(In the last installment, I had just gotten a flat tire on my car.)
The next day the tire shop called to say that I would need a new tire. Later, when I picked up my car, I paid for the new tire with my trusty (?) Visa*. Seconds after the transaction completed, my phone rang. I looked down and recognized the by-now familiar B of A phone number. Again they were calling to tell me that they had detected possible fraud on my account, that I would need to call right away, and that the card would be blocked until I called.
Here’s how that call went:
Them: Hello, thank you for calling Bank of America. How may we help you?
Me: Hi, I have been using my card to make some purchases for an upcoming overseas trip, and you keep blocking my card. What can I do to make sure this doesn’t happen again?
Them: Ma’am, I’m very sorry about that. Let me take a look at your account. Oh, I see, you purchased a hotel room in Kenya, then you made a purchase at a tire shop in Seattle. That was flagged as possible fraudulent use, because you booked a hotel in one country, but then bought something in another country.
Me: Yes, this is true. I am planning to travel next month. This month, I had a flat and needed to purchase a new tire, so I used my card. Travel involves going from home to other places. I am home now, but later I will go somewhere. That is how travel works.
After a bit more back and forth the nice young man promised that he had fixed whatever it was that was causing the blocks and that it would not happen again.
The next day, I was at Trader Joe’s. Pulled out my no-longer-trusty Visa. It was declined. I was flabbergasted. They promised it was fixed! I paid for my groceries with my debit card, and called Visa before they could call me.
Them: Thank you for calling Bank of America, how may we help you?
Me: I am calling because I have been trying to use my Visa card for commerce but apparently that’s not possible.
Them: I am very sorry to hear that. What happened?
I related the events of the past 3 days. Once again, I explained the concept of travel, in which one leaves home, a place where groceries and tires are needed, and makes a journey to another locale, for which hotel rooms and plane tickets are needed.
I expressed amazement that for all the sophistication of modern data management and analysis, B of A was unable to figure out that I was home now and would be traveling later.
I expressed surprise that a purchase as inexpensive and prosaic as a tire for my Subaru would trigger a fraud alert and I repeated my bewilderment that an item that exists, ostensibly, for commerce and commerce alone, would prove to be impossible to use for actual commerce.
I beseeched them to undo whatever flag had my account at the hysterical “ZOMG someone bought a TIRE! In SEATTLE! And FOOD! Danger! Danger! Danger!” threat level and put it back to a more reasonable threat level, perhaps one that would flag the purchase of a tennis bracelet, a 52” T.V., and 3 iPads, all being shipped to Bermuda, but would leave me alone to go about my daily life.
The agent, bless her heart, took all this in stride. She promised to fix it, and apparently this time it took because I went on to book a few more hotel rooms, and the card hasn’t been blocked again.
Still, I wonder if things would have gone better with the Cloven Hooved card.
*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.