On one hand, I'm glad my credit card company is looking out for me. The other hand is a problem.
Yesterday, Julie stopped in a local store to buy that ever-important cat food. An empty cat food bowl is an actual crisis at our house. Upon trying to pay, our Visa card was denied. What gives?
Turns out I was the culprit: Thursday morning, as I was headed for the Li ... I mean, Jubilee Kick-Off Breakfast, my super smart Jeep informed me that I had a slightly low tire. My left rear tire was at 28 psi, and it should have been 34 psi. Since it was too early to stop by Doug's Tires, I pulled in at a local gas station/food store/restaurant/barber shop — OK, not a barber shop — to replenish my air supply. That six pounds of air was going to cost me $1, or just under 17 cents a pound. Really? For air? Why couldn't I just grab some from, well, the air, and stuff it in there? I needed air and was in a bit of a hurry. Finding no quarters in my pockets, I took the second option: credit.
Swiping my credit card for a dollar's worth of air set in motion a plethora of events that shut down our ability to buy anything on credit. I'm sure the Pentagon was also notified.
It turns out that certain states are deemed by the banks to have a high number of credit card fraud, so they are flagged and one simply cannot do credit card business in those states, apparently. My $1 I had foolishly spent on air was sent to New Jersey for processing. You guessed it, New Jersey is "one of those states."
And this is not the first time this has happened to me. I tried to buy something in California on my business credit card recently and the sale would not go through because California also falls into the high-fraud category. I had to call the bank and put California on my "approved" list before I could buy anything there. I really do buy locally whenever possible, but sometimes it's not possible. But wait, the air I bought was a local purchase! Hmmmm ....
The lists of naughty states varies by source. Yahoo Finance, for example, ranks New Jersey at No. 10. The remainder of their top 10, from 9 to 1, are: Washington, Georgia, Virginia, Arizona, Nevada, Maryland, Delaware, Colorado, and Florida. It's interesting to me that California is conspicuously missing from the list. Credit.com notes that Kentucky is gaining ground in the credit card fraud business. Yipee.
I don't appreciate my banks telling me which states in which I can or can't do business. When I need to buy something, I need to buy it and not deal with this hassle. But I also don't appreciate having my identity stolen. That happened once, in a local restaurant that is no longer operating here, and the cleanup from that fraud was not fun. It's also interesting that all of my so-called fraud cases or close calls began right here in town.
Bottom line? Don't restrict my purchases. My banks should be able to track my buying habits (which is another problem I can't control) and know that I'm not likely to be purchasing sex toys in Connecticut, but I just might buy photo equipment from an online store in California. Heck, even Kroger knows me better than I do.
In the meantime, does anybody need some air? I have an 8-ounce bottle of it I'd love to sell for a good price.
Writer James Mulcahy
spent 35 years as a newspaper journalist at small and large papers. He is currently a freelance photographer/writer/graphics designer, and he drives a school bus.