Urban legend says you must notify your credit card or debit card banks before you travel internationally so that they won’t block your cards. I used to believe it. Every time before I left, I would religiously call the banks and tell them the dates and the countries I was going.
This last time when I went to south America, I got tired of calling the banks, navigating the phone tree to get an agent, answering security questions, and finally having them enter a note on my account. I thought I would do an experiment and see what would happen if I don’t call.
Guess what? My cards all worked!
My Visa debit card worked on ATM machines with a PIN. My Visa credit card worked with a swipe. My American Express card also worked with a swipe. They worked multiple times, at different places. They never failed once.
When I called American Express some time ago, American Express specially told me they don’t take foreign travel notifications any more. My American Express card would just work wherever American Express is accepted. That’s the way it should be.
Maybe Visa and the banks behind my cards are also trying to be smarter. Declining legitimate transactions does no good to both the bank and the customer. Requiring the customer to call the bank ahead of time only to help the bank do its job is not respecting the customer’s time.
Searches on the Internet show that there is no definitive relationship between notifying the banks and having your cards not decline. Some people called and didn’t have declines. Some didn’t call and didn’t have declines either. Some people didn’t call and had declines. Some called and still had declines.
This reminds me of that experiment with pigeons and food. Food came out randomly but the pigeons thought it had something to do with what they did. The pigeons all developed different rituals they thought would cause the food to come out.
Based my experience and other people’s experience, I’d say it’s not necessary to notify your credit card or debit card banks about your international travel. Maybe it helps a little bit but you can’t really tell. If your charges have a 98% chance of getting approved, improving it to 99% is hardly worth the time and effort.