Another Fine Mess

As Oliver Hardy once said to Mastercard; that’s another fine mess you’ve gotten me into. He didn’t actually say it to Mastercard, but he would have if he had my recent experience.

To tell you this story, I have to provide a little background. I travel regularly from Canada to the United States, so I have a bank account and a credit card in both places. Once I cross the border, I use the card associated with the country I am in. As such, I have not used the travel notification on my Canadian bank’s website to let them know where I am going. It didn’t seem necessary.

Laurel and Hardy Poster via

That was my mistake. Or, at least, one of my mistakes. The second mistake I made was in agreeing to upgrade my Canadian credit card a couple of weeks ago. They assured me that the old card would continue to be usable until I activated the new card which was being sent to my Canadian address.

All that was fine and dandy until the Coronavirus came upon us and I decided to return to Canada to ensure that I had medical coverage if I needed it. I canceled the flight I had booked for May and made a new one for this week.

In doing so, I tried to use my Canadian credit card because I had believed them when they said it was still active. Not so. The card was not declined but I got a message telling me to call a 1-888 number for a security check. Well, of course, I couldn’t get through.

Getting through to 1-888 numbers is always an exercise in frustration, but now that everyone is trying to get back to their home countries, it is all but impossible.

Credit Cards via

So, I bought my ticket with my American credit card and decided to go online to find out why I could not use my Canadian card without a security check.

When I looked into my account, it showed me that all my credit card records had already been transferred to the new card number with the note that the card had not yet been activated. Well, duh! It hasn’t been activated because I don’t actually have it yet!

This inspired me to call my bank to find out why they had done that and to ensure that I could still use the old card. After a not-too-too-long wait on hold, and a frustrating phone menu fiasco, I punched 0 and was eventually able to talk to a person. He listened to my story and explained that the security check was because I had failed to let them know I was traveling! Forehead smack.

Payment Gap via Billzy

He remedied that and told me that I would, in addition, have to talk to someone who is responsible for the credit card’s usage so I had another short wait until that person became available.

The second person was able to verify my identity and my story because he could see that I had tried to buy an airline ticket with my card. He explained that the security issue had to do with Mastercard and not my bank and that he would ensure that the problem would not arise again.

He needed to know when I would be back in Canada and when I said “Friday” he said that the removal of the automatic security check would be in place until then. This bothered me because I don’t know what delays I might experience on route, so I said that I didn’t know if I would be held up in Vancouver where I change planes. He said, “Once  you are in Canada, you are OK.”

Well, I think I’m OK wherever I am, but I understood his meaning. I don’t quite understand the logic of needing a security check in one country but not the other, but I’m sure that it makes sense to bankers. In any case, I am most grateful that I have more than one credit card so that, in a crisis, I am not stuck on hold trying to reach hard-to-reach credit card people.




  1. I can relate, but in a different way. My husband notified VISA of our travel plans to South America, including that part of the trip included a cruise. All was good they said, and then after 3 uses, they blocked his card anyway. It took a $50 phone call to sort things out. We are going to ask them to pay, which I doubt they will. On the other hand, I never notified Mastercard or Amex and had no problems using my cards anywhere. Go figure.

    • How frustrating! I hope they refund the cost of the phone call.

      Interestingly, I just checked my US bank account and they say they no longer require travel notifications. That’s a recent change, I think.

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