How and why to set up travel alerts on your credit cards

Dec 17, 2019

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Whether you have two or 22 travel rewards credit cards in your wallet, chances are you enjoy hitting the road. However, there are few things more frustrating than finding yourself away from home suddenly unable to use your cards. It’s great when an issuer correctly flags unauthorized account activity as fraudulent, but the opposite is true when the issuer inadvertently prevents you from swiping a card while traveling.

Fortunately, there’s an easy way to avoid this from happening: setting up travel alerts before your trip. Today I’ll walk you through exactly why you’d want to do this and how to accomplish it for each of the major issuers that recommend it.

In This Post

Why you should set travel alerts

Before diving into issuer-specific guidelines, let’s start with a quick overview of why this is important. Most of today’s credit cards have mechanisms to prevent fraud and abuse, and 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. away from your primary residence. If you’ve had months (or even years) of swiping a card solely within a specific area and suddenly try to use it in another state or country, this activity might get flagged — and it could be a substantial roadblock to continuing your trip. If you haven’t set up your cell phone 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 window of time) won’t be flagged. This allows you to continue swiping your card and — most importantly — keep enjoying your trip.

RELATED: Best credit cards with no foreign transaction fees

So how exactly do you do this? Most issuers make this quite simple — and two even allow you to skip the step. Let’s take a look at the major credit card issuers (in alphabetical order) so you can prepare for your next trip.

American Express

You shouldn’t have any trouble swiping your Amex card when traveling, even without a specific travel notice on your account.

Amex actually 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:

I’m traveling soon. Do I need to let American Express know?
We use industry-leading fraud detection capabilities that help us recognize when our Card Members are traveling, so you don’t need to notify us before you travel.

It does suggest that you keep updated contact information on your account and download the Amex app before your trip, but you shouldn’t have any trouble using your cards when traveling.

Applicable cards: American Express® Gold Card (for 4x points at restaurants), The Platinum Card® from American Express (for Fine Hotels & Resorts purchases), Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express® Card (for 6x points on eligible purchases at hotels participating in the Marriott Bonvoy program), Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card (for 14x points on eligible Hilton stays)

The information for the Hilton Aspire Amex card has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.

Bank of America

If you have a card issued by Bank of America, the process for adding a travel alert is very simple:

  1. Log in to your account at bankofamerica.com.
  2. Hover over “Help & Support,” then click “Set Travel Notice.”
  3. Add the details of your trip (including destinations, dates and a phone number), then click “Continue.”
  4. Review the details, then click “Submit.”

This process can be used for 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.

Note that you can only have one alert set up at a time, and you must be within 60 days of your departure date before creating one. You’re also limited to trips covering up to 90 days, so this isn’t a great option for an extended absence.

Applicable cards: Alaska Airlines Visa Signature® credit card (for earning valuable Alaska miles), Bank of America® Premium Rewards® credit card (for Preferred Rewards members)

Barclays

There are a handful of Barclays-issued cards that you may want to take on your trip. Here are the steps for setting up a travel notice:

  1. Log in to your account at barclaycardus.com.
  2. Click on “Services,” then select “My travel.”
  3. Enter the destination(s) of your trip and travel dates, then click “Review.”
  4. Check the details you provided, then click “Submit.”

You can have more than one travel alert at a time, and you can set them for up to 365 days online. You can also create longer ones, if needed, by calling customer service at 1-866-928-3104

Applicable cards: Barclaycard Arrival Plus World Elite Mastercard (for non-bonus-category spending, no longer open to new applicants), JetBlue Plus Card

Capital One

(Photo by Isabelle Raphael / The Points Guy)
Capital One is one of two issuers that doesn’t require travel notifications at all. (Photo by Isabelle Raphael/The Points Guy)

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:

“With the added security of your Capital One chip card, travel notifications are no longer needed on your credit card. That’s right! You don’t have to tell us when and where you’re traveling, inside or outside the United States. Your credit card is 100% covered for fraud while you’re traveling and we will alert you if we see anything suspicious.”

