Call your credit card company before you travel

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Baby boomers, do you call your credit card provider to alert them before leaving on a trip? Well, here’s why you should:

When Alan and I traveled to South Africa last year, Alan called VISA and American Express to alert them that we would be using the cards during our trip. The VISA representative took notes on all the countries we would be visiting and placed it on our record. American Express said, “We don’t bother with that.”

For most of the trip, we used the American Express card (to earn Costco dollars). But in Johannesburg, we had to show the VISA card at the South African Airlines counter to obtain an E-ticket we had purchased over the internet.

When we returned home, VISA contacted us about fraudulent charges that they had declined on our card, including thousands of dollars for cell phone coverage and clothes purchased in, you guessed it, Johannesburg. The only charge that slipped through was a $5 movie ticket. Why were the charges declined? Because VISA was aware of our travels and the charges didn’t match our buying habits.

After consulting with VISA’s fraud department, our account was closed and another opened. We incurred no bogus charges or fees. But what if that South African Airline ticket had been purchased through American Express who had no record of our travels? Would we have spent months sorting out the charges? Luckily, we didn’t have to find out.

The moral of our baby boomer travel story: We’ll be using the VISA card when traveling, especially on international trips. And, another tip, when VISA contacted us, we didn’t just pick up the phone to call the number back. Lots of scammers make bogus calls like that. We called the number on the back of our VISA card and asked for the fraud department.

Scratch those itchy travel feet!

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