Why You Need Two Credit Cards When You Travel

If you travel, even just a weekend away, make sure you have more than one way to pay your way. Here's an example of why that's important.

Why You Need Two Credit Cards When You Travel Photo (cc) by lrargerich

I was traveling in the United Kingdom when a credit card issuer emailed me about potentially fraudulent activity. My immediate thought was that the company had simply forgotten I was traveling, even though I’d notified them.

Nope. Somebody had gotten hold of my number and used it twice. Guess where.

In a Walmart. In Florida.

You’d think people would want to do something cooler than that. Designer clothing, maybe, or at least some of those M&Ms with your photograph on them.

But no, Walmart it was, for $90 each time. The odd thing is that the transactions were physical transactions, according to the card fraud department. So whoever got my number must also have one of those card-making machines.

Long-distance rigamarole

Initially, I wondered if the email was one of those phishing scams, particularly since the phone number given didn’t match the one on the back of my card. Later, I learned this particular branch of customer service has numerous offices. Credit card fraud is a growth industry.

What made the email look even more suspicious was the fact that when I clicked on the link provided, the first thing I was asked to do was enter my credit card number and my Social Security number.

I used a calling card to contact the credit card company, and a customer service agent confirmed the fraudulent charges. She asked a few questions, canceled the card, and told me a new card and a fraud report would be sent out.

I wish I’d remembered to ask her why a customer would be expected to provide credit card and Social Security numbers via return email. Even though this was a legitimate case, asking for such info electronically just sounds wrong.

Luckily, I had backup

Once more, with feeling: You need more than one payment method while traveling.

Had I been relying on a single credit (or debit) card, I’d have been up the creek and paddle-free. Maybe reduced to busking for change in the Underground. People might pay me to stop singing, but I doubt it would be enough to fund the last 10 days of the journey, no matter how cheaply I ate.

Consider programming customer-service numbers (but not the credit card numbers!) into your cell phone as well. And hey, all you cash-only purists: Stash your money in more than one wallet or pocket, in the event you’re robbed. I kept seeing “Pickpockets are known to work in this area” signs all over London – even in a KFC restaurant. How would you pay for your biscuits-and-extra-crispy if your only cash or your debit card got lifted?

Keep your payment methods close – and keep them multiple.

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