Poll: Travelers Savvy About Using Points Credit Cards, But Fall Short on ID Theft Awareness

(LOS ANGELES – April 20, 2011) – Southern Californians planning upcoming travel are using rewards points credit cards as the preferred choice for paying for their trips, but most credit card-using travelers are not aware of the best ways to protect their information from identity thieves, according to a new poll from the Automobile Club of Southern California.
The Auto Club’s Spring Quarter Travel and Shopping Poll revealed that 77 percent of those who will take trips in the near future plan to pay by credit card, and 53 percent of those consumers say they will use a credit card that provides reward points toward future travel or other products and services.
 “Credit cards provide good consumer protection for travel and other types of big-ticket purchases because if there’s an issue, the card company will work with the purchaser to resolve it and may reverse the charge if necessary,” said Denise Bialek, the Auto Club’s group manager for membership value programs. “This poll shows that travelers are also very knowledgeable about the value of using a credit card with reward points. Some points cards, such as the AAA Member Rewards Visa, even offer triple points for AAA Travel purchases and double points for gas purchases.”
But while travelers are quick to take advantage of credit cards and their perks, the poll showed that many have little awareness of how to protect themselves from identity theft or credit card-related issues while they travel.
More than 75 percent of survey respondents indicated they do not inform their credit card companies ahead of time where they will be traveling – an issue which could cause credit card companies to freeze accounts over concern that the card was stolen.
Also, 65 percent of those polled say they don’t temporarily cancel or otherwise secure their mail while they’re on a trip.  Bialek said a full mailbox is both a signal to burglars of a vacant house and a way for thieves to gain access to account numbers and pre-approved credit card offers allowing them to open new accounts in the victim’s name.
Fifty-nine percent of those polled said they do not use the hotel room safe or hotel safe. If you don’t take them with you, all items such as personal documents with identity information, credit cards, checkbooks or any valuables should be stored in a safe or secure place while you are away from the hotel, said Bialek.
The Auto Club and Experian’s ProtectMyID™ offer a discounted identity protection product to members, as well as more tips for spring break and summer vacationers to protect their identity on the road:
  • In addition to securing your home before you leave, secure your personal documents as well in a safe or other locked container. Victims of break-ins are increasingly reporting theft of credit card account numbers as well as valuables in their home.
  • Empty out your wallet before leaving home to bring along only the cards you will use, and make sure those extra cards are securely stowed away at home.
  • While traveling, use clothing and accessories that protect cards, cash and electronic devices from theft, such as a money belt or a shirt, vest, jacket or sweater with secure pockets. There are even travel jackets and vests on the market that can securely hold iPads.
  • Check your accounts frequently to make sure no one is fraudulently using them, but avoid using a public computer or unsecured wi-fi network to access your bank or credit card accounts.
  • If traveling with a laptop or electronic tablet, password protect it to prevent thieves from accessing private information. With smartphones, make sure your bank and credit card accounts are only accessible with a password.
  • Sign up for a fraud alert service such as CreditCheck Select, available free to Auto Club members, or ProtectMyID from Experian, which will scan your accounts for you and automatically alert you to potentially fraudulent activity. Both services are available at AAA.com/identitytheft.
“Taking steps to protect your identity before you travel can save you from the shock of coming home and finding out you’ve been a victim of this crime,” said Jennifer Leuer, general manager of Experian’s ProtectMyID. “Savvy travelers can safeguard themselves from travel-related identity theft risks through taking some precautions before hitting the road.”
The Auto Club Spring Quarter Travel and Shopping Poll was taken online from Feb. 14 to Feb. 22 by nearly 600 Auto Club members and differences between 2011 and 2010 data were tested at a 95 percent confidence level. The Auto Club surveys its members each quarter on travel plans and related topics.