June 13th, 2024

Be prepared when using your credit card while travelling to ensure trip goes smoothly

By Craig Wong, The Canadian Press on May 23, 2024.

Having your credit card declined when you know you're up to date on your payments can be a nerve-racking experience, but having it happen when you're travelling can be even more stressful. Credit cards are shown in Halifax on Thursday, Oct. 6, 2022. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Andrew Vaughan

Having your credit card declined when you know you’re up to date on your payments can be a nerve-racking experience, but having it happen when you’re travelling can be even more stressful.

As Canadians prepare for a busy travel season, credit card companies say there are some easy steps to help ensure your trip goes smoothly.

Maryam Saeed, head of risk for Visa Canada, says a charge from a different country or city where you don’t usually use your card or an unusually large purchase are some of the many different things that could lead to a transaction being flagged and potentially a freeze being placed on your card.

“It’s a very complex engine supported by machine learning, supported by fairly complex algorithms and AI,” she said of the decision-making process used by card issuers to determine if a transaction is legitimate.

The way most institutions work is by detecting a change in behaviour – that’s why Saeed recommends that if you aren’t a regular traveller to contact your card issuer about your trip.

“The second tip would be to activate transaction alerts on your credit or debit card so you can keep track of your expenses and notice right away if there’s fraudulent activity,” she said.

But the systems aren’t perfect and sometimes a card can be blocked even when it is being used correctly.

If your card does get blocked, Saeed said to contact your card issuer.

She says it is important to have a copy of the contact phone number printed on the back of the card so you have it even if you lose it and need to call the card issuer or bank.

“As soon as you call in and verify or authenticate that you are in fact travelling and in the location where you’re making the transaction, they’re very quick to remove the block,” she says.

Megan Jones, vice-president of credit cards at CIBC, says using a credit card while travelling does have many advantages and that depending on what kind of card you use, paying with a credit card can save you money.

Some cards, in addition to earning reward points or cash back, offer rental car insurance as well as emergency medical insurance in addition to trip interruption insurance. Some premium cards will even get you into airport lounges, offering you a quiet refuge during a long layover.

Jones says if some banks suspect fraud, they might send a text message to your phone asking you to indicate if a purchase was you.

“So if you have your roaming on, you might get that message,” she said.

But, Jones says, if your card has been blocked, the best advice is to call the number on the back of your card and have things cleared up.

“If you’re being blocked because they feel it’s a suspicious transaction and it’s really you, it’s really for your safety and security to make sure that your card is not compromised and to allow you to continue to use your card,” she said.

Jones added that it is always important to make sure you know how much room you have left on your credit limit and that you’re not in past due status so you don’t get declined.

Saeed says Visa has invested more than $10 billion over the last five years in technology like artificial intelligence and machine learning to help keep payments safe for shoppers and businesses.

“You should have peace of mind that there are rules and systems in place to ensure that you’re protected from transactions that you’ve not authorized,” she said.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 23, 2024.

Companies in this story: (TSX:CM)

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