AMEX Proactively Notated My Account For An Upcoming Trip Abroad

My family is headed to Mexico soon. We’re looking forward to a week of hanging out on the beach and relaxing.

Apparently AMEX wants to make sure we have a fun, worry-free trip as well. Just the other day, I received the email below indicating recent transactions on my account indicate I’ll be traveling soon. As a result, American Express proactively notated my account and told me not to worry about letting them know I’ll be out of town.

AmexAbroad

It’s interesting because I’ve never called a credit card company to notify them I’ll be traveling. And I’ve never had an issue while using a credit card abroad. So, this didn’t exactly save me any time. But, I don’t mind AMEX working to make sure my card works while I’m in Mexico.

I also wonder if this is a subtle suggestion to get me to use this card on the trip. If your average traveler is reaching into their wallet to pay for something while out of the country, are they more likely to pick the card they know is all set for international transactions? My guess is AMEX has some data that suggests a nudge like this works.

What’s most interesting about this is the fact they are mining transactions for this kind of information in the first place. I know there are pretty strong financial privacy protections in place so I’m not worried about the data being shared beyond AMEX. That said, I could see how this might creep some people out and feel like an invasion of privacy.

In my day job, we do a lot of work with personal data. And we are always very mindful of whether or not our use of any information would turn someone off as creepy. I’d be willing to bet none of our clients would ever go for an email like this that explicitly tells a customer we know something about them that wasn’t shared directly with us.

What do you guys think? Is this at all creepy or just a helpful service from AMEX?

Comments

  1. I LOVE this idea! You didn’t say if you booked your flights with this credit card, but one of my biggest complaints is having to register my travel with the credit card when I used it to book my flights, they should already know where I am going and when!

    My husband has an Amex for work and the few times he has called to notify them of upcoming travel they’ve always responded “Oh, you don’t need to call us, we can tell when you are traveling based on your usage”, so it doesn’t surprised me that they are taking it one step further and just letting you know that they have your travel info down already so save yourself some time and don’t call them.

  2. I’ve actually had credit cards frozen twice while on trips to Europe. I had to call the companies from overseas to get them to unfreeze them. That was when I first started traveling and now I always let the ones I plan on using know I’m going.

  3. I was recently in China for 10 weeks and had to change my return date twice. It was comforting that AMEX informed me that there would be no problems with my cards upon my return to the US.

  4. Just about every credit card I’ve used (Diners and Amex) for air travel shows the airline ticket number, dates of travel, destination etc. For hotels often the check-in and out data is transmitted with the charge. So if this helps prevent the card from being shut down falsely, I’m all for it. This level of data has already been on your statements for decades.

    Some companies like FIA even want you to call when you leave the state. I’ve had Lowes.com purchases declined because those were deemed “out of my area”.

  5. We just received our first of these emails, so AMEX must have recently instituted this type of email. Because we bought the air ticket on this card — and they post the destination on your CC statement — they obviously know where and when you are traveling.

    Before foreign travel, we call the credit cards that we will use out of the USA. The last thing you need in another country is your credit card frozen on a fraud alert. We learned this when it happened to us, admittedly some years ago — the CC companies may have better analysis of spending now, but why take the chance, especially if you are purposely using a specific card for points or whatever on that trip?

    I find the email useful — we won’t take the time to call AMEX. But when I saw my first such email, it still felt creepy. They probably should have warned us the first time and explained how and why they do this (I’m sure no human is involved), and given us a chance to “opt out” of these emails. (Opting out would be “window-dressing” because that wouldn’t keep AMEX from knowing you are traveling if you bought the ticket from them and from acting accordingly as charges come in.)

    Overall, it’s an AMEX benefit, but perhaps not handled as well as it could have been.

  6. This happens for me when I get an air or hotel reservation in my Gmail-it appears on my Gmail calendar. So while convenient, it is a little creepy the first time. It seems not having to call credit card companies for upcoming foreign travel is more widespread, but when (many years ago) I didn’t call ahead of time, I got declined in a shop in Germany. A little embarrassed to have to stand in the shop to call on a cell phone (fortunately worked in Europe) the card company while the shop keeper is waiting….

  7. I’d say creepy, but if they are going to do it, they should at least tough the no FTF on this card. I never call ahead for travel and only rarely have problems. Doing MS in a different state while on a business trip is a different story 😉

  8. amex should drop foreign exchange fee on hilton hhonors surpass card as it did for spg card.
    at least, charges at hiltons should be exempt.

  9. Tried to used my Amex to buy tickets for LAN on the chilean website and they didn’t let the transaction trough. Never before happend with my Visa or Mastercard.

    So I do wonder if amex is a lot more strict when it comes to paying “outside” your usal area.

  10. “Apparently AMEX wants to make sure we have a fun, worry-free trip as well.” – Are you really that naive? Wow, I never hope you travel Disney World, The Happiest Place On Earth.

  11. Mike, I am curious, what are the strong financial privacy protections you speak off?

    Take for example Mastercard which has an Information Services division which sells your data to advertisers.

