There are many things that travelers need to be aware of on the road. One of the most important to me is protecting financial information, especially debit and credit card account information from compromise. While nothing is foolproof, I tend to follow a set of personal rules with debit and credit cards that has served me relatively well.

First, I use one of my credit cards for nearly all purchases when I’m traveling. Of course, I earn rewards, and that’s really the point of it all, but it also prevents someone with less than honest intentions from having direct access to my checking account via debit card. I recognize that debit cards do have fraud protection, but why subject yourself to the hassle of getting your money back in your checking account, even if it does happen within 24 hours like many banks promise.

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Second, I never use public wi-fi to view my financial accounts. Instead, I connect to a personal hotspot via my cell phone or use a VPN to connect. I have no idea if what I am doing is really that much more secure, but it feels like it is. I use public wi-fi frequently for general web surfing, but never for accessing financial accounts.

Third, while I do use my debit card for some purchases, it never leaves my sight. I don’t use it at restaurants where servers take it away, and I try to only use it at merchants that I have some reasonably longstanding knowledge of, and preferably, only if they accept chip cards.

Finally, I sometimes consult the website for information on merchants that accept chip cards. If one reasonably convenient merchant who is selling something I want accepts chip cards while another does not, the chip card accepting merchant will get my business. Frankly, that applies on the road and at home too. Granted, restaurants that accept chip cards in the USA are relatively rare at the moment, they do exist, and I expect that chip card acceptance at restaurants will rise over the next few years.

As I said, these are my rules and I know others will feel differently. Do you take extra steps to protect your financial information when traveling? Share your ideas in the comments.

-MJ, September 15, 2016