Whether you have two or 22 travel rewards credit cards in your wallet, chances are you enjoy hitting the road. Unfortunately, it can be extremely frustrating when your card gets flagged while traveling, and you’re suddenly unable to use it. While it’s great when an issuer correctly flags unauthorized account activity as fraudulent, the opposite is true when the issuer inadvertently prevents you from swiping a card.
Thankfully, most major issuers no longer require users to set travel alerts ahead of time.
In this guide, we’ll walk through the details for different cards so you know what to expect before your trip.
What is a travel alert?
Before diving into issuer-specific guidelines, let’s start with a quick overview of what a travel alert is and why this is important.
Most of today’s credit cards have mechanisms to prevent fraud and abuse. When an issuer notices unusual account activity, it may flag it as potentially fraudulent. This happened to me when an unauthorized individual called Chase and inputted the full 16-digit account number of my Chase Freedom Unlimited. I immediately requested a new card, preventing the thief from actually using the compromised card number — a minor inconvenience but not a significant hassle.
However, this protection can also kick in if you try to use a card abroad or in an area of the U.S. that’s far from your primary residence. Suppose you’ve spent months (or even years) swiping a card solely within a specific area and then you suddenly try to use it in another state or country. In that case, this activity might get flagged — and it could be a substantial roadblock to continuing your trip. If you haven’t set up your cellphone to work abroad — or if you’re in an area with limited service — there may be no quick way to let the issuer know that the purchase is (in fact) valid and authorized.
If you notify the issuer ahead of time, a sudden charge in another part of the country or the world (one that you specifically said you’d be visiting during the given time period) won’t be flagged. This allows you to continue swiping your card and — most importantly — keep enjoying your trip.
So, how exactly do you do this? As noted above, many major credit card issuers no longer require proactive travel alerts ahead of time — but let’s go through some of the largest ones.
Related: Best credit cards with no foreign transaction fees
How to set American Express travel alerts
Amex doesn’t require you to set up travel alerts. In fact, if you log in to your account at AmericanExpress.com, you won’t even see this as an option. Here’s the rationale, per the issuer’s FAQ page on the topic:
It does suggest that you keep updated contact information on your account and download the Amex app before your trip. However, you shouldn’t have any trouble using your cards when traveling.
Applicable cards include: American Express® Gold Card, The Platinum Card® from American Express, Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant® American Express® Card, The Business Platinum® Card from American Express.
How to set Bank of America travel alerts
Like Amex, Bank of America no longer requires travel alerts ahead of time. If you search in the Help & Support center, you’ll see the following message:
Note that this applies to both credit and debit cards associated with your Bank of America login, which can be nice if you’re planning to withdraw money from an ATM using your debit card.
Applicable cards include: Alaska Airlines Visa® credit card, Bank of America® Premium Rewards® credit card.
How to set Capital One travel alerts
Capital One uses the same approach as American Express — you don’t need to set these up in advance. When you log in to your Capital One account and click on the “I Want To…” button, you’ll see what appears to be an option to set a travel notification. However, when you click on it, you’ll receive the following message:
You’re covered by $0 Fraud Liability on unauthorized charges. Remember that none of Capital One’s credit cards impose foreign transaction fees for purchases made abroad.
Applicable cards: Capital One Venture X Rewards Credit Card (see rates and fees), Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card (see rates and fees), Capital One SavorOne Cash Rewards Credit Card (see rates and fees), Capital One Spark Miles for Business (see rates and fees).
How to set Chase travel alerts
Chase offers a wide variety of valuable credit cards, including many that you may want to use when traveling. Like previous issuers on the list, you no longer need to proactively set up travel notifications ahead of your trip. When you log in to your Chase account, you’ll still see the “Travel notification” option under account services, but here’s the message you’ll find there:
- You don’t need to set up travel notifications anymore.
- We’ll send you fraud alerts if we see any possible identity theft.
- We’ll alert you if we notice any suspicious behavior on your account.
Applicable cards include: Chase Sapphire Reserve, Chase Sapphire Preferred Card, World of Hyatt Credit Card, United Explorer Card, Aeroplan Credit Card, Ink Business Preferred Credit Card.
How to set Citi travel alerts
Unlike previous issuers, Citi still allows you to set up travel notifications on your credit cards. Here’s how to do so:
- Log in to your account at citi.com.
- Hover over “Services” at the top, then click on “Travel Services.”
- Click on “Add a Travel Notice.”
- Select the applicable cardholders, enter your dates, then click “Next.”
- Review the details, then click “Confirm.”
Note that you don’t even need to select the individual destination (or destinations) you’re visiting. The only required pieces of information are the cardholders who’ll be on the trip (including authorized users) and the dates of the trip.
Applicable cards include: Citi Premier® Card (see rates and fees), Citi Rewards+® Card (see rates and fees), Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite Mastercard® (see rates and fees).
What if a travel alert doesn’t work?
Unfortunately, even the advanced technology credit card issuers use nowadays isn’t guaranteed. There may be certain instances where a legitimate transaction is flagged as potentially fraudulent, especially when traveling. Alternatively, an issuer may require an extra verification step before approving a purchase instead of being declined immediately. This especially applies to many online transactions thanks to 3D card security measures.
This is one reason why it’s critical to have updated contact information on file with your card issuers and a working mobile phone when you’re outside the country. This ensures that you can complete any verification requests in a timely fashion.
It’s also critical to always have at least one backup credit card in your wallet when traveling (or load alternate options into your mobile wallet). Ideally, this card would be from a different card issuer and work with a different payment network, which minimizes the chance that neither card will work.
From full flights to weather delays to traffic, travel can be stressful — and that’s without any financial issues. Fortunately, most major credit card issuers no longer require advance travel notices on your accounts. However, you should still carry at least one backup payment method in case your primary card is declined. It’s also critical to have a working phone number to receive email or text notifications when things go wrong.
If you want to maintain your ability to swipe your favorite travel rewards credit cards on your next trip, follow these instructions before you depart.
Additional reporting by Ryan Wilcox and Madison Blancaflor.