Be careful using card abroad, holidaymakers advised

The summer holiday season is fast approaching and that means millions of us will be leaving for warm beaches and cocktails by the pool in sunnier climes. While the vast majority will have a relaxing and enjoyable holiday that passes off without incident, it is an unfortunate fact that a significant number of Britons fall victim to some sort of financial crime abroad each year. An unfortunate few are the victims of robbery, but for most the more immediate danger is presented by credit card fraud. MoneyExpert’s here to offer some advise for holiday card behaviour.

In Britain, the in-store credit card payments system is now almost entirely chip-and-pin based. The system is credited with reducing instances of card fraud in this country – but has not yet been rolled out completely abroad. In some countries, they do not have it all. It may surprise some to learn that the United States does not have the system at all and – according to The Observer – is now the country where stolen or cloned British credit cards are most likely to be put to fraudulent use.

This week, the Association of British Travel Agents (ABTA), which represents more than 6,000 travel brokers, issued advice to people planning to go abroad this year. Spokesman Sean Tipton advised holidaymakers to take travellers cheques as well as cash, in case their card is stolen or stops working.

The latter is more common than might be though, because many credit card providers will place a block on an account if the card suddenly registers a surge in use in a foreign country. For this reason, the ABTA advises those going abroad to take "a mixture of travellers cheques, hard currency and a card".

According to the Observer, travellers should take their bank’s international contact number with them when they go abroad, as this can be helpful in sorting out any difficulties. The newspaper points out that a simple phone call can often easily resolve situations where the card has been blocked, although the caller should "be prepared for many security questions". Even better is to inform your bank that you are going on holiday and that you will be using your card abroad. This means that the bank is more suspicious if your card is used abroad and you haven’t let them know you’re going to be away – better to be safe than sorry – and hopefully lower the risk of fraud or theft.

According to the ABTA, travellers should also keep their wits about them when using their card, whether in shops, restaurants or any other venue that might make it seem that the proprietor is justified in taking the card away from you for a moment. "If you’re paying for something using your card, don’t let it out of your sight – because that is where problems start occurring," warns Mr Tipton. Holidaymakers "should check their bank statements thoroughly for discrepancies when they return home", he adds, as the sooner any discrepancies are uncovered the sooner they can be resolved.

Another issue of concern to consumers is the foreign use charges most credit cards impose. In fact, these charges are currently the subject of a European inquiry and the ABTA says there is no doubt that the fees are "too high". As well as charging for purchases made with the card, high fees are usually imposed for cash withdrawals abroad as well. On top of this, card providers may charge for foreign currency conversion as well.

Despite this, the ABTA says that the benefit of taking a card outweighs the downsides. In particular, by alleviating the need to carry large amounts of currency. "The introduction of ATMs has made getting money out abroad so much easier," said Mr Tipton, adding that "across the board… it has been a great boon for people travelling abroad – the benefits do outweigh the charges."

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