credit card left my wallet and never returned. I made the mistake of not reporting the lost card immediately. I later learned through LifeLock, an identity theft protection service, that if you report the stolen card before it’s used, you’re not responsible for unauthorized charges, according to the Fair Credit Billing Act. Lesson learned: make moves and fast if you lose your credit card. It didn’t take long for someone to make charges worth more than $5,000. Thankfully, because of the FCBA, I only had to pay $500 after the entire ordeal.

My family transferred money, and I still had an amazing time discovering the archipelagos of Croatia, and tasting fresh oysters in a local sushi bar. Handling my stolen credit card information was an irritating interruption. It couldn’t have been worse, Meghan and I joked. The trip could have been a real-life “Taken” remake, where Megan and I got kidnapped and one of us died, which would have been a good time for no one.

Before cruising the Aegean Sea and exploring Greek islands, always prepare for the worst and know how to respond to a situation to protect your physical, and even financial, safety. It doesn’t hurt to keep the following in mind:

  • Store payment cards and information on your smartphone using wallet app. @LifeLock tweeted about the identity protection app that offers credit card balance updates and transaction tracking. You can even cancel a credit card immediately after it’s lost—something that could have been handy for me. (Keep a lock on your phone in case you lose it, and install a device locator app to find it.)
  • Report your missing card and fraudulent transactions as soon as possible. If you wait longer than 60 days to report a card loss or fraudulent transfers after you receive a statement, you’ll be responsible for 100 percent of the charges. Inform your bank or credit card company about your trip and its duration. They can put a stop on a card if they see any suspicious activity, like extravagant foreign charges in a short amount of time.
  • Check with your homeowner’s or renter’s insurance company prior to your trip to see if card theft protection is a policy option. Acquiring travel insurance in case of an emergency can also help prevent a financial disaster.

About the Author: Kim Crowell is a travel blogger, personal assistant, and baker.