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10 Summer Spending Mistakes to Avoid

The costs of vacations and relaxing can take a bite out of your budget — and credit worthiness. Here's how to bite back

1. Letting Your Mail Pile Up

En español | If you'll be away for three or more days, it's a good idea to have the post office hold your mail. The last thing you want is a big pile of mail sitting on your doorstep or spilling out of your mailbox while you're on vacation. Thieves often sift through mail hunting for credit card statements, bank records or other financial data to steal.

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2. Overspending on Credit Cards

It's easy to lose track of your spending when you're constantly whipping out a credit card to pay for a summer trip. To avoid maxing out your credit cards, which lowers your credit score and can blow your budget, establish a spending limit for your trip and stick to it. You might also consider an all-inclusive vacation or a cruise, where the price of most of your trip is built into the upfront cost you pay.

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3. Losing Track of Your Wallet

While on vacation, you're eager to hit the beach, get on the golf course or make it downstairs in time for that 7:30 a.m. tour. So you rush out of your hotel room and beat a path to your first activity of the day. What you don't realize is that you carelessly left your credit card or wallet sitting out on the table or the bathroom countertop. That's a big mistake, because your private financial data or other sensitive information, such as that contained in your driver's license, could now easily be stolen.

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4. Not Securing Your Electronics

Just as you should protect your wallet and credit card during a trip, so too should you secure other sensitive items, such as the laptop computer, tablet or smartphone you may have with you. Many computers contain a ton of personal information, including financial data or info about your online credit and banking accounts. Before you venture out each day, put computers and electronics into the safe in your hotel room. If there isn't one, be sure to at least put password protection on your laptop, cellphone and other devices to keep prying eyes away and reduce the temptation for theft.

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5. Logging-in to a Public Computer

Maybe you haven't brought a laptop along with you on vacation because you plan on using a computer at an Internet cafe or hotel business center. Unfortunately, whenever you use a PC that's not yours — during the summer or any other time — your identity is at risk. That's because those computers could contain spyware that records every keystroke, user name, password and website you visit. So if possible, avoid business center or Internet cafe PCs. If you must use them, always log out afterward, delete your search history and shut down the browser before leaving.

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6. Using the Wrong Credit Card

If your travels take you to foreign lands, don't spoil the trip by racking up unnecessary debt in the form of fees. Many credit cards charge high foreign transaction fees, exchange fees and other surcharges. Before an international trip, find out whether your cards charge extra fees when you use them out of the country.

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7. Not Checking Your Statements

After you've taken a trip, be sure to carefully review your credit card and bank statements for unexplained charges or suspicious activity for several months after your return. In many cases, when you pay restaurant or hotel bills with credit cards, workers can easily copy your account numbers without your knowledge. In such instances, you will still have your cards, and you may not immediately realize that a security breach has occurred. Thieves who steal credit card numbers may also not charge items right away.

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8. Missing a Payment

No matter how busy you get, you still have to pay those credit card bills on time. If leisure or business travel has you away from home, it's easy to miss a payment or forget about a bill that's due. But any credit card payment that's 30 days or more late can hurt your credit score. So if you know you'll be away, or if you're just super busy, set up email reminders and online bill payments to make sure certain bills don't get past you. Switching to online statements has another bonus, too: It cuts down on the time, effort and cost of monitoring your credit card statements. According to the 2010 Identity Fraud Survey Report from Javelin Strategy & Research, people who used electronic statements needed less time to detect fraud and they paid lower consumer costs ($116 vs. $274) than consumers monitoring paper statements.

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9. Forgetting to Declare Your Move

About half of all residential moves in the United States occur during the summer. If you're moving, you absolutely must fill out a change of address form with the Postal Service. You can even do it online and receive an immediate email confirmation of your request. This will ensure that all mail reaches you at your new address, including bank documents, credit card bills and other sensitive data. If crooks get their hands on these records, you're at major risk of being victimized by identity theft. After you fill out the change of address form, double-check the confirmation from the Postal Service to ensure that your new address is correctly noted. Once your form is submitted, a mail carrier should begin deliveries to your new residence within seven to 10 business days.

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10. Exceeding Your Credit Limit

With or without travel plans, summer can bring special plans or events that cause you to spend on big-ticket items, such as your daughter's wedding or new patio furniture. What you don't want to do, though, is exceed your credit limit. That looks bad on your credit report, and it could cause creditors to slash your credit limits. Furthermore, the more credit card debt you charge, the lower your credit score will be.

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