What to do if you lose your credit card while traveling abroad

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Few things ruin a trip like arriving at your destination and finding your luggage has wandered off. Here’s how to avoid losing your prized possessions in the first place, and what can help them be reunited with you as soon as possible should the worst happen. Video / NZ Herald

My second day in Boston had started perfectly. Faced with a free morning in the city, I took the opportunity to rent a public “Blue Bike” for $5 and explore. All it took was a tap of my credit card, and I was away.

So, as I realized hours later after doing the cliche of patting all the pockets while your stomach is sinking, that was my credit card.

On the spectrum of large items, a credit card seems relatively small. Unlike a sentimental necklace, fancy camera, or passport, it’s inexpensive to replace and easy to replace.

However, if (like me) this is your only method of payment abroad, things can get tricky very quickly. Not only to cover expenses, but also for hotel security payments. Just the day before, I had turned in my credit card at a hotel (common practice) and watched them place a $1400 hold on my card.

Luckily I was with a group that supported me for the next five days, but after that I was on my own for two long-haul flights and a one-day layover in between.

Here are some things I did before traveling (and after losing my card) that saved my life.

1. Write down your credit card details.

Unless you have a photographic memory, a lost credit card usually means the loss of credit card details as well, so keeping a record can be a saving grace.

As very sensitive information, it is crucial that it is not written down or typed in a place that someone could access, such as a notebook or a photo on your phone. Personally, I keep it on a password protected note on my phone. This will come in handy in step number four.

2. Temporarily lock the card.

Considering how many times I’ve “lost” my credit card for a day, my bank’s temporary lock feature is one I love. By simply hopping on the app, I could lock the card as soon as I realized it was lost, meaning it can’t be used in-store or online. This was a huge relief as I wasn’t constantly checking my account for random transactions from a stranger.

Luckily, if you have an Apple iPhone, you can use a locked card through Apple Pay. Banks generally recommend reporting and canceling a lost card as soon as possible, however, I personally decided to wait a few days so I could use Apple Pay for small purchases before arranging a plan B.

3. Lean on your travel friends.

A problem halved is a problem halved as they say, and the same goes for money problems. Travel is full of stumbles and slips, so don’t be embarrassed by a walk-in credit card.

Despite having just met my travel partners a few days earlier, the team stepped up and offered to lend me some money and even a debit card for the rest of the time.

4. Contact hotels in advance.

The biggest stressor outside of daily shopping was how I would provide hotels with a card to charge a deposit. This is common practice for hotels, which “hold” a certain amount of money during your stay and release it a few days later.

Little did I know, there was a simple solution; a hotel credit card authorization form. You will need to contact the hotel first to check if they agree to this, but if they do the form allows guests who do not have a credit card but do have details to authorize a charge.

Think of it like paying the security deposit online.

5. Cancel the card.

Obviously, the last step is to contact your bank and cancel your card. Pending charges (such as deposits held by hotels) will still be processed, but any automatic payments attached to the card must be updated.

As for what I will do differently on another upcoming trip? You can bet I’ll take a spare card to keep in my suitcase in case of emergency and withdraw cash on arrival.

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