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The Lost Credit Card Conundrum and 4 Tips to Avoid It When Traveling Abroad

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Each bank has their own lost card policy for replacing A.T.M. and credit cards, and a new card can take days to arrive – if they will send an emergency replacement card at all. Many banks will send a replacement A.T.M. card within 7 – 10 days, but many only to the address listed on the account for security reasons, which is no help if you’re going to be away from home and need to access your cash abroad! Other companies require you to activate your new card from your home telephone, obviously not an option for travelers. For lost credit cards, your card issuer might have a different policy to A.T.M. cards altogether. While few official stats exist for lost and stolen cards, the American Bankers Association state that loss or theft makes up a huge 67% of credit-card fraud, so it pays to be aware. Here are 4 tips to make sure that you don’t fall into that lost credit card trap…

Tip 1: Prevention is Better Than Cure

It’s an old saying, but ‘prevention is better than a cure’ is definitely true in the case of lost or stolen credit cards! Most thieves are opportunists, so don’t give them a chance to get at your valuables. One way to make sure that your cards stay safe from thieves is to carry them in a money belt when traveling abroad. These a small fabric pouches, with a zipper, that clip around your waist with an elastic belt, and can be safely hidden inside your jeans away from prying hands. Better still, purchase a slashproof variety so that crafty thieves can’t cut the strap and pull it away from you without you noticing. These are ideal for passports and other important items too. Do make sure to carry small change in your wallet as usual so you don’t need to keep digging around in your belt, as this will let every thief know where your valuables are kept!

Tip 2: Make a Note of Emergency Credit Card Replacement Numbers

The first thing to do if you have a lost credit card situation is to call your provider immediately to stop fraudulent use and order a replacement. Most, if not all, credit cards list the emergency number on the back of the card, yet once your card is gone you won’t have access to it! Make sure to make multiple copies of this, and keep them somewhere safe – one copy in your suitcase, one in your phone, and another in your email account. While finding the correct emergency lost credit card number to call might sound simple and like a quick process, most travelers report a very different experience: one where they are passed from operator to operator to find the right person to speak with. Make sure you are armed with this number in advance. It’s also useful to check if your provider has country-specific numbers to use when calling from abroad, as many of the usual toll-free numbers won’t work from outside the country. You can check these at Visa Lost and Stolen Card and MasterCard Global Concierge.

(Do remember: using the TravelVoc app will eliminate this problem for you, as we store the numbers of all major banks and credit card providers.) The number on the back of your card might take you through to either for Visa or MasterCard depending on the provider, but whichever service you use the operative will still refer to the replacement policy specified by your bank; it’s best to call and check this policy before you leave to avoid nasty surprises. Don’t forget to keep a note of your card and account numbers somewhere secure too – encrypted cloud services like SpiderOak are ideal places to store this type of information.

Tip 3: Always Have an Alternative Cash Source

Many travelers think they will be able to rely on family and friends if they are out of money abroad, yet this becomes a lot more complicated if you’ve lost your cards and can’t access money deposited into your account. Do remember that anyone can transfer cash through Western Union if this is available near you. However, it’s always a good idea to prepare for every eventuality and make sure you have travelers’ checks with you as a backup. Do keep a note of their serial numbers in SpiderOak. Another great way to make sure you always have cash on hand is to have multiple bank accounts, each with enough cash for emergencies. Keep cards for these accounts in a safe place: back at your accommodation, preferably in a hotel safe, and always travel with these in different bags in case one goes missing or gets stolen. It’s easy to transfer funds between accounts by calling your bank from abroad if you have previously made transfers between the accounts, so make sure you transfer a small amount over the phone or online before traveling so your bank has these details stored.

Tip 4: Negotiate with Your Bank Manager and Argue for an Emergency Resolution

As a last resort, many banks will work with customers in emergency situations and send a replacement credit card to any address in the world by express delivery, so do make sure you stress that getting a replacement bank card quickly is crucial to your trip and safety. While many junior of members of staff are restricted in what they can do, and won’t be able to work around your problem for fear of getting into trouble, managers will have the authority to bend the rules a little, so do insist on speaking with a manager if necessary. For instance, American Express and Bank of America will send replacement cards to any worldwide address within 24 hours, so if your bank is refusing this service do quote this policy and ask the manager why your own provider can’t match that – as an incentive to encourage them to help you. If you’re facing a situation where you have no access to cash, do check if your bank will offer an emergency cash advance via Western Union – Bank of America offers this service as standard, so make sure to mention that too.

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