If you haven't noticed, many large banking institutions have stepped up their security over the past few years and it's gotten even tighter for the holidays. While this additional security is mostly a good thing -- no one wants their bank accounts emptied right before Christmas -- it can be a serious pain if you get caught with a blocked ATM card while traveling.
This past summer, I was on vacation in Colorado and Wyoming for a wedding. My first night in Denver, I got a call from my bank asking me if my gas purchase at a convenience store near the airport was actually me. It was. I had to walk through a handful of security questions to verify things, a couple of which I could only figure out by accessing my account via online banking through my computer. Fortunately, I was on hotel wi-fi or I'm not sure what I would have done.
Turns out, my card was blocked until I could verify for the bank I was actually the person getting gas. Had I not been able to give proper verification, I would have been sitting in Colorado with no money. Yikes.
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What happened next was a little surprising, but I've been informed is commonplace. The agent said that anytime I go out of town, I should alert the bank to my itinerary ahead of time so they won't block my card purchases. It's one thing to have neighbors collect your mail or feed your pets, but it seems really weird to me that my bank should know my travel schedule.
Not saying I don't trust the bank, but I don't like anyone I don't know to be aware of when I'm traveling just for safety. It's probably paranoid to think a bank account agent might be tempted to clean me out knowing I'm out of town, but it did flash across my consciousness.
This also underscores the serious dependence we have on electronic forms of communication and management of things like bank accounts. Access to the Internet and a good cell phone connection could be the difference between you having a working debit card or not.
Something to think about as you make your travel plans this holiday season. Best to add your bank to the list of people to talk to about your trip, as weird as it may sound.