Plane tickets? Check.
Call the bank? Wait...what?
It's true. These days, calling your debit or credit card issuer before leaving for vacation is just as important as ensuring your carry-on toiletries are in 3.4 oz. containers. So why should you share your travel itenerary with your bank?
To avoid debit and credit card issues
Banks are more attuned to fraud than ever before, and we're continually enhancing our monitoring practices and capabilities. A very common trigger for suspected fraud is debit or credit card activity that's different from your usual spending patterns. Think about it: at 8:00 a.m. you use your card to fill up your gas tank in your hometown, just as you've done every week for months. Six hours later you try to use your card at your Cancun resort to buy a well-deserved refreshment after a long flight. This activity sends up a red flag to your card issuer, and the transaction may be blocked.
Really, any unusual activity outside your normal spending patterns can trigger alerts--this could be based on a totally different location, an exceptionally large purchase, or other factors. In addition, banks will often temporarily block transactions in certain cities, states or countries where an exceptional level of fraud has occurred, which means that your card will not work in those areas.
You can avoid these kinds of issues by simply calling your bank or to let them know where you'll be traveling and when. That way your bank will know it's you enjoying that fruity beverage on the beach and not a fraudster, and your transaction will process with "no problemo."
Bank Independent customers can fill out a Travel Notification Form online or call Customer Service at (256) 386-5000 or (866) 877-5050 Monday through Saturday from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m.
BONUS TRAVEL TIP: Make sure your bank has your mobile phone number on file just in case they need to reach you to verify card activity!
To prepare for international travel
If we've learned nothing else from Brexit, at least we're more aware of the differences in the American dollar and the euro, the currency of the European Union countries. Your bank can definitely help you navigate the different ways you can pay when traveling abroad.
For example, if you plan to use foreign currency, you can order it from your bank. Call ahead to learn more about exchange rates, delivery fee amounts and to find out when you can pick up your purchase.
A debit or credit card equipped with an EMV chip should be accepted by most international merchants. In fact, "EMV" stands for "Europay, MasterCard, Visa" in honor of the joint effort of these three companies to create a global payment acceptance standard. The United States was one of the last countries to add EMV technology to payment cards, but today more and more cards are now equipped with the chip, making them much more travel-friendly.
BONUS TRAVEL TIP: Be aware that you may incur additional fees or encounter restrictions (such as only being able to access your primary checking account) at international ATMs.
To sign up for alerts and other digital tools
Before you hit the souvenir shop or book that all-day snorkeling excursion, you'll want to be sure you have the funds to cover your purchase. Mobile Banking is a simple way to keep tabs on your finances while you're away from your home. In addition to checking balances, you can also transfer funds, schedule bill payments, set up balance alerts or even make deposits with most banks' mobile banking tools.
Because you don't want fraud to interrupt your vacation, you'll want to sign up for any optional fraud alert programs offered by your bank. In addition to the everyday fraud monitoring mentioned above, Bank Independent offers BI Card Guardian, a free service that will text you an alert message when your enrolled debit card is used for certain transactions like international purchases, purchases at gas stations, transactions over $100, five or more purchases in 24 hours, online purchases, or declined transactions. If the transaction is legitimate, you can ignore the text, but if the purchase wasn't authorized, you can reply to the text with a simple code to report the transaction as fraud.
Another Mobile Banking feature that Bank Independent offers is mobile card management--the ability to temporarily "freeze" your debit card or report it lost or stolen through your Mobile Banking app. Let's say you've misplaced your debit card during your cruise; you know it must be somewhere on the ship...but where? Your cabin? The pool bar? The Lido deck? To stop anyone from using your card while you're searching for it, you can simply "freeze" or suspend the card by swiping a button on your app. You can easily reactivate your card when you find it, but if you don't you can then report it lost or stolen.
BONUS TRAVEL TIP: Don't have a mobile phone? You can still call your bank's Customer Service line or automated telephone banking line for information when you're on the road.
So go ahead--relax, rejuvenate and reward yourself with a vacation or weekend getaway...just remember that your bank should be your trusted travel partner. And we won't even ask for an "All I Got Was This Lousy T-Shirt" shirt in return.