We're often told to call our credit or debit card providers before setting off on our travels to ensure our plastic isn't stopped abroad. But whether or not you actually need to depends on your provider.

When you use your card to make purchases abroad, it can mean you display an abnormal spending pattern. This may result in your bank not immediately authorising your transaction. (See Cheap Overseas Cards to get the best plastic to use abroad).

So we're often told to let our providers know before we go away to lessen the chance of problems occuring. But while some providers will alter their fraud settings to reduce the chance of your card getting stopped, others won't.

Even if your bank is one of those which recommends you call it first, it doesn't guarantee your card will work first time. It just reduces the chance of a problem.

Should I call my bank before I leave?

If you've told your bank you're going away, it's likely one of the following three things will happen:

  • Nothing will be registered. This doesn't mean all transactions will be blocked. In fact, many banks say that because their fraud detection systems have been improved, you don't need to call before going abroad.

  • It'll put a written note on your account. This will detail where you are and how long for, but it won't actually change the settings. It's just a note on the system for reference.

  • It'll change the account and/or fraud settings. Some banks may change the settings on your account to give transactions a better chance of going through. This may be coupled with a written note.

We asked all the biggest credit and debit card providers what their policies are, so you know whether or not to get in touch before you jet off this summer.

In the table below, we suggest you call your provider if it will alter the settings. But it does nothing, says you don't need to call before going abroad, or just puts a written note on your account, then we suggest you don't.

Should I contact my provider before going away?

Provider Yes No
American Express tick
Barclaycard tick
Barclays tick
Capital One tick
Halifax tick
HSBC tick
Lloyds tick
Nationwide tick
NatWest/RBS tick  
Santander    tick
Tesco tick
TSB tick

Can your bank contact you?

The UK Cards Association also recommends that you ensure your card provider has up-to-date contact details for you, including a mobile phone number, just in case any issues arise and it needs to get in touch.

Similarly, it's also a good idea to have your card provider's 24-hour telephone number with you, in case you need to contact it about any problems.

Additional reporting by Liane Lau and David Puddicombe.