Applicable cards: Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card and Capital One Spark Miles for Business (for everyday spending)

Chase

Many readers love their Chase cards, and several play a critical role in my own strategy for maximizing Ultimate Rewards. The issuer also has a handful of valuable airline and hotel credit cards that you may want to use when traveling. Here’s how to ensure you can continue using these cards on your next trip:

  1. Log in to your account at chase.com.
  2. Click on “Account management,” then click “Profile & settings.”
  3. Click “Account settings” at the left, then click “Travel.”
  4. Click “Update” at the right.
  5. Enter your dates and destinations, then click “Save.”

You can set these alerts up to a year in advance, and they apply to trips up to one year in length — though you can extend your travel notification any time after your trip begins.

Applicable cards: Chase Sapphire Reserve and Chase Sapphire Preferred Card (bonus points on travel and dining, primary car rental coverage in many countries), IHG Rewards Club Premier Credit Card (for 10x points on IHG stays), World of Hyatt Credit Card (4x points on Hyatt stays)

Citi

(Photo by Brian Kelly/The Points Guy)
Booking a fourth-night-free stay at a property like the St. Regis Venice? Be sure you notify Citi before your trip. (Photo by Brian Kelly/The Points Guy)

While Citi has taken away some notable benefits on many of its cards over the last few years, there are still some solid options for your purchases while traveling. Here’s how you are supposed to place a travel notification on your Citi-issued credit card:

  1. Log in to your account at citi.com.
  2. Hover over “Services” at the top, then click on “Travel Services.”
  3. Click on “Set Up/Manage Travel Notices.”
  4. Enter the details of your trip.

Unfortunately, I’ve encountered error messages trying to use this functionality over the last few weeks, so for now, calling the customer service number on the back of your card may be best.

Applicable cards: Citi Prestige® Card (for fourth-night-free hotel stays), Citi Premier® Card (for airfare and hotel purchases), Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite Mastercard® (for bonus EQM hitting spending threshold)

The information for the Citi Prestige Card has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.

Discover

Discover cards aren’t as widely accepted around the world as Visas and Mastercards, but those who value simplicity and want to avoid annual fees may want to bring these along on trips. Here’s how to create a travel alert on your Discover account:

  1. Login to your account at discover.com.
  2. Click on the “Manage” dropdown menu at the top of the page.
  3. Click “Register Travel” under the “Manage Cards” section in the dropdown.
  4. Enter your destinations and travel dates.
  5. Hit “Submit Travel.”

You can register your travel up to a year in advance. Discover also allows you to do this through the app under the “More” tab at the bottom right of the app screen.

Applicable cards: Discover it Miles (for travel purchases)

U.S. Bank

There isn’t a wide variety of U.S. Bank-issued cards out there, but you may want to bring one on an upcoming trip. Unfortunately, there’s no way to set a specific travel notice through your online account. To do so, you’ll need to call the customer service number on the back of your card or one of the contact numbers here.

Applicable cards: Radisson Rewards Premier Visa Signature Card (for 10x points on Radisson stays)

Wells Fargo

Here are the step-by-step instructions for adding a notification to your Wells Fargo account:

  1. Log in to your account at wellsfargo.com
  2. Hover over “Security & Support,” then click on “Manage Travel Plans.”
  3. Click “Add a New Travel Plan.”
  4. Enter the details of your trip, then click “Continue.”
  5. Select the applicable card(s), then click “Continue.”
  6. Review the plans, enter your card details for security verification, then click “Submit.”

Applicable cards: Wells Fargo Propel American Express® card (for 3x points on various bonus categories) The information for the Wells Fargo Propel has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.

Bottom line

(Photo by @brittneyborowski via Twenty20)
Adding a travel notice to your credit cards is a simple step to ensure you can enjoy your trip. (Photo by @brittneyborowski via Twenty20)

From full flights to weather delays to traffic, travel can be stressful — and that’s without any financial issues. Fortunately, most of the major credit-card issuers make it simple to add travel notices to your accounts, and two (Amex and Capital One) don’t even require these notifications at all. If you want to maintain your ability to swipe your favorite travel rewards credit cards on your next trip, be sure to follow these instructions before you depart.

Additional reporting by Madison Blancaflor.

Featured photo by jacoblund/Getty Images.

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