Terry Zink: Security Talk

Discussing Internet security in (mostly) plain English

Sometimes security restrictions are annoying

Sometimes security restrictions are annoying

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As I relate some of my travels, I often observe how many security leaks there are in everyday life.  But sometimes, security precautions can be annoying.

I was traveling in Europe last week, and then I made a connecting flight back to Canada through Montreal.  However, I forgot to tell my credit card company that I was planning to travel.  But in my defense, I don't use that credit card very often.  It's a Canadian credit card from when I used to live there; when I'm in Canada, I prefer to use that one otherwise I lose too much money due to the exchange rates.  I also get air miles on it, and I have quite a few on there.

So I was in Northern Ireland and I bought something and tried to pay for it with my credit card.  It was declined.  I rolled my eyes and used a different card.  Later on when I was in Montreal, I bought something else and I tried to use the same card.  Once again, it was declined!  I had to use yet another card to get the purchase to go through (on an unrelated note, American Express -- which I wasn't using -- is completely useless outside of the United States, it seems).  My Canadian credit card kept getting declined over and over.

When I got back to the States, I checked my cell phone (I had it turned off while abroad).  I had a message from the credit card fraud protection services.  I immediately knew what was up, though I suspected it before.  Back in the summer when I booked my China trip, this same credit card kept declining purchases.  So here's the story - my credit card company knows where I live and when it sees irregular purchasing activity, such as something in Europe or Eastern Canada, it flags it and prevents the purchase from going through.  It's a good service because it helps to mitigate fraud and theft.

But on the other hand, it's quite annoying.  Over the past few weeks I've been traveling quite a bit.  Not having my credit cards work is irritating.  I have to pull out a different debit card, hand it to the clerk and then get hammered on the exchange rates.  I really do prefer to use credit cards while traveling rather than debit cards.  My debit card works perfectly fine.  My credit card does not.

And therein lies the dilemma, which is preferable?  The credit card which tries to proactively prevent fraud and is a real inconvenience to me?  Or the debit card (which also functions as a credit card because it only requires a signature at some vendors), which is more insecure but is way more convenient and not a hassle, and makes me want to just skip using the credit card altogether?

Security is great, but it sure gets in the way sometimes.

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  • I 100% agree.  I went to Dubai for a week break to visit my brother and used my credit card (but forgot to tell my bank i was travelling).  Alas the purchase was declined and the card stopped.  They need some kind of system (an email asking me to contact the bank or a text message) that alerts you to 'suspicious' activity and allows you to authorize or decline the transaction rather than just automatically stopping the card dead with the only recourse to get a new card delivered to your registered address which is about as helpful as a chocolate teapot when your on holiday.

  • Hm.

    I've heard about this, but have never seen it.  I've never told my card company when I'm travelling abroad, and have used my (U.S.) Visa card all over Europe (and all over Canada), with no refusals.

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