Credit cards have kind of become a travel essential nowadays. They can offer valuable rewards, minimize your risk of losing cash (or having it stolen), get you a fair exchange rate if traveling abroad, and even offer great travel protection. Global credit card acceptance has increased greatly over the years, and I can take many international trips without even getting local currency.
That raises an interesting question — when you travel, should you let your credit card company know of your upcoming travel plans?
I don’t inform my credit card companies of upcoming travel
Let me start by sharing my approach — I’ve never proactively informed a credit card issuer of my upcoming travel plans. Perhaps surprisingly, that doesn’t seem to cause issues. Credit card companies use sophisticated technology to determine what kind of purchases seem out of the ordinary.
Maybe I’m just lucky, but my card issuers don’t seem suspicious when I make a purchase in Singapore one day, in Vietnam the next day, in Germany the next day, and in the United States the day after that. But if there’s a purchase at a Nordstrom Rack somewhere in California? Yep, that immediately triggers fraud alerts.
Of course by not informing my bank of travel plans, there’s the risk that a purchase will get declined while traveling, and that I’ll have to call the bank to confirm that I made that purchase. However, that could just as easily happen at home, and I don’t consider that to be a huge deal.
So personally I don’t find it necessary to try to set travel notifications on credit cards. If I do get a purchase declined, it can be fixed with a quick phone call. Meanwhile it saves me the hassle of calling all my card issuers every time that I travel (and I have a lot of credit cards!).
I kind of assumed that most people were in the same camp as me, but maybe not? Yesterday shortly after boarding an international flight, I heard the person behind me say to his travel companion “I forgot to call the credit card company to let them know we’re traveling, let me do that right now.”
What credit card issuers say about travel notifications
The above got me thinking, do credit card companies actually want you to call them and inform them of your upcoming travel plans? Let’s take a look at what a few issuers say about the topic. Specifically, let’s look at American Express, Capital One, Chase, and Citi, since they issue some of the most popular travel credit cards.
Amex doesn’t recommend travel notifications
American Express states that you don’t have to report any upcoming travel plans:
We use industry-leading fraud detection capabilities that help us recognize when our Card Members are traveling, so you don’t need to notify us before you travel.
Capital One doesn’t recommend travel notifications
Capital One also states that you don’t have to report any upcoming travel plans:
You do not need to notify us of your travel, we’ve already got your credit card covered. With the added security of your Capital One chip card, travel notifications are not needed. That’s right! You don’t have to tell us when or where you’re traveling, inside or outside the United States. While you’re traveling, your credit card is covered for unauthorized purchases when your card is lost or stolen.
Chase does recommend travel notifications
Chase states that you’re not required to report any upcoming travel plans, but it’s highly recommended:
You’re not required to notify your credit card company when you’re going away on vacation, but it is highly recommended. By letting your credit card company know where you’re going and for how long, your company will know that any card transactions from that location were likely authorized by you.
Interestingly Chase makes no distinction between domestic or international travel for these purposes, and recommends it whenever traveling away from home. While Chase doesn’t have a travel notifications webpage, you can call or secure message Chase to let the bank know of your travel plans.
Citi does recommend travel notifications
Citi states that it’s a good idea to notify your bank of international travel, but that it’s not required:
It’s usually a good idea to notify your bank about any international travel plans. This way, the bank won’t be surprised to see any unusual charges on your account. You can now set up your personalized International card usage limits, for both debit/credit card, on Citibank Online or through Citi Mobile application.
Citi also has a handy travel notification webpage, where you can easily share your travel plans without having to pick up the phone.
As a frequent traveler, I can’t say that the thought of informing a credit card issuer of my travel plans crosses my mind often, but it seems that others consistently do this. American Express and Capital One don’t recommend this, Chase recommends it for all travel, and Citi recommends it for international travel.
Personally I’ll take my chances. In the event that a card issuer detects suspicious activity while I’m abroad, I’ll just pick up the phone and solve it on the spot. However, it rarely (never?) happens.
I’m curious what approach OMAAT readers take — do you inform your credit card company prior to travel, and if so, under what circumstances?