If you’re planning an extended trip overseas, you might be overwhelmed with excitement at the thought of seeing new sights, meeting new people and learning about a new culture. But coming home to a collections notice on a forgotten, unpaid bill or learning you’ve been a victim of fraud can ruin even the best vacation. So before you go, add protecting your credit to your to-do list.
1. Make sure you have no outstanding bills
Lenders typically send a bill to collections if it’s 90 days or more past due. In most cases, they’ll try to contact you beforehand but you’ll want to plan ahead.
Make a list of all your outstanding bills. If some allow you to make automatic payments from your checking account, be sure to enable this feature. As for the rest, pay them before you leave. If you’re unable to pay the full balance on one, let your creditor know about the situation. Most creditors will work with you if they know you plan to pay.
2. Appoint someone to handle your financial affairs
A power of attorney is a document that effectively appoints another person to act on your behalf in certain situations. In this case, you might consider a special power of attorney because it limits what that person can do. For example, you can give a trusted friend or family member a special power of attorney to open your mail to receive bills and gain access to your bank account to pay the ones that will come due while you’re out of the country.
Nerd note: Make sure to add an expiration clause to the power of attorney so that the person you choose to act as your agent while you’re gone can no longer do so once you’re back home.
3. Contact your bank and credit card companies
In addition to letting your bank and credit card companies know they might see some charges in the country you’ll be visiting, you’ll also want them to monitor any suspicious activity back home. For example, if someone steals a credit card you didn’t take with you or accesses your bank account without authorization, it’s better to know immediately than to come home weeks or months later to a bigger problem.
4. Check your accounts
Even if your bank or credit card issuer knows you’re overseas, you’re not completely immune to fraud. For example, an unauthorized online purchase may not raise the same flags as a point-of-sale purchase in a different country. Look at your checking and credit card balances every few days to make sure you recognize all recent transactions — and to stay on top of your own spending.
The bottom line
You have a lot to do to prepare for an extended trip abroad, but make sure to add ways to protect your credit to your list. Running into trouble with your credit while you’re gone can put a damper on your trip and can have consequences for years to come.
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