Having your bag or wallet stolen on vacation is every traveler’s worst nightmare. Not only will you lose your belongings, but you’ll be stranded away from home without any credit cards or cash. ApplePay and other payment apps will be useless if your phone is taken as well.
Stashing an emergency credit card back at your hotel room can be a lifesaver if you lose (or are robbed) of your purse/wallet on vacation, as it will give you the funds you’ll need to tide you over until you get home. However, there are a few tips you should follow to make the emergency credit card useful.
Make Sure to Keep It Active
An emergency credit card is, by definition, not to be used very often. However, this idleness can be a red flag to the credit card company. If a card is not used at least once in a year, the issuing company may deem the card as inactive and cancel your account—without even notifying you. This would obviously be a huge problem if you do need your emergency credit card and find that it’s no longer valid. Be sure to use your backup credit card at least once a year (and pay it off immediately, so you don’t forget about the balance and rack up high interest charges) in order to keep it active.
A Card Can Help Verify Identity
If you lose your driver’s license or passport, you’ll still need to prove your identity in order to get temporary identification issued so that you can fly home. Having a credit card in your name can help with the verification process.
If a passenger on a domestic flight has lost their ID card, there are some ways the airline and TSA can work with the passenger to prove their identity and let them fly. Showing a credit card in your name can help with this.
Only Hide It in the Hotel Safe if You’ll Remember It
An emergency credit card is easy to hide in your hotel room. Although the safe is the most secure option, you could stash it in the pages of a book, in your luggage, or even in a shoe that you’re not wearing. If a single credit card is the only thing you’re stashing in the safe, it’s highly likely that you’ll forget it upon checking out. If you do utilize the safe, set yourself a reminder in your phone to empty it, tape a note to yourself on the inside of the hotel room door, or put something that you know you won’t leave without in the safe along with the card.
Make Sure to Set a Travel Notification if Needed
You don’t want to use your emergency credit card only to have your transaction blocked because it’s coming from outside of the country. Before you travel, be sure to notify your credit card of your trip in order to reduce the chances of getting flagged. You can usually do this online via your credit card portal or by calling customer support.
However, some credit card companies have moved away from travel notifications, meaning you can skip this step. (Capital One, for example, tells customers “You don’t need to notify us about your travel plans anymore thanks to the added security of your Capital One chip card. You can use your card abroad the same as you use it at home. Please check that your email and phone number are up to date in case we need to reach you.”)
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