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How To Avoid Bank Card Theft When You Travel

Have you ever had trouble with your bank card when you travel? For example,  another bank’s ATM refusing to pay while withholding your card after you have started a transaction on a weekend in another town/state/country? Whew! The distress can be horrible. Not to mention having to deal with issues of card theft or fraudulent activities on your account because you used an ATM in an unfamiliar place during a trip. Criminals always see tourists as potential targets so it’s best to be prepared for such eventualities even though they rarely occur. 

To avoid dealing with hassles of this nature, here are a few suggestions:

1. Do Not Use An ATM In A High Tourist Area Or Lonely Areas – In touristy areas (e.g. during a Carnival like the Calabar Street Festival), it’s hard to identify strangers hanging around with evil intent. They might pose like good Samaritans trying to help you resolve your card issues at the ATM after they have planted a grabber to record your pin and card details. Sometimes, they linger around single ATMs in lonely corners too.

The solution: Use ATMs within any bank premises under the watchful gaze of security agents. Or use a high-traffic ATM in a non-touristy area which has multiple ATMs. Chances are ATM scams are less likely to happen in these areas. If your card gets stuck, don’t re-enter your pin, if you do, don’t do it twice. Also, run your fingers over the ATM slot if your card gets stuck to be sure it is not a scammer’s stunt. If strangers offer to help you with bank card troubles or give you a code to solve the problem, politely decline their offer.

2. Be Observant – You may be in such a hurry to withdraw that you do not notice anything amiss with the machine. Such as a loose card reader/slot, or unusual items on the ATM. These could have hidden cameras in them, visible cracks in the receipt slot, loose or spongy keypads.

The solution: Take a few minutes to inspect the machine before you use it. If there is any discrepancy between the regular ATMs, you use back home and this one, it’s best to avoid it altogether. You can pull on the card reader or keypad to see if it is loose. If the slot wiggles or the keypad feels like, it will fall off as you type, stop entering your details and ‘abandon ship’. If you notice a suspicious looking person hanging around the ATM, try to cover the keypad with your hand when typing your pin to shield it from them or any hidden cameras.

3. Have a Plan Of Action – When travelling, don’t carry all your bank cards or write out your pin. If you want to purchase an item, use a credit card or cash, do not use a debit card which has a direct link to your account and the funds in your savings. Your debit card should be for withdrawing cash from ATMs when you travel. Keep your card in an anti-theft device like a money belt or pouch. If your card gets missing or stolen, report to your bank ASAP so the card can be blocked/cancelled. If you get an alert about a transaction you didn’t make, or your card gets stuck in an ATM not owned by your bank, contact your Account Officer or your bank immediately.

Have you ever had trouble with your bank card while on a trip? Share your story with us in the comment section below.

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Ann Esievoadje is a freelance writer who is passionate about encouraging a reading culture and personal development. She has authored two books, The Quilt (fiction) and Being Mummy and Me (non-fiction). She manages Pulchra Publishing which offers a content creation/editing, transcription, different forms of writing (including Ghostwriting) service and her blog, Life Love and Anything Goes at You can reach her at

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