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Keeping Your Valuables and Money Safe

The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign's Division of Public Safety advises that property can be replaced, [but] your life cannot. While we wholeheartedly agree with Public Safety's advice, we also encourage you to be diligent about protecting your valuables and money.

  • Only take the most crucial documents and valuables with you. Do not bring your Social Security Card overseas. Keep personal valuables at home, especially ones that have important personal or family significance, e.g. jewelry.
  • Talk to your program's director, coordinator, or study abroad adviser about security issues and follow their advice. Observe how locals handle their money and what steps locals take to protect their valuables. Where appropriate, adopt their strategies.
  • Carry your money and valuables in various places, e.g. different pockets. Consider using a money belt or money/document necklace for your money and other important documents, such as tickets, passport, and credit cards. You might find that a money necklace is more convenient for you to access your money than having to dig around for cash when trying to make a payment.
  • Men: carry your wallet in your front pocket. Women: carry your handbag under your arms and in front of you. Avoid handbags with long shoulder straps. Everyone: carry bags in front of you and keep your bags under arms in crowded places, especially as you are getting on and off buses, and while you are on buses and trains.
  • When traveling outside of your program, think about using a safe or locker if it is available at hotels/hostels and other places. Pack your personal belongings in your bags, lock your bags, and store them securely before leaving your hotel/hostel. Bring and use your own locks.
  • Keep personal belongings away from windows and doors. Use a laptop lock to secure your laptop.
  • Consider getting insurance for personal property. Go to our webpage on insurance and scroll to the bottom of the page ("Theft, Trip Cancellation, and Other Insurance") for more information.
  • Make copies of all important documents, including the back and front of credit and debit cards.
    • Leave one set with a trusted family member/relative/friend at home (ideally, not someone you are dating),
    • Leave another set in a secure place in your dorm/host family or with your on-site coordinator/adviser/Resident Director/faculty leader.
    • Leave documents in a sealed envelope with a statement e.g. Open only in emergency and sign across the envelope seal.
    • Save and store passwords to personal accounts securely and safely.

ATMs, Credit Cards, Travelers Checks

  • Credit/Debit Cards
    • Talk to your credit/debit card company before you leave. Find out if your credit/debit card can be used overseas. Notify them of where and when you will be traveling.
    • Find out what types of fees you may incur for using your credit/debit card overseas.
    • Know how to contact your bank from abroad. Learn how to cancel your cards when you are abroad.
    • Learn about credit/debit card safety from your program's director, coordinator, and/or study abroad adviser, and follow their advice.
    • Have a back-up credit card for emergencies, e.g. flight cancellations and urgent medical needs.
    • Do not solely rely on credit/debit cards for cash. You should always keep some ready cash on hand, in case you do not have access to an ATM or if your credit/debit card account is frozen.
  • ATMs
    • Use ATMs during business hours, so that you can speak with a representative in the event of the machine "eating up" your card.
    • Use ATMs inside banks, where possible. If you need to use an ATM that is on the outside of a building or along a street, check for people who might be loitering around.
    • Cover your hand and PIN-pad when entering your PIN.
  • Traveler's Checks
    • Find out if you need to or should carry traveler's checks. Traveler's checks are less commonly used these days and are less convenient than credit and debit cards.
    • Seek guidance for your country/program.

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