Thieves go for cash instead of cards


To avoid foreign transaction fees and declined credit cards, many travellers use cash when visiting foreign countries. Yet that makes them easy targets for thieves, according to new research from Sainsbury's.

Thieves hit 7% of British holidaymakers
Sainsbury's found that 7% of Britons who have travelled abroad in the past two years have been victims of theft, losing an average of £414. Loose cash was the most common thing stolen, followed by mobile phones, cameras, iPods and watches. The most common scene of the crime was hotel rooms, followed by public transport.stolen-money

"We go on holiday to relax and spend time with our family and friends but unfortunately, our research reveals that for some Brits this time can be marred by falling victim to local crime," said Sainsbury's spokeswoman Jo Nola in a statement

Plastic stronger than cash
Cash was much more likely to be stolen than cards were, the researchers found. While 59% of victims had loose cash stolen while on holiday, just 14% of thefts involved debit or credit cards.

"Our research shows that cash is the most common target for thieves while on holiday, so it's advisable to avoid carrying large amounts with you, or leaving it in your hotel room," Nola said.

The fact that plastic was stolen less often than cash could reflect the greater security that comes with cards. With chip-and-PIN cards becoming the norm throughout Europe, the thief needs to know the PIN associated with the card to be able to use it.

If taking your entire bank account on your trip via a debit or credit card would tempt you to overspend, consider a prepaid card. With prepaid cards, you can spend only what's loaded on the card. If you run out of funds, you can reload by calling your issuer or, in some cases, via the issuer's website or SMS.

Prepaid cards also have the same secure chip-and-PIN technology that regular bank cards do. And, if the card goes missing, you can report it to the issuer to have the funds frozen and transferred to a replacement card.

Another prepaid perk: Some prepaid cards let you load currency of the country you're travelling to -- and thus avoid foreign transaction fees. Furthermore, the exchange rate is set at the time of loading, so it is easy to calculate how much you are spending without checking rates on a daily basis.

Keep in mind that prepaid cards often come loaded with fees (especially when it comes to ATMs) -- yet, if a thief runs off with all your cash, you stand to lose a lot more.

See related: Choosing the right card to fund your child's gap year, Will prepaid cards replace cash and cheques?

Published: 20 August 2012