I Dream of FIRE

In pursuit of financial independence and personal fulfillment

A lesson learned through credit card fraud

I was halfway between home and our weekend getaway destination in Idaho when I got the email from Chase Fraud Alert.

“Action needed: Please confirm you made this purchase.”

The business description wasn’t obvious, but I knew I hadn’t actually used the card in question this month. I’m working on the minimum spend for a different card.

Crap.

I called the number of the back of my Chase card. Even though I was fairly confident the email was legit, I didn’t want to call the number it listed just in case.

Chase’s fraud team told me the charge, which was declined, originated from a gas station in Miami, Fla. While I told the agent I wouldn’t mind being in Miami, unfortunately that was not me. It looks like the charge was rejected because my card is a chip card, and the one that was swiped wasn’t, so they figured something was up.

I’m quite pleased with how quickly Chase was able to detect a problem, alert me, and then jump on the fraud.

An important lesson for everyone

The fraud team assured me they would cancel my card to prevent any further attempts, and a new card would be sent out immediately. That’s awesome service, but as I thought about it I realized my situation.

I was en route to a weekend getaway where I would most certainly need to use a credit card. I don’t carry enough travelers checks these days to pay for everything.

That’s a joke. I’ve never had a travelers check in my life. I also don’t carry hundreds of dollars in cash with me very often. I live my entire financial life via credit card.

Thankfully, I carry three to five cards at any time. But what if I didn’t? What if that was the only card I had, or the only one I had on me?

I know many people who have one credit card. They don’t like the idea of having more than one card. Having a card canceled for fraud could make for a bad situation for them.

Are you prepared to deal with this situation?

What you can do to protect yourself

Here are some thoughts I’ve had about how to make sure I’m not caught in a bind if this happens again.

  1. Carry multiple cards. I was already doing this, but not necessarily because I was thinking I might need a backup. Now I’ll always carry two to three cards as a precaution.
  2. Keep a spare at home. What if instead of it being a fraudulent charge, I had simply lost my wallet or had it stolen? That could have been a problem on my trip, but it also would have been an issue at home, as well. I’ll stash at least one card in a safe at home at all times.
  3. Carry enough cash for gas. I had $70 on me, but it’s not uncommon for me to have less than $20 in my wallet. Remember, I’m weird about having cash. I should always have at least $20-$40 stashed somewhere to at least make sure I can get home if I’m low on gas when my card gets pinched. Really I should keep $20 in my car somewhere, too, in case my wallet is lost.
  4. Have a digital wallet enabled. We aren’t quite in the digital card utopia yet where the swipe of a phone will fully replace other payment methods. But I could PayPal someone money in exchange for cash in a pinch. Or I could use the Walmart Pay app to go buy a prepaid credit card using my backup card. That’s a reasonable short-term fix if everything else is a no-go.

As I write this I’m still waiting for my replacement card to arrive. This all went down Friday evening of a holiday weekend, so there’s no mail delivery on Monday. All the more reason I’m happy I have multiple credit cards!

Has anything like this happened to you? Do you have other ideas to make sure you don’t get hosed if a card gets canceled while you’re out of town? Let’s hear about it in the comments.

1 Comment

  1. Good idea about keeping some cash in the car. I go around with only one credit card all the time now that I have a cell phone pocket. Thanks for sharing.

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