Money Talks, So Should You

4 financial precautions for new travelers

This expert advice also serves as reminders for the rest of us.

Brian O'Connell
by Brian O'Connell, MainStreet contributor

Have leisure time, will travel — especially when it comes to traveling overseas: It seems to be the mantra for a growing number of Americans.

According to, 30.3 million U.S. citizens travel abroad each year — about 10 percent of the U.S. population.

READ: The high cost of living (and banking) abroad reports that 85 percent of those travelers are strictly “leisure” tourists, and may not be as financially and culturally savvy as business travelers who usually know the ropes (because their companies warn them) of financial risks overseas.

Nobody should embark on an international trip without taking a few key personal financial precautions.

That could mean simply contacting your financial institution and letting them know where you’re going, or carrying a “backup” credit card in case primary card is lost or stolen.

Sarasota, Fla.-based BMO Harris Bank is out with a helpful list of financial steps to take before traveling abroad:

Let your bank know where you’re going. Always contact your bank and credit card company before traveling abroad. That way they’re not taken by surprise by multiple uses of your debit and credit cards overseas. Just let them know where you’re going and what dates you’ll be traveling; if not, your financial institution could shut down your credit card over “out of the ordinary” purchases when your need your card most.

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"Banks and credit card companies monitor customer card activity looking for anything out of the ordinary," explains Dave Maraman, president of BMO Harris Bank Florida. "Contacting the card issuer prior to leaving for a trip will help them know to expect to see activity different from your normal spending pattern."

Don’t book a trip on an unsecure website. Identity thieves drool over the prospect of your using an unsecured site to book a trip overseas, since it mans plenty of opportunities to swipe your credit card number. Use secure booking sites such as, Expedia and — all of which go out of their way to protect your financial data.

Bring a “backup” credit card. When traveling overseas, always carry a backup credit card. That will come in handy if you lose your card or, worse, if it’s stolen.

If you need cash, use an ATM. Some countries emphasize paying cash over credit cards, so make sure you research the payment preferences of your destinations and, when you do need cash, use an ATM over currency exchange offices. ATMs usually offer better exchange rates.

By all means, have the time of your life when you travel overseas. Just make sure you take care of business before you go so you won’t face any financial “surprises” while you’re away.


Brian O’Connell has 15 years of experience covering business news and trends, particularly in the financial, health care and career management sectors. He has written 14 books and appeared on CNN, Fox News, CNBC, C-Span, Bloomberg, CBS Radio and other media outlets and in such publications as The Wall Street Journal and The He is a former Wall Street bond trader.