Living with credit, Protecting yourself, Shopping, Travel

Traveling? Tell your card issuer, basketball incident illustrates

John Egan

If you fail to notify your credit card issuer when you’re planning overseas travel, you may be courting disaster. A high-profile international basketball incident that grabbed the attention of President Donald Trump proves that.

In November 2017, three UCLA basketball players – LiAngelo Ball, Jalen Hill and Cody Riley – were busted for shoplifting at several high-end shops in Hangzhou, China, while visiting the country for a collegiate basketball game.

What triggered the shoplifting spree? A declined credit card appears to be the culprit.

Dropping the ball: Not alerting card issuer of travel plans

According to an ESPN investigation, Ball, Hill and Riley were browsing at a Louis Vitton store when Ball decided to buy a $730 pair of sunglasses. However, his credit card was declined, which ESPN reminds us can happen when travelers fail to notify their credit card companies about international trips. (More on that later.)

ESPN goes on to explain that the trio exited the Louis Vitton store but returned a few minutes later. While in the store, each player snatched a pair of sunglasses without paying, ESPN says.

The threesome then trekked across the street to a mall where they pilfered more sunglasses from a local boutique, according to ESPN, and concluded their thievery by pocketing beaded bracelets from discount clothing retailer H&M.

In the course of 90 minutes, ESPN reports, Ball, Hill and Riley had shoplifted from three shops.

The three players wound up being arrested, but the charges later were dropped and the three young men came back to the U.S. To help clear up the mess, Trump may or may not have intervened on behalf of Ball, Hill and Riley, depending on whose version of the story you believe.

To be sure, it’s highly unlikely that any of us ever would end up confronting such chaos over neglecting to tell a credit card company about international travel. But the shoplifting fiasco does underscore the importance of notifying a credit card issuer when you’re planning to jet off to Belgium or Brazil.

Use this quick checklist before you travel internationally

If you’re packing your credit card and your passport, here are three things you should do before heading to the airport so you can avoid an international incident of your own:

1. Contact your card issuer.

Let your credit card issuer know that you’ll be traveling abroad, including the locations and the timetable. You should be able to do this by phone or online. Without such notification, use of your credit card outside the U.S. could prompt a fraud alert and cause your card to be declined.

2. Pack no-foreign-transaction fee cards.

Check whether your cards charge foreign transaction fees. These fees (usually 3 percent) easily can add up to hundreds of dollars. If possible, take only no-foreign-transaction-fee credit cards that don’t slap you with an additional expense every time you use your card abroad (or online at a retailer based outside the U.S.)

3. Pay in local currency.

In the majority of cases, paying in local currency will prevent you being forced to pay an extra service fee and being stuck with a less-than-ideal exchange rate. So, this means making charges in euros when you’re in Europe, not in U.S. dollars.

And this one should go without saying, but don’t act out if your credit card is declined when you’re shopping in Hangzhou. Simply contact your credit card issuer to rectify the situation.

Keep in mind that it’s very doubtful the White House would have your back if you set off a foreign fracas over a declined credit card.

See related: Alerting issuers of your travel plans may soon be obsolete, Traveling abroad? 9 ways to protect your cards

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