Swipe with Caution: When to Use Credit, Debit, or Cash for your Summer Vacation

While enjoying your vacation, did you notice strange charges on your credit or debit card? Tourists and travelers are a scammer’s favorite target because tourists often let their guard down while they relax and enjoy their well-deserved vacation. Scammers may have tricked you into paying for a vacation rental that did not exist, or gained access to your financial information from a card skimmer at a gas pump while you were filling up your rental car. 

Cybercrime can happen to anyone. If you are a victim of a scam while traveling, we can help you report, recover, and reinforce at FraudSupport.org. Then, follow these five simple steps to protect your finances on your next vacation. 

Book all of your accommodations with a credit card.
When booking your travel accommodations using a credit card to pay is the smartest choice. By using a credit card, you can easily dispute the charges if something goes wrong. For instance, if you arrive at your vacation rental and it isn’t as it appears online, you can call your credit card provider right away to file a dispute.

If you find that you are a victim of a travel scam, visit FraudSupport.org for help.


Keep your credit card provider in the loop with a travel notice.
If you’re using your credit card in a new location and you didn’t inform your credit card provider of your travels, they may decline a charge to protect you from potential fraud. Before you depart on your trip, call your credit card provider to inform them of your travels. Some providers even have ways to set a travel notice through their mobile app or online account dashboard. Check with your credit card company to find out what your travel notification options are.


To stay on budget, use cash or prepaid cards.
Sometimes credit cards aren’t practical, because it’s difficult to keep track of how much you are spending on all those vacation excursions, souvenirs, and food. Although debit cards are a good way to avoid spending money you don’t have, they don’t offer the same fraud protections as credit cards (see tip 4). If you want to stay on budget, consider bringing along a set amount of cash or prepaid cards to keep a close eye on your spending.


Leave your debit card at home.
A debit card doesn’t have the same protection as a credit card. According to the Federal Trade Commission, federal law states that if you find fraudulent charges on your credit card, your personal liability can’t exceed $50. However, if a fraudster gets ahold of your debit card information, you could be responsible for $500 or more, depending on how fast you report it.
Learn more about the difference between a credit card and a debit card at the Identity Theft Resource Center.

If you notice fraudulent charges on your debit or credit card let your financial institution know right away, then go to FraudSupport.org for more recovery steps.


Have some cash or a backup credit card on hand.
Whether you’re traveling abroad or vacationing in the states, it’s important to have a backup payment method on hand. Even if you plan to use a credit card on your vacation, having a backup card or cash might save you from a vacation mishap. If your credit card is frozen by your credit card provider, or it is lost or stolen, a backup payment method will allow you to continue enjoying your trip.

In the end, a lot goes into planning and preparing for a trip. By following these five tips, you can help defend yourself from fraud and scams while enjoying your well-deserved vacation!