Notify the bank of travel plans

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Mastercard and visa logos with question "Traveling?" Use these 3 steps to notify the bank of travel plans.

Today’s post is inspired by a reader who learned the hard way why you should notify the bank of travel plans. She shared her experience trying to use her bank debit card on a recent vacation,

We were in Pittsburgh, PA from 8/17 to 8/20. Our bank put a stop to our debit card, so we were not able to use it as a debit or credit card while out of state! I understand that it’s for fraud prevention, but geesh it was embarrassing to be declined when you are buying souvenirs and such, and you KNOW you have the money in the bank. We had to verify purchases one night and the very next day we were denied again. It was frustrating, and scary at the same time. But we finally got it straightened out after speaking to a live person about it! So just from experience, CALL THE BANK before you go on vacation!!!!

(Name Withheld)

So, maybe you’re here wondering, “Should I call my credit card company when traveling?” Or maybe you just want to know how to let your credit card company know you’re traveling. We address it all below.

Why you should notify bank of travel plans:

The reader’s story above is a good cautionary answer to the question, “Should I call my credit card company when traveling?”

Yes. YES! You should call your credit card company to let them know you’re traveling.

It’s important to do for all the accounts you might use during travel, credit cards, debit cards and checking accounts. When you call your credit card company to tell them you’re traveling, they can approve purchases without putting a fraud hold on your card.

Interestingly, this can happen even when traveling within your home country — as it happened to us!

Our son got married in Alabama, not our home state. The rehearsal dinner was laid back — a catered event from the grocery store (it was way out in the country). We did not call the credit card company to tell them we were traveling since we weren’t leaving the USA. When my husband picked up the food, our credit card company denied the purchase because it didn’t follow our usual spending practices. He got it straightened out, but not without some frustration.

How to notify the bank of travel plans:

So, now that we’ve made it clear that you should call the credit card company when traveling, the good news is that it’s not hard to notify the bank of travel plans, as long as you remember to do it from home!

To let your credit card company know you’re traveling:

  1. Contact your bank and/or credit card company before travel, especially if traveling outside the country. As the reader stated, banks and credit card companies put holds on cards when they notice suspicious or unusual behavior on the account. Those who don’t travel often or whose spending changes significantly are most likely to be flagged.
  2. Locate the contact number on the back of the card or on the monthly statement.
  3. Speak with a customer service representative to provide travel dates, destination and expected expenses. The more information you provide, the better they can protect your account.

That’s it! A quick phone call to customer service is all it takes to notify the bank of travel plans.

If you use something like Apple Wallet, Venmo, or Paypal apps for purchases, make sure your payment screen is locked and secured with a unique password and/or facial recognition to protect your accounts.

Other things to do before you travel:

Besides notifying the bank of travel plans, it helps to do these things, too:

  1. Use the USPS mail hold request to hold your mail before travel.
  2. Consider travel insurance — especially with all the changes the past few years.