Travel Tip #12. Check the expiration dates on your credit cards, debit cards and passport. Copy the numbers in case of loss.
We have all had those scares while traveling, when we lost or misplaced our credit cards or identification. More than once I have had to retrieve a card or ID that I accidentally left behind when I paid for something. When I’m out of the country and it’s my passport, I think, “Oh, no! I will have to go to the U.S. embassy. How will I board a plane to get home?” And canceling credit cards is no fun.
Recently, a friend set her billfold down beside her after making a purchase. When she got up to continue her shopping, she did not realize that she left her billfold behind. While she tried to remember every card she carried, another friend went back and encountered an honest merchant who had found it. Crisis averted…but it was a good reminder.
When I blogged about traveling with emergency info here last month, a reader wrote, “I leave a copy of credit cards I am taking, passport, and emergency info with someone at home, who also has my itinerary.” Good advice. I have mixed feelings about traveling with credit and debit card information unless I lock the information in the room safe with other valuables. I am not sure that having the information to cancel credit cards immediately is worth the risk of someone finding and using the information. I can always contact that person back home with whom I have entrusted the information.
For the same reason, I carry only two credit cards and a debit card when I travel. Two seem necessary, since one may be rejected unexpectedly and not everyone takes American Express.
When Lev was alive, he took care of credit cards, currency exchanges and passports; and he always carried a lot of cash. Since credit cards are renewed automatically far in advance, I did not realize that debit cards are different. In Paris, counting on getting euros from an ATM, I was horrified to discover that my seldom-used debit card had expired. I learned the hard way to check expiration dates long before I travel.
Ditto passports. Many foreign countries will not accept a passport within six months of the expiration date; and rushed renewals and visas can be both expensive and hair-raising. Check your passport expiration regularly and apply for renewal when you have several months between trips. I keep a copy of my passport in my suitcase. While it won’t serve as valid ID, I think it will come in handy when I have to contact the U.S. embassy in the event of a lost passport. For the same reason, I carry my driver’s license on international trips.
One final small detail for women traveling alone: We simply must have identification and cash on us at all times. If we have to buy sightly larger purses for evening to hold our billfolds, write it off to one of the costs of being single. I am reluctant to lock my billfold in the room safe. Those are not tamper-proof, and hotels are not liable for theft. As for trusting locked suitcases…don’t. In fact, I sometimes wonder if my locked room safe and suitcases are merely advertisements that I have something of value to lock up.
What do you think?