8 ways to prevent credit card fraud overseas

1. Safekeep your credit card(s) in the hotel room

Keep it in the hotel room safe until you need it for emergencies. There are two good reasons for this. The first is that, when we become tourists, an unexplained chemical is triggered in our brain that makes us buy… everything. There’s a reason only tourists buy stupid souvenir hats and T-Shirts that, in our normal state of mind, we can’t ever fathom anyone buying without the intention of shaming their families.

The other reason is that, when you get robbed, said robbers will make off with your credit card and start charging things to it. They will have a long time with which to do it because you will be injured, probably lacking transport, and begging for help in a country where no one speaks English.

2. Never take your eyes off it when paying for stuff

Giving the card to a waitress? You’re supposed to keep it in the hotel room safe (see point 1) but never mind. You’ve already gone and done it. We all create the crimes we deserve.

For now, follow her to the counter and see where she swipes it. Just got the card back and it’s wrapped in a receipt? Unwrap it and make sure it’s the same card with your name on it. If she doesn’t get nervous because you seem to be eyeballing her all the time, you are not taking proper care of your credit card.

Identity theft often results from skimming your card, or swapping your card (with an expired replacement) and hoping you don’t notice. If you let this happen, there’s also a chance your bank can claim it was due to your own negligence. Actually, they will probably try to claim that no matter what, because the credit card business is as far from being a charity as cancer is to being a cheerful realisation.

So keep an eye on the card at all times, if you choose to break the first rule.

3. Find out the exchange rate first

There are often two charges when you purchase things in a foreign currency using your credit card. The first is charged by the card company (Visa, Master Card, American Express), and the second may be charged by your bank.

Be conscious of these charges, because it may be much cheaper to just exchange more money beforehand than to ever rely on the card.

8 ways to prevent credit card fraud overseas

4. Know your bank’s hotline just in case

When you misplace the card, or have it stolen, your first reaction may be to panic and cry. This is absolutely appropriate, because you are in a heap of trouble. Amidst your tears and sobs however, you must remember the right hotline to call immediately to cancel your card.

If the issuing bank finds that you reported the loss late, they can hold you liable for the charges. “Late reporting” is any period of time deemed reasonable by the bank (i.e. it can be any number of minutes greater than zero).

The sooner you report it, the more likely you are to escape liability.

5. Check your hotel deposit when leaving 

You will usually be asked to make a deposit when you check into a hotel room. This deposit allows the hotel to make sure you don’t steal the towels, set fire to the carpet, or eat any of the minibar snacks that are priced only slightly higher than the hotel’s antique collection.

It is not uncommon for people to realise they have received extra charges–or that the deposit has not been returned at all–only after they are at the airport. So check for the returned deposit before you leave if possible.

6. Always ask to convert using the local currency

Oh, you think it’s polite that they converted everything to Singapore dollars for you? Well here’s a question: what exchange rate did they use?

The same one as a regular money changer? Or one that’ significantly higher? Expressing charges in “your” currency is one of the oldest tourist scams to get more money out of you. The conversion is almost always based on the worst possible exchange rate for you, and they’re counting on the fact that you won’t think about that when you’re on your fifth Margarita.

Always ask for things to be expressed in the local currency, and then work out the amount yourself.

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7. Split keep your cards

Don’t put all your credit cards in your wallet. When it gets stolen, you will lose every single source of credit at one go. Likewise, most muggers will rifle through your wallet, but they can’t really look in your hotel room safe, and may ignore your other pockets.

So store those cards in different places, even if shopkeepers look at you funny when you rifle through your left boot for your Visa.

8. Apply for a travel-friendly credit card before you fly 

If you are a frequent traveller you should save money by using the credit card that’s optimised for your travel needs. SingSaver.com.sg can give you access to air miles cards, cards with no foreign transaction fees, cards with free travel insurance, and cards that get you a free sandwich on budget airlines (it’s usually fluffier and more comfortable than their pillows).

Text: Ryan Ong / Additional Reporting: Elizabeth Liew
Photos: Pixabay, Pexels

“8 Ways To Avoid Credit Card Fraud While Traveling Overseas” first appeared on SingSaver.com.sg, Singapore’s #1 financial comparison platform for credit cards and personal loans.