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Ask an expert: how do I protect my card details on holiday?

Expert advice on keeping your cards safe when travelling - plus how to claim a refund if your card is stolen

Each week, the Which? Money experts answer your financial queries. You can submit your questions to money-letters@which.co.uk or via our Facebook or Twitter pages.

Q: What’s the best way to protect details about the credit cards and debit cards I take on holiday? I currently write them all down and keep them in my suitcase but often worry that they could fall into the wrong hands. I have considered keeping a note of them on my mobile phone but that would run the same risk if the phone were to get lost or stolen.

Submitted via: money-letters@which.co.uk

A: You should never write down details about your credit cards or debit cards, and you also shouldn’t store them on your phone. Doing so can dramatically increase your risk of fraud and also result in you not getting reimbursed if you do lose money.

If your bank can prove that you negligently failed to keep your debit card Pin safe, your refund claim could be rejected.

The situation is a little better with credit cards, where providers have to give you a full refund unless they can prove that you authorised the transactions yourself.

The only number that you need to make note of when travelling is your card provider’s 24-hour customer service number, so you can get in touch with them as quickly as possible if you do lose your card or it gets stolen.

You can usually find this number in the following places:

  • the back of your credit or debit card
  • your card statement
  • your card provider’s website.

When contacting your card provider, you will be asked a series of security questions associated with each of the accounts that your cards are linked to.

Most card providers offer the option to cancel your cards online as well.

Protecting your credit card and debit card details on holiday

The following tips can help you keep your card details safe when travelling.

1) Don’t write down your card details

Writing down your credit card or debit card details can significantly increase your risk of fraud, and you may not even notice that it’s happened until you see your statement.

If you write down your debit card details, this could be classed as ‘gross negligence’, meaning your card provider may refuse to refund you for any money lost.

2) Only take the cards you really need

Don’t travel with all of your credit and debit cards. Limiting the number of cards you take on holiday can decrease the impact of fraud should they get lost or stolen, and also means less of a headache when arranging stoppages and replacements.

Take some emergency cash and keep it in a safe place, separate from your cards, to tide you over should the worst happen.

3) Use a prepaid card

Using a prepaid card on holiday can be a useful alternative to taking your credit cards and debit cards.

Prepaid cards work by letting you load money onto a card, which you can then withdraw in cash or use to make purchases. They are issued under Visa and Mastercard, which means that they are widely accepted in the UK and abroad.

What should I do if my credit card is lost or stolen when I’m abroad?

Whether you’re at home or away, you should always report the loss or theft of a debit or credit card immediately.

Credit card providers should always refund you in full for any transactions that take place after you report your credit card as missing.

In cases where you haven’t realised that your card is missing and so don’t immediately report it, you will still be entitled to a refund. However, you may be liable to pay the first £35 of the fraudulent spending.

Banks usually waive this £35 contribution so it’s worth checking the terms and conditions.

Your credit card provider will only be able to refuse your refund if they can prove that you authorised the payment yourself.

And how about my debit card?

Your bank should also give you a full refund for any transactions made after your debit card is lost or stolen.

You can only be rejected for a refund if your bank can prove that you have acted fraudulently or that you were ‘grossly negligent’.

This includes writing down details about your debit card, such as your Pin.

What to do if you are refused a refund

If your debit card provider refuses your refund because they claim you have acted fraudulently or were ‘grossly negligent’ with your card details, the following steps can help you claim your money back.

1) Escalate your complaint

Ask for your dispute to be escalated through your card provider’s internal complaints process. If they still refuse your refund request, ask them to send you a ‘final letter of deadlock’ so that you can refer your dispute to the Financial Ombudsman Service (FOS).

2) Take your claim to the FOS

You can take your claim to the Finanical Ombudsman Service (FOS) if your card provider is insistent that you’ve been fraudulent or negligent and won’t issue you a refund.

The FOS is the UK’s official expert in resolving disputes between consumers and financial services providers.

They will consider all of the circumstances around the transaction and may ask you to give additional information to help make their decision.

Once the FOS has made a decision, card providers must comply. If you’re not happy with the outcome, you can take your claim to the small claims court.

However, this will incur court fees and other legal expenses so think carefully about how likely you are to win against a decision made by the FOS before taking legal action.

Which? Limited is an Introducer Appointed Representative of Which? Financial Services Limited, which is authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority (FRN 527029). Which? Mortgage Advisers and Which? Money Compare are trading names of Which? Financial Services Limited.

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