Do you need to call your credit card issuer before you travel?

You've got your passport, travel insurance and itinerary ready to go for your trip. The only thing left to do is call your credit card issuer so the charges in your destination won't raise suspicion.

But is it really necessary? While you may have been taking this precautionary step for years,  some banks have phased it out, saying better fraud detection systems negate the need.

Is your bank one of them?
Chances are, yes. Each of the five major banks provide their own policies and reasoning on the issue: call-before-travel

  • TD Bank: "Effective September 10, [2015], customers no longer need to notify us of their travel plans if they are willing to use
    their TD credit card or TD access card while travelling," spokesperson Jamin Robertson said in an emailed response to questions. "We've made improvements to our fraud detection systems that have made us better at monitoring customers' TD credit cards and access cards for suspicious or unauthorized activity, so we don't need to rely on our customers to inform us
    of their travel plans."

    She said the changes should offer customers peace of mind.
  • CIBC: Stopped requesting travel plans as of October 1, 2015.

    "Our systems monitor for fraud activity regardless of where our clients are travelling to -- should any occur, they are not held liable," spokesperson Olga Petrycki said in an emailed statement. "Never a direct requirement, our clients were always protected and not held liable for fraud regardless of whether they had notified us of their travel plans or not."
  • RBC: RBC also stopped requesting clients to report their travel plans, even if they plan to use their credit card or debit card while away.

    "RBC's industry leading fraud detection systems protect our clients' accounts from suspicious unauthorized transactions whether they are travelling or at home," spokesperson Kathy Bevan said in an emailed response to questions.
  • Scotiabank: Spokesperson Heather Armstrong said in an email that Scotiabank never required customers to notify it of their travel plans.

    However, Armstrong said Scotiabank consumers can notify the bank of their travel plans if they want, to "avoid any disruption in the approval of foreign transactions or the detection of fraudulent activity."

    Consumers can set up travel notifications online or via mobile banking.
  • Bank of Montreal: BMO stopped asking customers to notify the bank of their travel plans in July 2015. It offers online, mobile and tablet banking options to report travel, but that's being phased out, too, according to spokesperson Jessica Leroux.

    "Advancements in chip card technology and BMO's fraud detection capabilities have substantially improved card security to keep our customers' card information secure while they are travelling," she said in an emailed response to questions.

Is it safe to scrap this requirement?
Security experts have mixed responses to this change, but say that if you're careful with your cards while abroad, you don't have to be too concerned.

"Consumers shouldn't have to worry about travelling and their card security," says Robert Siciliano, a Canadian personal security and identity theft expert. "The whole point of notifying card companies of travel is so they don't shut the card down when you are gone. With new advances in chip-and-PIN technology, credit cards are inherently more secure. And as credit card companies develop more robust fraud detection systems, consumers have even less to be concerned about."

If you have a single credit card, though, you should think of backup plans, especially if you're travelling to a different country, says Joe Ridout, manager of consumer services at Consumer Action, a nonprofit advocacy group dedicated to consumer affairs. While fraud detection systems have improved, they're not flawless. Think of how often your credit card is rejected while shopping just an hour away from your home, he says.

"It's an unnecessary risk to have [your only] card potentially tied up because fraud systems mistakenly detect something and disable your card," Ridout says.

If fraud does occur,  the issuers all have zero liability policies. "Cardholders are never responsible for fraud," Siciliano says.

See related: Don't let fraud ruin your vacation, 6 ways cardholders can save on vacations
Published November 24, 2015

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