When it comes to the excesses and indulgences of vacation, you might like to think that “what happens in Vegas (or wherever you travel) stays in Vegas.” Unfortunately, poor spending and credit choices made on vacation definitely come home with you, so it’s important to take steps to protect your credit – both before and while you travel.
If your spring and summer plans include vacation, keep these financial considerations in mind:
Prepping for your trip
Planning ahead is one of the best ways to save money on travel. Book air tickets, lodging reservations and rental cars well in advance; prices rarely go down as your travel date approaches. Booking in advance also allows you extra time to shop around for the best possible deals.
Comparison price everything – from airfare to attraction tickets – online. Remember to include Web coupon sites in your search, not just popular travel sites. Online review sites can also help you learn more about lodging and attraction options in far-away destinations.
Shopping around can also help you decide if you’re traveling at the best time for you, or if you have some flexibility to travel when prices are lower.
While using a credit card to book online is a smart move – credit cards offer consumer protections that cash and debit cards don’t – be sure to pay off the purchases right away. If you know you won’t be able to pay off the travel costs immediately, review your credit standing. Consider how credit purchases for travel might impact your credit score. Websites like freecreditscore.com can help you understand the impact certain credit decisions may have on your overall finances. Freecreditscore.com has a patented Score Planner that lets you see how financial behaviors can affect your credit score.
Prepare for your travel plans by saving money toward that goal. Some banks have revived the tradition of a vacation club savings account, but you can set aside money in any interest-bearing account to fund your travel plans.
If you planned ahead, booked in advance and did your homework to find the best deals on airfare and lodging, you’ve made a good start. It’s important to continue making good financial choices while on the road. Take steps to protect your cash, credit and identity while traveling.
Some cash will likely be required on your trip. Never carry all your cash in one place; instead, split it up between multiple bags, or have a traveling companion carry some of your cash. When you arrive at your destination, store cash in the hotel safe and only take out what you think you will need for the day’s activities.
When using your credit card on the road, never let it out of your sight. Be aware of “shoulder surfers” who may stand behind you in a ticket line and use a smartphone to snap a picture of your card. Carry just one card for use and store a backup in the hotel safe in case of emergencies. Leave unnecessary cards and identification – such as your Social Security card or wholesale club card – at home.
Never use a public Wi-Fi connection – such as the ones found in airports or hotels – to access your online financial accounts. Enterprising crooks have been known to use special devices to hack account information from unsuspecting travelers.
Once you’re back home, take another look at your credit and keep a close eye on financial statements and credit accounts for a few months. Catching fraud early may help mitigate its financial impact.