    American Express also turns their transaction data into a revenue stream through its Business Insights consulting division aimed direct mail and online offers to card holders though on an aggregate level. And more recently, AmEx has modeled audience segments for use in online ad targeting.

  12. I just received this email for my Amex PRG. The only purchase I’ve made on that card in the past few months is a $100 AA gift card to use my 2016 credit.

    I’d be very curious to know what the notation says. “Uhhhh, he’s going somewhere some time soon. Or not so soon. Maybe.”

  13. @Flip – you raise fair points and I suppose everyone has a different take on “strong.” What I was driving at is the fact the data that is sold doesn’t include personally identifiable information and certainly wouldn’t include travel plans mined from spending habits, like the example in the post.

  14. I think this is totally creepy and makes me wonder what other info they’re mining about me. Don’t like it at all. I prefer calling the company to notify them of travel. I deleted the email immediately, but it did leave wondering. If they want to encourage you to use the card, then I think it would be much more effective to target Amex Offers at the individual level to the destination you’re traveling to. I would definitely take my card in that scenario…

  15. I’ve actually wondered why this wasn’t done more often. Whenever I’ve had to set a travel notification, it has often irritated me that it wasn’t done automatically (especially with multiple cards). If I’ve booked my flights on certain days to/from certain countries, it’s pretty clear that I’ll be traveling. Granted, it gets complicated with complex itineraries, but if I book (and prepay for) a flight, hotel, or rental car in advance, the CC company knows where I’m going. The CC companies already have a ton of data on everyone’s purchase history, so this is a way of using that data for something that’s actually useful to the customer.

    Anyway, it’s great to hear that Amex is doing this.

  16. Noted Mike.
    I still liked the article as I have had trouble myself with my citicard when traveling from US to Europe. I even called them once to tell them I was traveling and my card would just not run. Thats the reason I take my club carlson to Europe, even though it has FX fees it will run everywhere even when I only use it 2 or 3 times a year when I travel. I normally use Amex but since amex is not widely accepted outside hotels in europe I use club carlson for nuances such a toll roads and some restaurants.

    About my comment, I don’t like to be that guy that pinpoints mistakes as that is what many do when they comment. It was only the use of the word “strong” that stood up a bit to me 🙂

  17. My Fidelity 2% cashback Amex/Visa cards were always getting shut off during travel. I had to keep explaining that the only suspicious activity they need to look out for is if my card is used in my hometown more than a few days in a row. When they called me the last time they asked if I had any other plans to have them notate….

    I told her my plans just for the remaining 3 weeks of the month, including airport connections. She encouraged me to list a longer duration of travel but I said my phone battery would never last that long.

    New York, then Canada. “then back home,” she asked? Umm, no. Then Panama, Chile, Panama, Canada, London, Paris, Canada, Las Vegas. THEN home. For a day. Then London, Germany, Africa, New Zealand, Australia, California. She called back 3 hours later saying they were done notating things.

    On one of these fraud calls, they accidentally marked my card as lost/stolen even after I confirmed the transactions as valid. They shipped a card Sunday morning, via cargo on commercial flights, to have a courier meet up with me later Sunday during a 5hr layover I had in Hawaii. Their policy required delivery to a hotel front desk with no exception possible. So customer service put a $300 credit on my account to pay for a day room.

  18. Not creepy at all. We are all happy for (and expect) our banks to review all of our transactions for unusual activity to spot fraud, so why not to help make our experience with them easier?

    If they sent me an email after purchasing a blow up doll saying “We notice from your recent transactions that you may be in need of a girlfriend. Why not try our AMEX dating service?” then that might be a step too far 😉

  19. Travelling out of UK I had plenty of issues with cards being rejected whilst blocked as suspected usage.

    Happened to me with VISA cards mostly though (debit – not credit) in Ireland/France/Germany and Poland. Usually call to the bank and 30 minutes after the card was active. I am still not bothered with reporting to the issuer, but I always have plenty different cards with me just to be sure.

  20. Citi do this for me too. I suppose some of us are too busy churning to get the benefit of these features, as perhaps the card we want to use and the one we booked a flight/hotel on are different.

  21. Not creepy, but certainly viewed as a nudge for me to use my AMEX when I travel. They noted I used my card for an incidental airline expense (that was reimbursable), but not for a plane ticket, hotel or ground transportation. Hmm… maybe they should evaluate why those other travel charges aren’t being charged to AMEX and instead are going on my other cards?

  22. I’ve had some issues in Asia with cards of all sorts not working. So now I proactively call the banks before I travel. Most of them, now, enable this on their websites.

    Amex, however, goes to great pains on their site to let you know you don’t have to do this.

    So if you don’t need to do the alert with Amex, why are they sending the email?

    Odd.

  23. The few times I’ve had problems getting a credit card to approve abroad, I think about which card I used to book the flight and/or hotel. Re-using the same card solved the problem. So other card companies appear to note you’re traveling to “x” country and mark their records as such. They just do it without behind the scenes without sending the stupid email that Amex felt compelled to send you.

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