When your purse or wallet is stolen on a trip, all of your access to cash is gone. Not only that, but if your passport is stolen, you’ll need to get a replacement before you can re-enter your own country.
It is for this reason that we’ve often recommended to travelers that they carry a copy of their passport identification page, their credit cards, etc. when they travel, but we recently discovered a much better system and we’re going to share it with you now.
Yes, you should still have a list of your card numbers but not copies of the actual cards. Yes, you should have the associated phone numbers to call if a card is stolen. Yes, you should still leave a duplicate copy with a friend or family member back home (in case your copy is stolen). And here’s our new recommendation: have a personal system of switching several of the numbers for each card.
For example, if you have a card number that looks like this (obviously it won’t, but we’ve simplified it for the sake of making the point):
Consider a system of switching the first and last numbers, perhaps like this:
Or some other easily remembered pattern. You know the pattern, and if you think you won’t remember it, write the key on the copy you leave at home.
Think about it: if you lose the sheet, or if it is stolen by the hotel maid, then you won’t have to worry about your accounts being compromised.
If your purse or wallet is stolen, you’ll be able to call the contact phone numbers and get the cards canceled quickly. If your sheet of numbers is stolen, the thief won’t get far with those fake numbers. Plus, if both are stolen, you can call your friend or family member and get the information sent to you and still put a quick stop to the raiding of your accounts.
Keep your sheet of account numbers and phone numbers with you as a document to which only you have access – in an e-mail account, on a password-protected mobile device, etc. Just be sure you are the only one with access to the get to the numbers.
The key is being able to cancel and/or replace the cards quickly so that the financial damage is minimal, but making a copy of your credit cards has the potential to backfire because you won’t know that the card number is stolen until much later. Try this system as a way to more thoroughly foil the attempts of thieves.
Damian Tysdal is the founder of CoverTrip, and is a licensed agent for travel insurance (MA 1883287). He believes travel insurance should be easier to understand, and started the first travel insurance blog in 2006.