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AAA packing class had a few surprises…….

Starved for travel related opportunities, I signed up for a packing class at my local AAA store.

Imagine my surprise when the teacher announced that a traveler should never take a debit card to Europe but should instead take a cash advance on his/her credit card. This teacher obviously does not read the travel forum!😀. She then went on to tell a horror story of a woman losing 120,000 dollars through debit card fraud while traveling. My conclusion from this story was no one should use a debit card with that much money attached to it, vs not use one at all. (To finish the story, the woman got her money back).

She also proudly showed how she fit 14 different tops into her carryon. I had to hand it to her for her packing skills, but wondered if 14 tops was perhaps a bit much for the packing light concept.

It does go to show that we each have the items that are important to us and finding a way to efficiently pack those items can make it much easier to handle our luggage and make sure we arrive with what we need. I am now inspired to do a practice packing for my trip next week. I always end up having to weed some items out……..

Posted by
946 posts

Wow re: the debit card. I'm planning to take my Charles Schwab debit card, which will not have anywhere near 120k in it (if only!)

Please don't tell me she was packing for 14 days.

Posted by
2914 posts

Carol, I would have had a hard time not clarifying her remarks. LOL Those tops are about 9 too many for me.

Posted by
7598 posts

Oh my gosh my eyes would have been wide as saucers, and my jaw would be seriously dropped

Posted by
1305 posts

I seriously wonder if this "expert" has ever traveled. Anywhere.

Posted by
2713 posts

I do worry about debit cards though. One trip my annual bonus (that year 25% of my base salary) was direct deposited into my checking account while I was traveling. Nowhere near 120k but still a lot of money and I was pretty nervous until I was able to transfer it out of my checking account into a savings account for safekeeping.
A smarter person than I would have a separate checking account and debit card with only travel funds in it!

I also hate the school of packing that is all about “maximizing space” with compression bags, weird folding techniques, squeezing things into every corner like a game of Tetris. Sure it can work, you can fit a lot in, but…then what? Are you going to be able to recreate it with dirty laundry and any additional purchases every time you move hotels? What about when going home? Way too much work.

Posted by
5618 posts

Hmmm … did she recommended rolling up those tops, or folding and placing flat? Or wadding up in balls?

Did she pack any bottoms or skirts, to go along with those tops? Dress? Underwear? How many pairs of footwear did she recommend/demonstrate? And did she allow extra space, for bringing home any acquisitions in the carryon?

Posted by
946 posts

A smarter person than I would have a separate checking account and debit card with only travel funds in it!

Mira, this is what we do! Not 'smart' so much as motivating. We opened a Schwab checking in 2020 and starting building our travel fund for when the dark days of covid had passed. Last week was the first time we used the funds - to buy plane tickets to Europe.

Posted by
57 posts

Credit cards generally have better consumer protection than debit so I can see her point there. If your credit card is compromised, they generally reverse the charges before you lose any actual money, but if your debit card is, that's money directly out of your bank account until things get straightened out. I bring my debit card as a backup only and cannot remember the last time I used it while traveling or not.

14 tops in a carry-on seems impressive but I have to wonder if there was any room left for the 14 corresponding bottoms!

Posted by
5161 posts

For those of you who are wondering, she is an experienced traveler. Obviously, she just prefers to pay cash advance fees. She packed two pairs of pants in addition to the ones she was wearing with the idea that , "no one ever notices your pants, it is the tops that matter." It seemed like the whole packing demo was a bit of a demo of the packing supplies that they had for sale. She used lots of smaller bags which she had extremely well organized. She rolled some tops and some tops went into a shirt folder. One other pair of shoes. She used a compression bag for her coat and said she sometimes uses one for a pillow or dirty laundry.

Posted by
1765 posts

What I find is that my bag gets too heavy if I stuff it full, so no compression bags. When you're traveling one of those 8kg airlines, weight really matters! And for the same reason, I wear my coat instead of packing it.

Posted by
308 posts

I really don't get the compression bag thing. For me, it all comes down to weight because no matter the space the items take, you have to carry the weight.

Posted by
353 posts

This myth drives me crazy. Its not about debit/credit card - its about whether its a mastercard/visa card - whether you have a credit card or a current account associated with the card is absolutely irrelevant. If you obey the rules you have exactly the same protection.

No one looses $120k via any card - they all have daily/monthly limits on what you can withdraw

Posted by
4467 posts

Carol, I was waiting to read that for her finale, she skipped the suitcase altogether and wore 14 shirts on the plane - LOL! Definitely sounds like a “what not to do” packing scenario. I don’t think I even have 14 tops that I would want to take to Europe!

