Advice on Using Credit Cards While Traveling Abroad [telecom]

Advice on Using Credit Cards While Traveling Abroad

By SUSAN STELLIN August 24, 2010

I WAS driving to the Los Angeles airport in April when apparently I did something suspicious: I stopped at a gas station and filled up the tank.

By the time I returned the rental car and got to my gate, I had a fraud alert message from my credit card company, U.S. Bank. Since I don't own a car and rarely buy gas, it seems that $13 fill-up raised a red flag.

Such is the state of credit card security, a continuing battle between card issuers and criminals who steal account numbers, with consumers caught in the fray. Whether travelers are more likely to become victims of credit card fraud is debatable, but we're certainly more likely to get tripped up by efforts to combat fraud, especially overseas.

Here are some things to watch out for if you plan on paying with plastic, which isn't quite as widely accepted as the ad campaigns for credit cards would have you believe.


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Monty Solomon
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The similar occurrance which surprised me happened a number of years ago when I was taking a trip from OMA to JAX via STL.

As luck would have it, I encountered a string of delays and cancellations on the second leg of my flight, to the extent that I thought I could claim permanent residency at Lambert Field in St. Louis. ;-)

When I finally was about to board a confirmed flight, I phoned my wife using the AT&T Universal Card and a pay phone. NBD. When I landed in Jacksonville, I again found the nearest pay phone and let her know I had arrived. Again, I used the AT&T Universal Card.

The next day we received a call from AT&T card security who reported the 'suspicious' activity on the card, two calls from widely-distant phones within a short period of time. My wife confirmed that I had indeed made both calls and there was no fraud.

On one hand it was nice to know that the card folks were watching things. On the other hand, this failed some very obvious sanity checks. I'm very sure that many such AT&T Universal Cards of that era were used in the same scenario, at both airports at the start and finish of a flight. The big one, however, is that both calls were made to the phone number of record on the account. I seriously doubt that a fraudster would be phoning the account holder. ;-)

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Not all credit card companies are created equal, especially in this regard. Some care about their customers a whole lot more than others and will take extra efforts to sort things out when a possible fraud pattern develops. Others don't care and just shut you down.

Having said that the consumer has some obvious responsibilities, but they all too often fail to hold up their end of the bargain. A call to the credit card company to let them know you are departing next Tuesday for a trip throughout Western Europe makes all the difference in the world. They should ask some security questions then duly note your account.

Reply to
Sam Spade

I am currently in Malaysia. Before I left I notified my credit card companies about my travel. Few businesses here accept credit cards and often there's a minimum purchase of RM50 (about $16 USD). I had been buying gas at the pump without incident until last week. All of my cards were declined. I drove on into work. I called one of my card companies. She said they didn't issue the refusal so what probably happened was the gas station's bank wasn't talking to the US banks. Fair enough. That evening I was able to buy gas.

Next time I bought gas the pump said it could only process credit cards with a chip. I was with some local coworkers. I asked what that meant. I showed one of them my card. He laughed and passed it around. They hadn't seen a credit card without a chip. He showed me his and and sure enough, it had a chip. It was unlike anything I've seen on US-issued cards. It wasn't the same as the "touch-n-go" type cards some US banks are issuing. I'm not saying no US bank uses this. I'm just saying I've never seen anything like it.

I went inside and the clerk was equally baffled and said she couldn't accept a card without a chip.

I have no idea why my credit card worked just fine for a month and suddenly is being refused due to lack of a chip.

In short it can be a pain [in] the shorts to use credit cards overseas, particularly in a country known for credit card fraud. I check my accounts every other day. So far, so good.

But cash isn't always the answer either. Since we're in a largely cash-based country, my company offers cash advances. I took them up on it. I deposited the money into my checking account and I use my ATM card to withdrawal cash as needed. My bank doesn't charge a foreign exchange fee and rebates me back any ATM surcharges. I also get the best exchange rate regardless of the amount withdrawn. My coworkers elected to bring US currency with them and exchange at a money changer. Money changers charge a per transaction fixed amount and don't give a very good exchange rate. The official rate is 1 USD = 3.141 MYR. I'm getting right about that while they're getting 3.05 MYR/USD. They're carrying mostly 100 dollar bills and the money changers won't accept certain ranges of serial numbers. One woman is sitting on a pile of cash she can't spend. Personally I'd be nervous about having that much cash on me.

In short I believe using an ATM card to withdrawal local currency is your best bet and rely on credit cards only for hotel stays and car rentals.


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