The thrill of RV travel comes from finding something new around each and every bend in the road. Unfortunately, sometimes those surprises can mean a flat tire, mechanical problem or something worse that must be dealt with right away. Taking effective measures to protect yourself from inevitable bumps and detours, means having a plan for everything, even the unexpected.
Credit cards can be a valuable asset to the RV traveler, but it’s important to use them wisely. Use this advice to protect your sensitive personal financial information as well as your physical credit cards while you’re on the road.
Keep it Simple
There is no need to carry all of your credit cards with you as you travel. Only take a debit card so you have access to cash and two major credit cards issued by different banks. Keep these cards with you at all times, but not necessarily in your wallet or purse. A money belt is an inexpensive accessory that provides a secure second location for all your cards.
Make sure the cards you have with you are kept in a secure, locked location. Make locking up cards part of your departure routine. Don’t store anything loose in a drawer, tucked into other papers or in a “clever” spot that thieves could quickly find.
I recently had my credit card number stolen. This happened to be the card I used for purchases, automatic bill pay and fees for online services.
Reporting the theft was easy, and, thankfully, I wasn’t liable for any of the unauthorized charges. However, it took me days to change the card number for all my bills and, I missed a couple, leading to late charges and hassles a month later.
To prevent a repeat, I acquired a new credit card from my bank and dedicated it to bill pay and auto pay only. I never use the card for anything else. Since it’s only used for secure, recurring payments, and is never in my wallet, the chance of it getting stolen is significantly lower.
Mark Nemeth #45776
Keep Clean Copies
Security experts agree that everyone should have a file with copies of the front and back of each of their credit cards. Make sure the card number and the toll-free customer service number are legible on the copies. Keep this file in a secure, locked location in the RV separate from any credit cards you have locked up in the vehicle.
If a card is lost or stolen, or if someone took a picture of the card, contact the issuer immediately. It’s also a great idea to make sure all your credit card companies have your cell phone number as the primary contact so that they call you if they see suspicious use on your account.
Protect Card Information
Credit card thieves don’t have to steal the physical card to gain access to your account, so avoid giving out your credit card information to anyone. Be careful that no one takes a picture of your card when you use it, and never enter credit card information when using a public WiFi network.
Keep Your Receipts
Transaction receipts are important, too. Make sure you review them before you leave the store or stall to be certain the amount charged is the amount you spent. Of course, never sign a blank credit card receipt.
Remember to treat all receipts as confidential information. Do not keep the receipt in the bag with the purchase. Immediately put it in your pocket or money belt and not with the credit card. When back in the RV, store all receipts in a secure location so you have them handy in case you need to speak with the credit card company.
Know How to Stay in Touch
Knowing how to communicate with your credit card companies is one reason to keep a file on each of your credit cards, but there is no reason to wait for a crisis to speak with them. Letting a credit card company know that you are on the road tells them to expect transactions in a variety of locations.
Also, letting companies know that you do not expect to be using a card tells them to watch carefully for any transactions. You should also check all your credit card statements yourself each month. You can do this online while on the road as well, but be sure to use a secure and encrypted Internet connection.
Like all thieves, credit card and identity thieves look for vulnerable and easy targets. Some may consider RV travelers to fall into this category. Prove them wrong, and protect yourself by staying armed with information and a few common-sense precautions.
Beth Kotz is a contributing writer to Credit.com. She specializes in covering financial advice for female entrepreneurs, college students and recent graduates. She earned a BA in communications and media from DePaul University in Chicago, Illinois.