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Learn from my mistakes: tips to avoid credit card holds

May 13, 2015

By Pam Leibfried

Have you ever had a credit card declined when you knew for a fact that you were not even close to your credit limit? If so, it was probably because something made your bank or credit union suspect that the transaction was a fraudulent one. I myself have twice experienced a declined purchase due to suspicion of credit card fraud. Learn what happened to me and how you can avoid a similar experience.

Vacation purchases

Last summer, I was in Hayward, Wisconsin, picking up groceries for my family’s nearby fishing vacation. I got some stuff for myself, some for my mom, and some for my sister-in-law. When checking out, I had a not-brilliant-in-hindsight idea. If I checked out each person’s purchases separately, I could just hand them each their own receipt so they would know exactly how much they owed me – no math!

I used my then-new Alliant Visa Platinum Rewards credit card to check out my food, then my mom’s food. But when I tried to check out the mosquito repellent my sister-in-law asked me to pick up, my card was declined. It only took me a moment to realize that I had triggered a fraud decline by using my card for back-to-back-to-back purchases in a store and area where I had never shopped before.

As I handed the cashier a different card for the payment, I started to feel sort of stupid about it. I had just attended an Alliant training class on fraud detection, so I knew that multiple purchases within a short time frame can be a sign of fraud. And I also knew that you should notify your credit card company before you travel somewhere new, as spending outside of your established patterns can raise red flags too.

Because the first transactions were processed successfully, I don’t think it was the location alone that triggered the decline. I suspect that it was a combination of the new location with the multiple checkouts. And I now know how to avoid repeating this experience. I’ll never make the mistake of paying for three checkouts in a row with the same card. And the next time I go on a vacation, I’ll let Alliant know where and when I’ll be traveling by filling out a Travel Notification form in Alliant Online Banking. The form is available on the main Accounts summary page that displays your account balances. For credit cards, click on the Options link that appears to the right of your credit card balance. For debit cards, the same Options link appears to the right of your checking account balance.

Conventions, festivals and expos

A couple years ago when I attended the International Quilt Festival just a few minutes down the road from Alliant’s Chicago headquarters, I experienced a card decline when purchasing fabric at a booth on the expo floor. When I talked to a rep from the credit card company, she explained that a fraud freeze had been put on my card because I had made purchases in three different states within a fifteen-minute time frame. Apparently, even though I made all of the purchases in the same room, they were billed by each quilt store as if they had occurred in their native state, not in Illinois. This is the case for most expos and conventions.

If you are attending Comic Con, taking your kids to a baseball card show or attending a giant flea market that has booths from multiple states, learn from my quilt show experience and plan ahead. Let your credit card company know that you will be attending the event, bring multiple cards or plan on using cash for purchases. 

Let Alliant know when you’ll be travelling so our fraud detection team can make a note of it to help you avoid credit card transaction declines. Log in to Alliant Online Banking to complete a Travel Notification form (see instructions in above article) or call Alliant to notify us when you’ll be traveling with your Alliant Visa card. For credit cards, call 866-444-8529. For debit cards, call 800-328-1935 (24/7).