Protecting Your Credit During the Summer Travel Season

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The Association of Credit Counseling Professionals - ACCPros - offers tips on maintaining your credit rating and protecting your identity from thieves during the summer travel season.

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If you’re not careful, while you’re out having fun on vacation, poor planning and failing to protect yourself from identity theft can wreak havoc on your credit.

During the summer it’s nice to relax and unwind, but don’t be too lax about maintaining your credit rating and protecting your identity from thieves.

According to AAA, more than 36 million Americans hit the road during the Memorial Day holiday weekend alone, kicking off the unofficial start to the summer travel season.

Millions more are expected to go on vacation for the rest of the summer.

“If you’re not careful, while you’re out having fun on vacation, poor planning and failing to protect yourself from identity theft can wreak havoc on your credit,” says Judy Sorensen, President of the Association of Credit Counseling Professionals (ACCPros).

ACCPros would like to remind travelers not only to maintain their credit rating while on vacation but also to guard against identity theft.

Here are a few tips:

1 - Set a budget

A great way to protect and maintain your overall credit rating is to create and stick to a proper budget.

Before you go away on vacation, create a realistic budget. Will you be driving or flying to your destination? Will you be staying with friends and/or family or will you stay in hotels? Will you eat out every single night and if so, how much will you spend? How much will you allocate to spending on theme park tickets, museums, tours, sightseeing and other entertainment?

You also need to plan for those little things that will add-up to potentially budget busting expenses. It is hard to account for miscellaneous costs like parking, tips, snacks, gas and incidentals.

Remember that once the vacation is over, it’s back to reality and you will have your routine day-to-day bills to contend with.

2- Watch your credit usage

Planning to use a credit card to pay for your vacation? If so, what credit card will you use and how much is your current balance on that card? The last thing you want to do is max out a credit card to pay for your vacation. In determining your credit score the credit bureaus take into consideration the amount of unused credit you have on your credit cards. A maxed out credit card means you have less available credit and can lower your credit score significantly.

This is referred to as credit card utilization – the percentage of credit you’ve charged versus your total credit line. It bears repeating how important a factor this is in determining your credit score. Ideally, your target should be to use no more than 10% of your available credit on any given credit card and to keep your overall credit utilization below 30%.

3 - Avoid missing payments

Make sure that your bills get paid while you are away. You don’t want to find yourself running around some foreign town trying to find an Internet café so that you can try to login to your credit card account to make a payment.

What if a purchase is declined because you are past due on your account and that is the card you were relying on to pay for your vacation? What if you return from an extended vacation and discover a shut off notice from your gas, electric or water utility?

These vacation downers can be avoided by simply planning ahead and setting up automatic payments through your bank, credit card company or utility.

4 -Secure your mail and packages

You probably already know that you can place your mail on hold with the U.S. Postal Service while you are away. Simply go to holdmail.usps.com to initiate hold mail for up to 30 days in advance of your trip. Companies like FedEx and UPS offer hold for pick-up services, allowing consumers to have their packages delivered to the carriers’ pick-up location.

The reason you should have your mail held is so that identity thieves don’t drive up and steal mail from your mailbox and gain access to sensitive information such as credit card statements, checks, credit offers and the like.

5 – Suspend subscriptions

Nothing screams “we’re away on vacation” louder than a pile of uncollected newspapers and flyers sitting in your driveway. Be sure to suspend your newspaper subscriptions or ask a trusted friend or neighbor to collect these for you while you are away. Again, you don’t want crooks to realize that you’re not home.

6 – Use cyber security alerts

It is a good idea to set-up alerts on all of your credit cards and bank accounts. Most credit card issuers will send you a text or email alert every time your credit card is used.

Additionally, most banks will allow you to have an alert sent every time there is activity in your bank account such as when a payment sent, a deposit is made, or a debit card transaction goes through. Set these alerts up and monitor your email or texts while you are on vacation to avoid potential fraud. Make sure you know how to reach your bank via phone or email when you are travelling out of state or out of the country.

7- Contact your credit card issuer(s)

You may want to let your credit card issuer(s) know you will be traveling. Credit card issuers are always watching for signs of fraudulent use. Letting them know you will be out of town and will be using your card will ensure there are no hitches when you need your card.

8 – Practice Internet safety

While traveling think twice about using Internet cafes and other Internet Service Providers (ISP) to access your bank or credit card accounts online. Remember, an Internet Service Provide has the ability to monitor everything that you do online. The ISP may be a legitimate business that does everything in their power to ensure that your privacy is protected. On the other hand, the ISP may have employed a number of rogue workers, would be hackers and others that would gladly find a way to tap into your accounts and make you a victim of identity theft.

About ACCPros

The Association of Credit Counseling Professionals, ACCPros, is the credit counseling industry’s newest and fastest growing trade association. ACCPros distinguishes itself from other associations by placing an emphasis on ethics and compliance and focusing on best practices, quality service, education, training, and professional ethics. ACCPros member agencies can be a great resource for consumers seeking help managing their debt. Call the toll-free ACCPros Locator Line at 800-635-0553 to speak with a certified credit counselor at an agency licensed/registered in your state.

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