The last thing you want to worry about on vacation is your financial security.
Whether you’re taking a holiday getaway, an international adventure, or a road trip with your kids, making sure your money is secure—yet accessible—should be at the top of your list.
That’s why we created this financial safety checklist to help you prepare for your upcoming vacay.
Things like setting up travel alerts on credit or debit cards can help alleviate some stress, leaving you to focus on relaxation. Cue beach towel, sunglasses, and drink in hand.
Before You Go, You Should Know:
Looking to ensure that your trip is smooth sailing? (Or flying? Or driving?) Double check these items before you cast off, are wheels up, or hit the road.
1. How to contact your bank in case of an emergency.
In case of troubles (like a lost or stolen card), store your bank’s number in your phone, bookmark its website on your browser, or download its mobile app before you leave. Take note: Sometimes contact information differs if you’re in a foreign country, so know how to get in touch with your bank if you’re traveling abroad.
Ally Bank Customers: You can call the international number 1-757-247-2559, send a secure message through their account dashboard, or live chat online at ally.com.
2. Where your credit card can be used.
If you’re planning on using a credit card, you should do a bit of research before you take off. Visa or Mastercard are commonly accepted by most merchants around the world, but American Express and Discover may not be.
3. If you’ll be charged foreign transaction fees.
You’ll also want to look into whether or not your debit and/or credit card levies a foreign transaction fee, which can tack up to an additional 3 percent onto the purchase price when you’re abroad.
4. If you’re clear to use your credit or debit card(s).
No matter what bank issued your credit or debit card, let them know you’re going to be traveling before your departure date. You can usually do this online or by contacting your card issuer via the 800 number on the back of it.
Ally Bank Debit Card Holders: You can let us know you’re traveling by calling 1-877-247-2559 or online chat.
But don’t think that we’re going all “Big Brother” on you . . .
Knowing your general whereabouts prevents Ally’s Fraud Service Center from thinking that a sudden change in geography is an indication of someone else illegally using your debit card. If we do detect any suspicious activity on your debit card, an Ally fraud specialist will call you or send you an email. (You can also opt in for text alerts. Verify the transaction with a quick reply or get in touch with us if you don’t recognize the debit. And if you detect any fraud, you can proactively reach out to our fraud hotline at 1-800-971-6037 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
5. Where and how to access your information.
Hopefully you already have your bank’s mobile app handy. It can be helpful when checking your balance and watching for fraud. If you don’t, be sure to download the app before you head out to avoid any weak signal areas or potential data charges.
7. Alternative payment options.
It may feel like sticking with a single method of payment is best when you’re traveling, but experts say that a hybrid strategy is usually your better option. That’s because a mix of cash, credit, and debit keeps your financial information more secure, since you haven’t put all your eggs in one basket should something go wrong. Plus, it gives you a backup payment option if a merchant only accepts one form of payment.
A prepaid travel card is an alternative plastic option to your bank issued credit or debit card. These are typically available through Visa, Mastercard, and some credit card issuers and function similarly to a prepaid debit card (pre-loaded with a set sum of money, like a gift card). Once loaded, the foreign currency exchange rate is locked, even if it changes later.
The downsides to prepaid travel cards? Many car rental companies don’t accept them, so if you’ve reserved a set of wheels for your travels, you’ll need a credit card. Plus, since they’re pre-loaded, you’ll need to pay particularly close attention to your expenditures. Otherwise, you could have sights to see and no credit left on your card to pay for them.
8. How much cash you want on hand.
It’s always wise to carry some cash with you, especially when traveling abroad. But don’t stock up too much before you head out.
Instead of getting euros or pesos, for instance, before you depart, use your debit card at a local bank’s ATM upon arrival to withdraw the foreign currency you need. Doing so will net you the best exchange rate—and can make any ATM fees and foreign transaction fees (which can be 1 to 3 percent of the amount of a purchase) you might have to pay worth it. It’s also helpful to do a little math ahead of time to estimate how much cash you might need for the duration of your trip. The fewer visits you make to the ATM, the lower your fee costs will be.
Whatever you do, avoid currency exchange kiosks, especially those at airports. They usually charge hefty fees, adding unnecessary expenditures to your vacation budget. (Wouldn’t you rather spend your money on Aperol spritzes and vin chaud instead of costly currency exchange fees?!)
Your vacation should be relaxing, not fraught with financial worries. Let Ally Bank be your travel buddy, so you can focus on where to go next.