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The Tale of Two Travels

As most people are aware, travelling comes with its own set of challenges and rewards. The challenges often fall into categories like delayed flights, crowded airports, train or bus terminals, being away from home, managing costs, and personal and financial security. These are usually outweighed by the benefits of spending time with friends and family, new experiences, etc.

A few weeks ago, I travelled out of state for both professional and personal reasons. The first part of my travel was a business trip which included a gathering of hundreds of co-workers from around the globe.  The second part of my trip was a weekend with friends needing a mid-winter break to escape the cold of the Northeast. Both parts of the trip took place along the gold coast of Florida.

During parts of both trips I heard stories of people being having issues with their bank related to their ability to use their credit and debit cards while travelling.  In the first scenario, a co-worker had travelled from Europe to the States and was using both personal and business credit cards for travel activity. The randomness of the transactions of the personal card (transactions within the same day on two different continents) got flagged by the issuing bank, which prompted them to call him about his transaction to confirm the validity. Luckily he had provided his mobile phone number to his account, which made it easy for the bank to contact him while travelling abroad.  My co-worker was quite pleased with the experience and appreciated the proactive outreach of his bank.

My friend in the second scenario did not have as pleasant an experience. He had several transactions within hours of each other in two states located 1500 miles away, one of which was an attempted cash withdrawal of $500. His bank put a block on his account which disabled his ability to withdraw cash. After standing at an ATM for what seemed like a long time (we were hungry and trying to go to dinner) he finally got connected to the fraud department of his bank, argued for a bit with the representative on the phone, and confirmed the transactions as his. When he got back into the car, a lively discussion of bank fraud detection and prevention methods ensued and several people shared similar stories. My background in financial crime management helped me discuss the activity more rationally and helped calm down the nerves of my rattled buddy.

Banks, processors, and retailers use sophisticated software to monitor the transactional behavior of their customers as a measure of fraud prevention. When suspicious behavior occurs, flags are put up as to alert the institution (and the cardmember) about potentially fraudulent activity.  These types of solutions are invaluable to protect the assets of the customer as well as the reputation of the bank.  Be sure that your financial institution has a direct method for contacting you (i.e. mobile phone, e-mail, home phone, etc.) and that any changes to contact information are updated promptly.  And as an added measure, contact your credit card issuer or bank when travelling abroad or for long periods of time and let them know your travel itinerary. They can note your account and often facilitate a smoother experience to avoid blocking transactions and alert bank fraud representatives to your plans in advance of any red flags.     

It’s worth noting: my friend told me he came home from the trip and there was a message on his home phone from his bank on the day of the incident asking them to call him regarding recent fraudulent activity. If he had only given them his mobile phone number…



Comments: (1)

A Finextra member
A Finextra member 12 March, 2012, 11:54Be the first to give this comment the thumbs up 0 likes

I now have to phone my bank (Lloyds) every time I go somewhere overseas and want to use an ATM; otherwise it's a stand off at the ATM and no cash.

My bank won't let me unlock certain countries in advance that I know I am going to because I cannot be precise on timing.  So every time I travel, its the same old regime of calling to clear it.

If only they would allow me to input a second PIN to confirm my overseas transaction then I would be done.  On the the phone, they let me use a memorable word to do anything.  So if I can do anything on the phone with a memorable word, why not at an overseas ATM with a second memorable PIN?  Or text it to me and I'll input it into the ATM (like Lloyds actually does for some internet transactions, which is pretty cool).

For now, I am back to using cash because quite frankly I can't be bothered with all this phoning.