My latest entry to “Things That Tick Me Off” is the new policy of credit card companies to block purchases on cards when customers simply go from state to state. We now need to call credit card companies and go through the endless series of automatic options to reach an operator to say that we are going to fly to another city on a business trip or family vacation.
Recently, credit card companies have been implementing a new policy in combatting credit card fraud by freezing cards when customers use their cards in different states. For over a year, my wife and I have found our Mastercards blocked when simply going to a neighboring state. At Christmas, Mastercard blocked both of our cards when we went to Chicago — blocking our ability to buy gas in the drive at night with the kids. Fortunately, at 10 pm in Indiana in a snow storm we had enough cash for gas and food.
As someone who has had his identity stolen, I am more than supportive of efforts to combat such fraud. However, for those of us who routinely travel, it is an incredible annoyance. When I asked Mastercard why they were doing this, the operator simply told me that it was my fault for not calling in advance to tell Mastercard when I planned to travel. I barely inform my secretary, but I am now required to call Mastercard when I cross state lines? The idea of a successful anti-fraud campaign is to find a method that does not defeat the value of the card. What I find particularly annoying is that credit card companies are still sending out free cards to anyone who is old enough to open an envelope.
Recently, I had to struggle to prove to a company that an uncle was dead when they sent him a credit card from Chase. As executor of his estate, I called and told them that he did not want the card and did not ask for the card because he was very much dead. It took four calls to try to get the company to cancel the card. I had to speak with a manager twice. They insisted that I send them a death certificate or proof of death. They were completely hostile and unwilling to terminate the card. I remind you that my uncle never asked for the card. It was a free card opened in his name by Chase.
These companies could start to combat fraud by changing their proliferation of cards with people who either did not ask for cards or have little resources to support credit cards. If all of us have to call Mastercard every time we get on a plane, many will likely rediscover the cash-based society.