Posted by
72 posts

You're making this stuff up. Just think we pay AAA for our international permits. LOL

Posted by
3354 posts

Carol, thanks for sharing your experience. I had received an email invitation to attend this packing class! As the saying goes, "You cannot make this up." Lol. Like you, I practice packing before hand and weed out items that I can live without. 14 tops??? Oy.
The best packing classes I've taken over the years were either at RS Travel Center or Savvy Traveler Edmonds, WA. Sadly, Savvy Traveler retired in 2020.

Posted by
5161 posts

@ Janis
I really miss the travel classes at the Rick Steves Edmonds Store. I understand why they haven't been able to start them again yet, but I always learned a great deal and found them enjoyable.

Posted by
960 posts

That makes sense about the pants but 14 tops? Jowza! That reminds of a story my sister once told me. She traveled to Paris with a good friend of hers who was always very well dressed. When they got to the hotel, her friend started unpacking and my sister couldn't believe it. She had packed a complete outfit for EVERY day of the 14 day trip - including 14 bras!!!

Posted by
292 posts

Why would anyone prefer to pay cash advance fees? I take a credit card for purchases and a debit card to get cash. The debit card is attached to a checking account that is "siloed" away from my other funds in a completely different bank. I'll transfer enough in that account before I go to fund the trip. I can always check the app to see what's left and make another transfer if necessary. This is my comfort level.

Posted by
9712 posts

Maybe she pays ahead on her CC so she’s just tapping into her own finds?

Nevertheless I only use my DC at a bank ATM. I wonder if the person who lost all that money was using it elsewhere?

I agree about the AAA packing seminar. They do them to showcase products they have for sale including their suitcases. I went to one years ago here in N. Idaho and it might have been the same person. This part of the state is connected to WA AAA.

I also agree about the compression bags. Fine to use if you aren’t planning on any travel where you have to hop on and off trains. I wound up with a heavier than normal bag this time. I was assuming it would get lighter as I progressed (and used the mask supply!) but hauling it down and up stairs in a train station is tough.

Also….I’m not even sure I’ve got 14 tops, 😆!

Posted by
205 posts

We have a Capital One 360 checking/debit that we use just for travel, replenishing as we go with online transfers from our regular checking account at a different bank. The most we would ever lose would be the smallish amounts we transfer.

Posted by
8403 posts

@Lissie— cards work differently in different counties ie. NZ and US. In the US the debit card is a hand directly into your bank account with little or no protection.
Another example is France where our credit cards immediately deduct the purchases from our bank accounts, like debit cards, but they are credit cards.

Posted by
960 posts

Also….I’m not even sure I’ve got 14 tops, 😆!

Pam, I was mentally counting the clothes in my closet and thought the same thing!

Posted by
325 posts

I set low daily limits on my debit cards when we are traveling and keep my eye on transactions using text/email alerts. Using an app, we are able to easily turn on/off all of our debit cards. I have to check to see if we can do that with our credit cards, too.

Posted by
1290 posts

Carol Now Retired- I have a checking account at different bank than my household funds that is JUST for travel. My travel budget money goes in there, so even if my debit card gets compromised, all my bills still get paid and my "houshold" money if safe. My card actually did get compromised, as did our travel buddies as we all withdrew cash from the same ATM in Sorrento about 4 two days before traveling back to the US. At the end of the trip my balance was under $500 at that point but my friend used the Debit card attached to his business/household account and the crooks drained his account $10K. His bank was calling him but he was in the air for 10 hours during that time. My Bank also called me, but I did not want to confirm anything (too many receipts to go through) so I told them to cancel the card and I would sort it out when I got home (I had a back up card). Come to find out the crooks did try to use my card 3 times in Portugal, but due to my low balance they did not take anything.
Moral of the story: Never travel with the debit card attached to your livelihood! Open a separate account just for travel.

Posted by
1290 posts

Lissie- High Net worth individuals do not have the same spending limits that you and I have, They are sometimes placed in a different "bucket" than us mere mortals and have VERY high spending limits for POS mainly. So yes, their account can be drained hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Posted by
1290 posts

With that story I now feel I am qualified to teach this class! I seriously would love to teach travel courses including packing, research and planning (Thanks to this board, RS guide books, and all the wonderful travel vloggers).
Was the event well atteneded?

Posted by
5161 posts

The event was well attended, about 40 people, most of us seniors. I suppose a class at 10 am on a weekday is going to draw mostly seniors…..