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Your travel checklist: 10 tips for a worry-free vacation

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Vacations should be a relaxing and rejuvenating experience. But surprises, especially those tied to your finances, can derail the fun. A vacation checklist can help you plan ahead and reduce stress. Here are 10 travel tips to get you started.

When your toes are in the sand, the last thing you want to worry about is if you paid the electric bill. Instead of wondering, pay those bills in advance. If you’ve set up online banking, you can arrange for automatic payments to be sent while you’re away. You might also want to consider signing up for paperless billing so you’ll have less paper waiting for you when you return. Speaking of paper, contact the post office about holding your mail layer. In addition to keeping your mailbox clear, this helps keep sensitive information in your mail, like bank and credit card statements, more secure.

While shopping or dining in a new city or country, you may swipe your debit or credit cards often. Consider using tools that help protect your card transactions from fraud while you travel. For example, when turned on, your phone’s location services may be able to verify card transactions when you make a purchase in an unusual place. Bank of America no longer requests that customers set travel notifications, due to ongoing security efforts that include monitoring your accounts and sending automatic alerts to your phone or email if suspicious activity is detected. Just make sure your bank and credit card company have your email address and mobile phone number so you can be reached while you’re traveling.

Many people do some of their banking online or through a mobile app. But for the frequent traveler, online and mobile banking are invaluable ways to monitor and manage your accounts from almost anywhere, including the beach. Just remember, it’s important you know the answer to your online banking security question — you’ll need it if you log in from a new computer.

Think of this one as a security blanket. In case of emergencies, make two copies of your passport, credit cards and other travel documents. Leave one copy with a friend or relative at home and bring the other copy with you. Some travel sites even recommend taking photos of these documents and storing them in the cloud so you can access them if your belongings are stolen. Also, it’s a good idea to let someone know your exact travel itinerary.

Posting photos to social media while traveling may be a fun way to share the experience with others, but it’s important to make sure you’re aware of who can see them. Update your privacy settings on your social media accounts to ensure you’re only sharing with those you know and trust. Be mindful of the Wi-Fi networks you’re connecting to as well. Avoid public Wi-Fi to prevent strangers from seeing what you’re doing on your device. When public Wi-Fi cannot be avoided, look for HTTPS:// in your browser window for a secure connection or use a virtual private network (VPN). Update your device’s security software, operating system and applications, too, for the best defenses against viruses, malware and other online threats. For more protection online, stay up to date with new trends in cybersecurity.

If you’re traveling internationally, take steps to ensure you can safely access your accounts from outside the United States. It’s a good idea to prepare your PIN before traveling abroad. Some international ATMs only support four-digit PINs. Be sure your PIN does not start with a zero and know your PIN by the numbers, as some foreign ATMs do not have letters on the keypads. Some foreign card readers may require you to use a PIN with your credit card. In these cases, you’ll need to use the PIN assigned to your card, so make sure you know it ahead of time. Try to memorize your PIN and avoid writing it on your card or keeping it in your wallet.

On the off chance you need medical care while traveling, make sure you know what your health insurance will and won’t cover. If you have a medical condition, you may want to plan ahead and be aware of in-network doctors in the area. If you’re traveling internationally, your insurance may not cover you while you’re away. If that’s the case, private companies offer short-term insurance plans specifically for international travel.

Bring at least two valid, permanent cards with you on your trip, in case one gets lost or stolen. Keep in mind that temporary cards don’t always work, and replacement cards can take several days to arrive. Double-check the cards’ expiration dates, and write down the numbers for customer service; keep them in a separate, safe place in case you need to call them for any reason. If you’re traveling internationally, look into a bank or other issuer of chip cards as the chip data is more difficult to capture for a new fraudulent card to be used elsewhere. You may even consider adding eligible debit and credit cards to your device’s digital wallet to pay for purchases using a virtual card number on your phone so merchants don’t receive your actual card number.

If you’re traveling domestically, it’s a good idea to make sure you have cash on hand in case your bank doesn’t have locations or ATMs where you’re headed. If you’re traveling internationally, you’ll probably want to order foreign currency ahead of time. This way, when you land, you’ll have local currency ready to go so you can pay for taxis, snacks and other incidentals without having to track down a currency exchange.

Your bank may not have a location or ATM convenient to where you’re traveling, even if the bank is a national chain. Look up the closest location to your destination. This is true of international travel as well. If you’re headed abroad, check and see if your home bank has partnered with banks abroad. Using a partner bank’s ATM may help you avoid certain fees. Generally, you can find your bank’s partner network on its website or by calling. Bank of America’s locator allows you to search for international partner ATMs.

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