When traveling abroad, it is important to take precautions to protect your bank cards. ATMs are the best way to get cash in Europe, but you should be on guard against the most common scams. Here are some tips for protecting your debit and credit cards on the road:

  • Bring fewer cards and keep tabs on them. Take only the credit and debit cards that you expect to use, plus a backup, and keep them protected from pickpockets in your money belt.
  • Upon returning home, verify the balance and charges on your debit and credit cards. Some travelers monitor balances as they travel, though it’s important to be careful when accessing a financial account online.
  • Don’t use a debit card for purchases. Because a debit card pulls funds directly out of your bank account, potential charges incurred by a thief are scary — it’s your money that’s gone, and it will stay gone until the fraudulent use is investigated by your bank. For that reason, limit your debit card use to cash-machine withdrawals. To make purchases, pay with cash or a credit card.
  • Act quickly if your card is lost or stolen. Report it immediately by making a collect call to your credit-card company, as your liability can be linked to timely reporting. You’ll likely be on the hook for only $50, but you should still act quickly.

At Cash Machines:

  • Be vigilant, and look out for various ATM scams.
  • Safeguard your PIN code. Memorize your PIN; you’d be surprised how many people foolishly write it on their card. When entering your PIN, block other people’s view of the keypad by covering it with your free hand.
  • Inspect the ATM for card skimmers. Before inserting your card into a cash machine, inspect the front (especially if it’s not inside a bank). If anything looks crooked, loose, or damaged — or if the entry to the card slot bulges out dramatically — it could be a sign of a card-skimming device (which captures your keystrokes as you enter your PIN).
  • Beware of stuck cards. Keep an eye out for anything in the card slot that could trap your card (or in the cash dispenser that could trap the cash). If your debit card gets stuck in an ATM, don’t re-enter your PIN.

Remember to check your cards’ expiration dates and report your travel dates to your bank(s) before leaving. With these tips, you can protect your bank cards and enjoy your travels without any hassle.

Read the full story by Rick Steves