Travel Tips: Don’t Use Citicards

I look out on that travel horizon, and I see a long road between now and August for this Sacramento real estate agent. That means I will most likely have a lot of work to finish before the end of summer. August will be my next vacation. I do not look forward to the end of summer because summer is my favorite season, even though I live in Sacramento, one of the hottest cities in America. As one of my clients once said, if Sacramento’s spring weather carried through into summer, it would be just like living in Carmel and our homes would cost a million bucks or more. Well, not quite because it’s a 100 miles to the ocean, not 100 yards.

For my clients, though, the fact that I have no vacations planned for a long, long time is good news for them. Although, with WiFi available almost everywhere, yes, even on a remote atoll in the middle of French Polynesia like Rangiroa, it’s not always evident if I am in town or if I am gone; I still pay attention to my real estate business and my clients. Unless I tell them I am out of town, my clients believe I am always in Sacramento.

You know who does know when I am gone? My credit card companies. I have learned, for example, to call Citicards and tell them when I am going and where I am going. To give them advance notice of my whereabouts. VISA and MasterCard especially (I don’t know about American Express or Discover) are cracking down on credit card fraud. They track individual accounts, so if they spot unusual activity they might not authorize the transaction without speaking to the customer.

A tip for travel: Always call your credit card company before you go out of town if you plan to use your credit card elsewhere. Tell them when you are leaving and when you will return.

Yet, that doesn’t always work, and I am living proof. Even though I called Citicards and told them where I was going on vacation, when I checked out of the St. Regis Resort in Bora Bora, the credit card company flagged my account and froze it. Sometimes, it’s not a good idea to have Big Brother watching you. It’s kind of creepy. Especially after you’ve put them on notice.

This is the second time Citicards has done this to me, which means I will no longer use their card for major purchases. The line has to be drawn somewhere. They say they are protecting you but both you and I know whose butt they are protecting.

Photo: by Elizabeth Weintraub, cruise ship in Papeete

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