Top Places to Never Use a Bank Card or Credit Card When Traveling

Hidden dangers of swiping your credit card on the road

I whipped out a $5 to pay for my latte the other day and the cashier looked surprised. The look begged that I him ask how often people actually use cash these days. His answer – “it’s rare”. A recent report from, confirmed the “rarity” – 80 percent of consumers use their debit cards for everyday purchases like gas, coffee, meals and groceries instead of cash.

When was the last time you paid in cash?

While a card is more convenient to simply swipe through a machine versus carrying cash and counting out change, it is not always an option especially if you’re traveling internationally. When I was in Russia, it was rare for card machines to be working, even in the bustling downtown of Moscow. Paying with cards may also not be the safest option either, according to privacy and security expert, Shaun Murphy.

I admit, I personally prefer to pay for things with my credit card when I travel – hello reward points, easy receipt tracking, if I loose it I’m covered and not out $$$, etc. etc. – but, Shaun filled me in on a few places to think twice about before swiping your card to help prevent identity theft, especially when you’re traveling.

Top Places to Never Use a Bank Card or Credit Card When Traveling

Four Places to Never Use a Bank, Credit Card

Hidden / out of view terminals. A hidden terminal could be as simple as the gas pump furthest away from the center or an unattended station for automatic checkouts at the grocery store. These are sweet targets for credit card skimming devices that can sit there for months without anyone noticing. Head to a recognized bank ATM when at all possible and, check out with a cashier if it’s an option.

Cell phone charging stations. While it may sound convenient to swipe your card to charge your phone when the battery is nearly dead, you should think again. Despite being ripe for credit card skimming or nefarious credit card information storage, these charging stations can also dump the information from your cell phone while charging! This attack method even has a cool name: Juice Jacking! If this is something you will need when you’re on the road consider buying a one-time use/reloadable cards that does not have ties to your personal information, albeit you may still run into data being stolen from your phone. Better yet, buy a portable charger which doesn’t hold any personal data, use the reloadable card to pay for the charge and then use the portable charger to power your phone. (I know, that’s a lot of steps…but so is dealing with your identity being stolen.)

Apps (desktop or mobile) that ask for credit card information outside of the normal app store. Chances are this is not a legit application, especially if it is threatening you (you have a virus, please deposit $10… or I’ve encrypted all of your files and I’ll unlock them for a price.

Unsecured online shopping sites. This tip goes without saying – traveling or not. Before you enter your credit or bankcard information for an online purchase, look for the lock icon without any overlays. While you are checking out, you should see this icon in your web browser. Some sites, Amazon included, will not show you a lock icon until you log into your account or begin the check out process. This means anyone can see what you are shopping for while you are browsing.


When you travel, do you prefer to use cash or your card?

Have you ever had your card stolen when you’re traveling?






  • Thanks for the great advice, on two points, first getting the reloadable credit card, yes, totally agree! I think the extra costs of using the card is far outweighed by the benefits, ie. crappy exchange rate compared to id theft. The second point is with the charger, I have a lamp, torch combo crank charger. Whenever I am out of juice I plug my phone into this and belt out a few minutes cranking the device, this will give me charge, with enough cranking of course, to get me to a more reliable/safe means of charging, and if not then half an hour to an hour of cranking while I chill somewhere until I have the power I need.
    lee recently posted…How many photos / songs / videos can a 16gb / 32 gb / 64gb / 128gb memory card holdMy Profile

    • That is a great idea! A lamp, torch combo crank charger is super portable making it easy to travel with, gives you that extra charge if/when you need it, and acts as a flashlight in an emergency. The radio (AM/FM) feature it provides can also be really useful. Thanks for the tip and for stopping by.

    • Yes! When our cards were blocked in Moscow we couldn’t do any of the tours we wanted to do at the Kremlin. And, of course it was on a Sunday so we were stuck with nearly no money until Monday morning. Ended up back at the hotel billing food and drinks to the room.

      • Wow, what a nightmare! We make a point of traveling with at least two credit cards and keeping them separate (i.e. not in the same wallet/purse). There was this one time when my DH thought he’d lost his wallet. The thought of having to spend the rest of the trip with only one credit card was worrying (we still had a couple of months to go). Fortunately, the motel found his wallet before we’d left town and in time for us to cancel the card cancellation with the bank. Whew!
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