Among all the things you need to take care of before traveling, notifying your bank and credit card issuers of your plans might be on the bottom of your to-do list. It’s a little annoying to make that phone call, and if you’re not traveling far, perhaps there won’t be any problem using your cards. Of course, if you live in Chicago and your account starts showing a bunch of transactions in Toronto, your issuer has reason to suspect someone stole your card information. They may try to contact you to verify your location, but they might freeze the account as a security precaution, potentially leaving you in Canada without a working credit card.
Credit card network Visa will roll out a new program to address that problem. It’s called Visa Mobile Location Confirmation, which uses your phone’s geolocation as a sort of two-factor authentication that the rightful owner of the card is indeed the one using it in a place far from its home city. Visa announced the feature Feb. 12, saying it will be available to U.S. card issuers in April.
Here’s how it’s supposed to work: Cardholders can opt into the service, which may be available through participating issuers’ mobile banking applications. If the mobile device is in the same location as the card during a transaction that may otherwise be flagged as suspicious, the issuer can authorize the purchase.
Without this feature (or without the mobile device), the purchase might be declined, out of fraud concerns.
Depending on where you’re traveling and the phone plan you have, this may not be helpful. You need to be connected to a data or WiFi network — data charges while abroad can be extremely expensive, leading many people to disable data roaming while in other countries. Some people don’t travel abroad with their smartphones for this precise reason.
For people who keep their smartphone on them at all times and have a card from a participating issuer, this feature could eliminate the annoyance of having to confirm your whereabouts with your bank. Of course, if someone steals your bag — wallet, phone and all — it’s not so much a convenience as it is a problem. It’s up to you to decide what makes you feel most secure while traveling, and even though you probably won’t be responsible for unauthorized charges (it depends what kind of card you’re using and how quickly you report it), keep in mind how costly credit and debit card fraud can be. You should monitor your accounts regularly for signs of fraud.
More on Credit Cards:
- 6 Smart Credit Card Strategies
- Tips for Paying Off Credit Card Debt
- How to Get a Credit Card With Bad Credit