Vacation Planning – Credit, Debit or Cash?

For more tips on protecting your money on vacation, visit

You’ve planned your destination, have the hotel booked, know what activities you plan to do when you get there – now what’s the best way to pay for it all? Odds are you’ve saved money specifically to pay for your vacation, but taking wads of cash with you while you travel may not be your safest best. According to, the zero-liability policy associated with a credit card makes it the safest choice for purchases while away from home, but in truth a combination of all three: cash, credit and debit, will probably work in your favor.

When to use credit
Use credit cards for major purchases, such as your hotel charges, car rentals and any larger items. Most credit cards have a zero-liability policy, meaning you won’t pay for unauthorized charges if a card is lost or stolen. Be sure to bring contact information for each of your credit cards along with you should your card be lost or stolen. The sooner you alert the credit card company, the better. Along those lines, be sure to bring a backup credit card with you. Just be sure to keep track of your expenses as you go so you know you have enough in the bank to pay off your credit card when the bill comes at the end of the month.

When to use debit
Your debit card probably also doubles as your ATM card. Having the ability to access cash should you need it on short-notice is always a good idea. Keep a close eye on your debit card however since it links directly to your checking account and poses a greater risk for liability if it’s stolen. Under the Electronic Fund Transfer Act, ATM and debit card transactions are protected, but you need to report bogus debit card charges to your bank within 2 business days to limit your liability to $50.

When to use cash
Of course there are times when it’s just more convenient to use cash. Or oftentimes smaller vendors, such as street-side shops, don’t accept credit. Be sure to only have what cash you’ll need for the day on you and leave the rest in the hotel safe. Also, it’s a good idea to split your cash up into different places, for example put some in your shoe and others in your pocket.

Remember, if you’re planning on traveling internationally and using your credit or debit card, be sure to notify your bank so they’re aware of your plans. Due to recent fraud concerns, many foreign country transactions are being blocked unless the bank is made aware of your intentions. Don’t forget you can always order a pre-paid cash passport through Travelex on CNB’s website. These MasterCard® branded cards are enabled with chip and PIN technology common in Europe and are available in British Pounds and Euros.


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