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They’re Not Winning Themselves Any Points Here

, , , , | Working | March 18, 2021

There is a fun event for families like mine in a city not too far away, less than 200 miles. We go every year. This year, I decide to make a mini-vacation out of it since the older kids are available. I book an AirBnB for all of us for two nights, get tickets to our favorite museums, and confirm our reservation for the annual event. I do this all on a single credit card so I can keep track of the cost of the trip and maximize my “points.” 

We check into the Airbnb, go to the event, and have a great time. But the next day, things start well and go downhill. We go to the museum with our pre-paid tickets and love the exhibit. We stop at the gift shop to get some pretty things and use my card. No problems.

Then, we go next door to the botanical gardens and my card is declined. Embarrassed, I step out of line and call the card company. After all the confirmation hoopla…

Me: “Hello. I’m on a vacation with my family and my card was just declined. Have I come close to my limit? Was there a purchase I forgot about?”

Representative: “No. It looks like the card was flagged for suspected fraud.”

Me: “Oh, dear! What is that about? Was the card number used somewhere else?”

Representative: “We have an attempted use at [Botanical Garden].”

Me: “Yes, that is me. I am standing here at the botanical garden and planned to purchase tickets for the family with this card.”

Representative: “It looks like this purchase is being made in a location that seems suspect.”

Me: “Why? The botanical gardens are over fifty years old. It’s not a fly-by-night sort of thing.”

Representative: “It is flagged because it is not near the billing address.”

Me: “Well, no, it isn’t particularly near my billing address, but it is within a short drive. I am here, in this city, as should be obvious by the recent purchases on this card. I made a purchase literally fifty yards from here about twenty minutes ago. This isn’t the first time I’ve been to this city. I need to use this card. What can be done?”

Representative: “Oh, okay. I will make a note and release the hold.”

Me: “Thank you.”

I think that was weird, but after getting back in line, the tickets are purchased and we have a nice walk through the gardens.

Then, we stop for drinks before going back to the house. The card is declined. I pull out my debit card instead but later call the card company again.

Me: “Hello. I just tried to use my card and again, the transaction was denied.”

Representative: “It looks like the card has been suspended for suspected fraud.”

Me: “I called a few hours ago and explained that I am in this town and I will be using this card in this town. Is there no note in the file?”

Representative: “Yes, I see a note that a purchase to [Botanical Gardens] was authorized after suspected fraud.”

Me: “Yes. I am still in this town. I plan to be here for another twenty-four hours. I need this card to work.”

Representative: “The hold has been released. You can try this transaction again.”

Me: “Yeah, I didn’t stand in line in a [Convenience Store] to make this call. That purchase has been taken care of, but I need to know that I will not be embarrassed at dinner tonight when I try to use this card.”

Representative: “Everything has been taken care of.”

We go out to dinner and enjoy the food, but I am thinking the whole time that there will be an embarrassment at the end. And there is.

Waiter: “I’m sorry, ma’am, but your card has been declined.”

The kids all burst out laughing, having been told of the previous issues. I hand over my debit card while gnashing my teeth. After we leave the restaurant, our plan is to walk around the downtown area for a while. I send the kids ahead and find a bench to sit on to make a call.

Me: “I want to make something clear. I am in this town. This is not the first time I have been here nor it will be the last. I booked a place to stay for two nights using this card. I booked tickets using this card. I booked these things weeks ago. There was no issue. I am now in the town where the tickets and housing are located. While here, I had planned to eat and drink and maybe see a few other sights. I had planned to use this card. However! I have been thwarted at several turns. Tell. Me. Why.”

Representative: “I am so sorry. I see notes here that you have authorized the use of your card at [Botanical Gardens] and have called about another denied purchase. I see there is a denied charge at [Restaurant] less than an hour ago.”

Me: “Yes! Why?”

Representative: “It would look as if these transactions were flagged for suspected fraud.”

Me: “Why?”

Representative: “It looks as if the location is—”

Me: “The location is less than 200 miles from the billing address. Have you never traveled more than 200 miles? Is it company policy that cardholders not travel? Is it so unheard of that someone who lives in a smallish town might go to ‘the big city’ once in a while?”

Representative: “Well, for your safety—”

Me: “Yes, I do appreciate that you may be looking out for my financial safety, but I have explained twice that I am here, in this town. And yet, a third time, my card was flagged.”

Representative: “That does seem excessive. I will put a note in—”

Me: “That won’t be necessary. I am canceling this card. I will use my debit card for the remainder of my stay here. Dealing with this card is not good for my blood pressure. You’ve lost a customer. I know that means nothing to you, or even the company, but this is just too ridiculous.”

Representative: “But you’ll lose your points! What can we do for you to reconsider?”

Me: “Goodbye.”

When I got home, I paid off the remainder of the balance online, canceled it, and cut the card in half. I will now make it a habit to bring TWO credit cards along with my debit card on vacations, even if I’d only planned to use one.

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