Credit Card Security in Action

There have been a few occasions in my life where I’ve had a credit card issuer call me a few hours after making a purchase to confirm that I was the one who’d used my card. This weekend, American Express went one better. I was a little put out, but also pretty impressed with the fast action.

Credit Card Purchase Confirmation

It happened at Cost Plus, when I was buying furniture. I suspect two reasons that my account was flagged. 1. Our card activity has dropped dramatically over the last two months, so this was a sudden increase. 2. I was spending a huge amount of money at Cost Plus World Market. Yes, they do sell furniture, but most people buy small things there. I probably wouldn’t have been flagged if I was at a more traditional furniture store.

I ran my card through the reader, and the charge was denied. The clerk looked up the reason code – limit exceeded. I was dumbfounded. It was just not possible for me to be over limit. So, then I started to worry – had my card been stolen? I told the clerk I couldn’t be over limit, so she suggested I call American Express. At that moment, my cell phone rang. It was American Express. I couldn’t hear well enough to clear the charge with the computer, so I spoke to a person. Once I confirmed that I was, in fact, standing in the store with my card, they approved the charge.

My best friend and I left the store with my stuff. Then I started to wonder how American Express had gotten my cell phone number. When we got home, my husband said they hadn’t called there first. I logged into my account and discovered that I’d supplied them with my cell phone number when I changed my address.

When I went to a different Cost Plus a few hours later to buy the remaining pieces of furniture the first store was out of, the charge went through without issue.

Give Your Credit Card Issuer Your Cell Phone Number

Now I’m going to add my cell phone to all my accounts. If they don’t have a cell phone option, I’ll enter it as my work number. I won’t enter it as my home number, because then they’ll call me there with offers. Issuers don’t generally call work numbers or cell phones except in an emergency.

If I hadn’t given Amex my cell phone, they would have called my home phone, where my husband would have told them I was at Cost Plus. But what if he hadn’t been home? I would have had two options:

1. Use a different card (no miles on that one.)
2. Call Amex and try to navigate my way to a person with the power to approve my charge.

I much prefer what actually happened – they called me immediately and then approved the charge.

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