Are your credit cards ready for vacation?

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Column by Cathy Williamson

f your summer plans include traveling out of state or overseas, avoid stress and money problems by preparing ahead of time.

In an effort to reduce credit card fraud, many companies will lock an account if it’s being used in an unfamiliar spending pattern. This includes being used in a different state or country and charges that are not the normal spending amount.

Once a charge is rejected, a telephone call to the credit card company can remedy the situation, though it may take some time before purchases are permitted. Consumers can avoid these problems by letting credit card companies know their travel plans ahead of time.

Here are some tips from the BBB to avoid the surprise, embarrassment, and stress resulting from a credit card fraud alert and rejection:

Carry a debit card and cash — just in case: If you’re unable to use your credit card because of a fraud alert, you can use your ATM card and cash for purchases and emergencies.

Check your credit limit: Avoid going over your limit by making sure you have available credit. Also, check to make sure your card does not expire while you are out of town.

Verify the customer service number: If you leave the country, the customer service telephone number on the back of your card likely will not work. Find out the contact number for the country you’re visiting.

Make a note of your card number: If your card is lost or stolen, you will want to have the number and expiration date on hand to close the account. Keep the information in a safe place or leave it with a trusted friend or relative.

Watch out for billing irregularities: Keep all receipts and reconcile them with your credit card statement, to identify any double char­ges or mistakes with restaurant charges, such as being charged for someone else’s meal.

You can find additional consumer tips at bbb.org or call 1-800-388-2222.

Cathy Williamson is manager of the Lincoln Trail Area branch of the Better Business Bureau. She can be reached at 270-982-1289 or cwilliamson@bbbkyin.org.