A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to Africa: Part I
For 4 years I have had a Bank of America Alaska Airlines Visa card* (I applied for a Bank of America Cloven Hooved Rewards card, but they turned me down). Now, from what I understand, a credit card is a tool that you can use to participate in commerce. I’m pretty sure about this. In fact, I’m positive.
I am planning a trip to Africa, with a stopover in the Middle East. I will be flying part of the way on Emirates. Recently I purchased the ticket for this using my B of A Visa. I think all would agree that this is an acceptable use for a credit card.
Apparently B of A has different ideas, because when I first attempted the purchase, the transaction was blocked. This must happen to Emirates a lot, because a little browser window pops up. It tells you that your transaction was blocked for security reasons by your credit card company, suggests you call them, and then gives you a link that will put you back into the purchase session when you’re ready. It’s all very tidy.
So, it was inconvenient, but it wasn’t THAT inconvenient, and it was reasonable. B of A didn’t know I was planning the trip, the transaction was originating in a country I had never visited … fine. (That the purchase originated in the Middle East may have also triggered something, but I won’t get into the political implications of that in this post.)
I called them. I explained that I was going to be taking a trip to Africa and the Middle East and that indeed the transaction was mine. They were very nice and said they would lift the block. I hate making phone calls to customer service lines, but this one went well. Or so I thought (cue ominous music).
Later that evening, I booked another ticket, this time on Kenya Airways. I went to bed feeling smug, like one of those super-competent people who thinks of everything well in advance. It felt good.
The next morning I had brunch with a friend. I paid with my trusty Visa. Within moments my phone was ringing. It was B of A, telling me that they had detected fraudulent brunch consumption on my account and that I would need to call them. Meanwhile, my car had gotten a flat tire, so after brunch my friend followed me to a shop where I dropped it off.
When I got back home I called B of A. They said that the purchase on Kenya Airways had caused the fraud alert. I explained that because I was going to be going on the trip that I told them about the day before, and which was noted on my account, I was going to be using the card a bit over the next couple of weeks to book hotels and services in Africa and the Middle East.
We didn’t discuss the deeper philosophical implications of space and time, because at the moment it didn’t seem necessary. They were very nice and said that they would fix my account so it would stop being fraud-blocked.
Stay tuned for next week’s installment, in which I find it necessary to explain space-time concepts to Bank of America customer service.
*I do not endorse the carrying of credit card debt. Please use credit wisely. A travel rewards credit card can greatly defray the cost of travel if used responsibly. Charge only what you can pay off quickly.