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Travel advisory

"Travel advisory" Continued...

As far as credit cards go, you should carry no more than two and maybe an ATM card. One of the two credit cards should be a Visa or MasterCard, and the second can be another card such as an American Express Card or Discover (though a Visa and a MasterCard is also a good combination). It is important that you learn in advance which cards are accepted in your destination country before you leave.

If there are not many ATMs in your destination country or city, or if you have a credit card that allows you to take cash advances from an ATM, you should consider leaving your ATM card at home. Why carry (and potentially lose) something you can’t use or don’t need? If you do decide to take an ATM card, you should ensure that the account your ATM card is connected to only has a limited amount of cash in it (like your checking account) and not your entire life savings. If you are the victim of an express kidnapping, your abductors will likely keep you until the account linked to your ATM card has been drained. They have been known to keep victims locked in car trunks for days in order to drain the account linked to the ATM card.

One other thing you will need to do is make a list of the card numbers of the credit/ATM cards you are taking with you and the phone number for reporting a stolen card to each of your credit card companies. Make sure that the phone number will work outside the United States. In many instances, the toll-free numbers listed on the back of a credit card to report a lost or stolen card will not work from overseas locations, so you will need to find a number that can be dialed from overseas.

You should also write down the numbers of any traveler’s checks you are talking with you and the contact number to report lost or stolen checks on this same list. (In the world of credit cards, traveler’s checks are becoming increasingly hard to use, so make sure they are accepted in your destination country before purchasing them.) Take one copy of this information with you on your trip, but keep it separate from your wallet so you won’t lose it if your wallet gets lost or stolen. Since it has credit card numbers on it, it is sensitive, so guard it carefully. Do not include the card security code number (sometimes also called the card verification code or card verification value) on this list. Leave another copy of this information in a safe place back home with someone who you can call in case you lose your copy of the list in addition to your wallet.

And while we are speaking of wallets, I believe personally it is a very bad idea for men to carry theirs in their back pockets. Even in the United States I carry a front-pocket wallet and money clip—I always thought it would be terribly embarrassing for a so-called security expert to get pickpocketed. Front pocket wallets or money clips are far harder for a pickpocket to get to than a wallet kept in a back pants pocket. Women should also consider foregoing their normally large wallets for their trip and carry a smaller billfold.

It is also an excellent idea to divide up your money into different bundles—one bundle with large bills and another bundle with your smaller, spending cash. You should then keep these two bundles in different pockets or places on your body. That way, people watching you pull out a wad of bill to purchase something will not be able to see your large bills. I personally keep my spending money in my left front pocket and my larger bills in my right front pocket, but large bills can also be kept in other secure places like an ankle pouch or a pouch under your shirt. Also, if a thief sees you pull money out of your left front pocket to buy things, he will consider it logical for you to pull that same wad out and hand it to him if he robs you.

I also try to keep my credit cards in a separate bundle with the hope that any potential thief would be happy with the small bills wad and leave my credit cards and large bills in peace. I would also attempt to give up my big bills separately from the credit cards if a thief insists on more than my small bills, but generally I try to ensure that I have enough in the small bills wad to keep a thief happy without allowing them to hit the jackpot. Couples traveling together should consider dividing their money and credit cards between them so that if one is victimized or loses something, the other will have some cash.

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