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Five Tips on Financial Security for Spring Break

March 18, 2019

With spring break in progress or looming, many students and families plan to travel. Ramon DeGennaro, professor of banking and finance with the Haslam College of Business at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, cautions to be mindful of your money while away from home. He offers these five tips on keeping finances secure during a vacation to help ensure you’re on a pleasant excursion and not up a creek without a paddle.

Tip 1: Alert your financial institution to your travel plans so your credit card charges aren’t flagged as fraud and your credit line frozen.

DeGennaro: “Sooner or later some businesses will ask you to verify a foreign transaction. You might as well notify them while you’re sitting with a cup of coffee in the United States, rather than standing in line in Prague, holding up a bunch of people who are getting upset and speaking in a foreign language.”

Tip 2: On your vacation, take at least one credit card, a debit card and the number of a card you leave at home.

DeGennaro: “I take a Visa, a MasterCard and a debit card, and I take the number of a card I leave at home in case I lose all the ones I take. A card number with no card is better than nothing.”

Tip 3: Be vigilant about threats to your money from ATM skimmers, untrustworthy apps and websites, con artists and the like, because it’s easier to be scammed when you’re in an unfamiliar environment. Also remember: Any problem that can occur at home will be worse in another country.  

DeGennaro: “Say I blow through my cash or my line of credit in Nashville: I can call somebody within 30 miles and get help. I can’t do that overseas. So to the extent that you can anticipate and prepare for problems, do it.”

Tip 4: Expect to spend more than you think you will, and take appropriate steps, such as having your credit limit raised.

DeGennaro: “Advertised costs often hide surcharges. A hotel in Nassau may say it’s $250 a night, but there might be a 13 percent VAT (value-added tax), a $6 mandatory valet fee, a $32 resort fee and this fee and that fee, and it ends up being $348 a night. Also, you never want to think about it, but emergencies do happen on vacation.”

Tip 5: To the degree that you can, bring backups for essential items.

DeGennaro: “I have an iPhone 8, and I have an old iPhone 5. If someone steals my iPhone 8, I still have a backup.”

Bonus tip: Don’t get so caught up in your travel plans that you forget to make sure your home is taken care of during your absence.

DeGennaro: “When the vacation is over, you want to come back to a house that is the same as you left it.”

Following these tips won’t guarantee your vacation is nothing but five nights of moonlit walks on sandy shores, but applying them and a dose of common sense will help ensure your peace of mind.