Pro Tip: Always Travel with Photocopies of Your Passport and Credit Cards

Woman holding money and coffee at street market, mid section
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It's every traveler's worst nightmare. You're visiting a foreign country when your passport and wallet turn up missing. Maybe a thief picked your pocket or slashed your purse, making off with all of your cash and credit cards in the process. Perhaps you walked away from an outdoor café, leaving your backpack, with all of your voluble inside, behind. How exactly would you go about addressing this issue? What should you do to help prevent potential credit card fraud?

Here are a few tips that can help you survive this awful scenario and get back to enjoying your holiday.

What Do You Do Now?

If you have photocopies of your passport, credit cards, driver’s license, health-insurance information, and other important travel documents it will be much easier to replace the originals should the need arise. With a copy of your passport for example, you can go to the nearest embassy and have that document reissued much more quickly. Any copy of your passport will show the number that was issued when you applied for it, which can eliminate a lot of problems when it comes time to get a new one. It also makes it a lot easier to prove that you are who you say you are when both leaving and arriving at various destinations. 

If you lose your credit cards you'll want to contact the bank or company that issued it as soon as possible. When making copies of your cards, be sure you get images of both the front and back. Often times, the back contains contact information for your bank, including a telephone number to use if you need to reach customer service when a problem occurs. It is important that you contact these institutions as quickly as you can to cancel the cards and get any unauthorized purchases removed from the account. Thieves can do a lot damage to your credit in a short amount of time, so it is essential that you deal with the missing cards in a timely fashion.

In the modern age, many credit and debit cards can be accessed using an app on your smartphone. Assuming your phone wasn't lost along with your passport and wallet, that can be a real lifesaver. With a data connection, travelers can cancel their lost cards themselves in a manner of seconds and even order a new card to have it waiting for them at home. In the case of some new technology based cards, such as the Apple Card for instance, you can even have a new "virtual" card issued to your phone just as quickly too.

Make Photocopies Before Leaving Home

Even if you’re in a last-minute rush to prepare for a trip, don’t forget to make copies of the first page of your passport, the front and back of your credit cards, and details about any medicines you need to take while you are traveling. Also, if you must take a written copy of your passwords and personal ID numbers for the credit cards don’t keep them with the photocopies. This will prevent that information from falling into the wrong hands, which could happen if all of the information is stored in the same place.

Where to Keep the Copies?

Put one set of copies in the travel bag you are taking on the plane. If you’re traveling with a companion, exchange copies of each others info as well. If your hotel room has a safe, leave the copies in there, but don't forget to take them with you when you check out. Leave yet another set at home with someone you trust.

Alternatively, you could also snap photos of your passport, credit cards, and other important documents with your smartphone. That way you'll have an image saved to the device as well, which you can access as needed. Keep in mind however that your mobile device could be in your bag when it is lost or stolen, which could prevent you from accessing the documents when you need them. Most iOS and Android devices store photos in the cloud these days, making it easy to find those images from a computer.

Either way, it is still a good idea to carry printed hard copies with you wherever you go. Depending on where you are traveling, gaining access to a computer or network could be a challenge.

Store a Copy in the Cloud

Better yet, keep a full copy of your passport, credit cards, and other documents on a cloud enabled drive for easy access when visiting another country. That way if you do need to print it off, you can do so simply by gaining access to the Internet. Now days, users can place documents in online storage with iCloud Drive, Google Drive, or Microsoft OneDrive and access them on just about any device. Other services like Dropbox and Box will offer similar functionality and even have special apps designed for smartphones and tablets too. 

Beyond your passport, cloud storage is a great place to store copies of prescription medicines, eyeglasses prescriptions, travel insurance documents, and a host of other important items. Typically you can access them safely and securely, even from a public computer. These items can also stay permanently stored in the cloud so you don't have to make copies every time you hit the road. 

What Not to Bring

Don't bring any credit cards you don't intend to use. Leave at home all passwords and personal identification numbers, especially for bank accounts, that you might typically keep tucked away in your wallet or purse. Should any of these items fall into the wrong hands it could be devastating to you on a personal and financial level.

Losing our passport, credit cards, and other forms of ID is pretty much the worst thing that can happen to any traveler. But keeping good records and copies of that important information will save you a lot of time and worry should you have to replace any of those items. Thankfully the process for doing so is much faster and easier than it once was, but it is still a lot of hassle that you'll want to avoid if possible. 

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