Headed out of town? Read these financial security tips first
April 6, 2023
4 min read
What we'll cover
Financial security concerns while traveling
Tips to safeguard your money
What to do if your experience fraud while traveling
The last thing you want to worry about on vacation is your financial security.Whether you’re heading off on a holiday getaway, an international adventure or a family road trip, keeping your money secure — yet accessible — should be at the top of your to-do list.
To help you prepare for your upcoming vacation, we created a financial safety checklist with essential precautions (like setting up travel alerts on credit or debit cards) to help alleviate some stress. Double-check these items before you hit the road, and cue beach towel, sunglasses and drink in hand.
Know how to contact your bank in case of an emergency
In case of trouble (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. Keep in mind that contact information can 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: If you're travelling abroad, you can call the international number 1-757-247-2559, send a secure message through your account dashboard or live chat online at ally.com.
Research where your credit card can (and can’t) be used
If you’re planning on using a credit card, you should do a bit of investigating before you take off. Visa or Mastercard are commonly accepted by most merchants around the world, but American Express and Discover may not be.
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 by contacting your card issuer via the 800 number on the back of your card.
Letting your bank know where you’ll be ahead of time can prevent your bank from mistakenly flagging your card for fraudulent activity when there’s a sudden change in your location.
Ally Bank debit card holders: Let us know you’re traveling by calling 1-877-247-2559 or via online chat. If Ally does 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 charge. And if you detect any fraud, you can proactively reach out to our fraud hotline at 1-800-971-6037 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Account for foreign transaction fees
Using your debit and credit card while you’re traveling is convenient and can be more secure than carrying around cash. However, if you’re traveling outside of the U.S. make sure to budget for additional fees as well. Most debit and/or credit cards will charge a foreign transaction fee, which can tack on an additional 3% when you’re abroad.
Download your bank’s app
You may already have access to your finances on your phone. But if not, now is the time to download the app. It can be helpful when checking your balance and watching for fraud. Be sure to download the app before you head out to avoid any weak signal areas or potential data charges.
Bring alternative payment options
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 other major credit card issuers. They generally 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 balance. Otherwise, you could have sights to see and no funds left on your card to pay for them.
Decide 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 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 that local delicacy instead of costly currency exchange fees?)
Mind your money before you depart
Vacation is about getting away from it all, and a financial scare can really put a damper on your plans. To avoid any mishaps, be proactive by taking preventive steps to safeguard your money ahead of your trip. With precautions in place, you can sit back, relax and enjoy your time away.