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Call Your Credit Card Before Big Purchases

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My friend Perry recently had a legitimate charge on his card, for a Mac Book Pro which retails for around two thousand bucks, trip a red flag with his credit card company. They did the reasonable thing by calling him up and asking if the purchase was legitimate, he said yes, and the charge was processed. While he was surprised, I wasn’t because most personal credit cards have a liability limit of $50 (some have a liability limit of $0, because, honestly, customer satisfaction is worth more than $50) and so it is in their best interests to monitor potentially fraudulent behavior and stop it before they pay out.

I had a personal experience with this just recently when I paid for two classes (about $3000) at Johns Hopkins on my Citi Platinum Select MasterCard except Citi summarily rejected the charge on the basis that they believe it was fraudulent. No phone calls or emails either. I only knew about the rejection when Johns Hopkins sent me a letter that my account was past due (no monetary penalties, I just couldn’t register for the next semester until I paid). So, right before I pressed SEND on my online payment, I called Citi and let them know that a $3000 charge was coming through from a well known educational institution and they should process it.

So, the lesson of the day is that if you are going to use your card in any atypical manner (charging a large amount, charge amounts in a geographic area you normally aren’t in, etc.) then let your credit card company know… otherwise they’ll think someone stole your card (even if you’re paying for classes!).

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8 Responses to “Call Your Credit Card Before Big Purchases”

  1. CK says:

    The denial of the John Hopkins charge seems odd. How many people try to fraudulently charge tuition and such? Seems like they would be very easy to catch. When I bought my wifes ring I ran into this but the jewler had seen it before and actually said it would happen. Quick call to the company cleared it up.

  2. jim says:

    I would bet that $0 would but the charge does appear as JHU SPSBE (the schools initials) and some numbers and jibberish so they could’ve had no idea? Who knows, it was annoying but better than dealing with fraud police after the fact had it really been fraud.

  3. Golbguru says:

    Man.. Citi Professional guys flagged my card for fraud alert after I bought movie tickets with it !…just $9 !…pretty sure they will reject a $3000 charge :)

    But, in a way I feel secure…Citi is watching the cards closely.

  4. Rob Carlson says:

    I pulled a card out of sockdrawer to buy a $1000 Sun rack server. On the way to the office, I bought a tank of gas with the card. Transaction declined, cell phone rings. Apparently months of inactivity followed by a tank of gas and a large mail order purchase of computer equipment is THE Big Red Flag in the credit card world.

  5. Sun says:

    Last Black Friday, I charged my Citi card at Circuit City, Staples, Best Buy, and a couple of other places in a span of four hours. No big spending, but Citi still called me in the afternoon to confirm that I was the one put those charges. Though I was never declined for big charges such as $3000 car downpayment I put on the card last year, it is definitely a good idea to inform them ahead of the spending.

  6. Kurt says:

    When I last moved, all in one day I charged: a U-Haul, tons of stuff from target and diesel fuel. No surprise that it looked to them like someone had stolen a card and tried to buy as much stuff as possible with it. I don’t mind that they rejected my card when I went back to target later that day (I had a debit card I could use) but I had to wait until the next morning to find out what was wrong with my account. Bad form.

  7. EZE says:

    How nice of them. I wish more debit cards would do this too!!!

  8. Diana says:

    I worked for Citi several years ago in the customer service division, and I can’t tell you how many times I got phone calls from customers saying their card had been denied for one reason or another. What I had to explain to them was this…

    Your card company “tracks” your usage, even by the individual card (yours, wifes, etc). You have a “spending pattern” according to their computer system. When you deviate from that, whether it’s buying gas from a station you never used before, making a purchase for a larger amount than you normally do, or charging something online if you never did are examples of going off your “spending pattern”. This flags your account that someone may be using it without authorization, and they place a hold, or make you confirm the purchase. I can see how this would benefit the company in this day and age of scammers, but I can’t tell you how many people got pissed at this. Even after explaining the reasoning behind it, many people were angry about this. I suggested to them that they call the company first before making such purchases, so if a charge came through like that, it would be on their record as being authorized. Some people understood, some didn’t. Hey, I got yelled at if I took too long with a customer, cs reps have their calls timed. So if you wonder why they are in a hurry to get off the phone with you, that’s why. One of the main reasons I left Citi, it shouldn’t matter how long you take with a customer.


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