Debit Card Travel Tips

Are you traveling this summer? Whether you’re backpacking across Europe or just taking a road trip to a neighboring state, nothing ruins a good summer vacation like debit card problems! Luckily I am here to save the day with these easy tips for using your debit card on the road.

  • Alert your credit union or bank before you leave. Before you leave for your trip, call your financial institution and tell them where you are going (countries, states, etc.) and the dates you will be gone. Now-a-days, every financial institution has a fraud monitoring system for their debit cards; when your card is being used outside your typical area of activity, it can automatically be frozen to prevent any further fraudulent activity. The last thing you want while you’re away from home is for your debit card to stop working without your knowledge! Alerting your credit union to your travel plans before you leave means they can alter settings in their system so that your card will not be shut off for use out-of-state or out-of-country.
  • Give your credit union or bank your phone number. Does your financial institution have your cell phone number? Or do they have your parents’ home number from 15 years ago when you first opened your “Lil’ Savers” account? When fraud is detected on your debit card, your financial institution will try to contact you immediately. If they have the best phone number to reach you at while you’re traveling, that might mean fixing a problem before your debit card gets denied. If they call and leave a message at your nana’s house because that’s the number they have on file, you might be in trouble. I’m sure Nana would let you know they called, but it will likely take her a while to get you the message and in the mean time you might not be able to use your card. Make sure your credit union has a record of the best way to contact you while you travel so you can handle any issues ASAP.
  • Traveling abroad? Make sure your debit card works in the country(ies) you’re visiting. Not all countries accept American debit cards. Before you leave, check with your credit union or bank to make sure your debit card will work in the country you are visiting. If it does, great! But if not, you’ll want to know that beforehand so you can plan to bring cash. You don’t want to wait until you’re at your destination to find out your debit card won’t work.
  • Know your daily limit. Every debit card has a daily limit for how much you can withdraw at the ATM and a separate limit for how much you can spend on POS transactions (Point of Sale or at the cash register transactions). Find out what your limit is before you travel so you don’t get caught exceeding it. In some cases, your financial institution can even raise your limit temporarily while you travel.
  • Debit cards often give better exchange rates than currency exchange bureaus. If you’re traveling overseas, consider using your debit card instead of cash. Often your debit card will have a better exchange rate on foreign currency than you will get at an exchange bureau for cash. Plus, you won’t have to worry about having left over foreign currency that you need to exchange back to U.S. dollars when you get home; paying with your card means you only have to exchange exactly what you needed.

If you plan ahead, your debit card can be your travel buddy not your financial foe. Happy adventuring!


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