C’mon Now, Navy Federal

My family has been living overseas for two years now.  One constant during the last two years is the certainty that if we try to buy gas in Europe, or purchase tickets for the train or an airline, our card will be frozen for suspected fraud.  It has been a little annoying and a bit of a pain, but nothing unmanageable.  I’d call, or they’d call me, and I’d explain for the 20th time that yes, a tank full of gas does cost $183, or that yes, I did buy airline tickets from Italy to Amsterdam, and they’d unfreeze my card.  It hasn’t been a huge problem.

Until this week.

This week, my family had the audacity to try to move from Italy to England.  During the six day trip, we bought gas multiple times, and stayed in hotels for five nights.  Despite regular conversations about how we live in Europe, and we travel, Navy Federal has frozen both my husband’s account and my account.  (We keep separate credit card accounts.  This is one reason.)  Heck, even my buddies at USAA declined my charge for a Chunnel crossing.  I tried to call them, but I didn’t have enough money on my prepaid European cell and I was disconnected while on hold for the right department.

I have to admit, I’m disappointed in Navy Federal.  I have talked to them numerous times, explaining that I live in Europe and I travel frequently.  My husband has done the same for his account.  Yet, they continue to freeze our cards regularly.  It was common knowledge in our last community that Navy Federal’s credit cards couldn’t be counted on to work when you needed them to work.  There is obviously a problem in their fraud detection algorithm, and they haven’t figured it out yet.  (Despite my frequent references in our telephone calls.)

I am curious:  Has anyone overseas figured out a way to get your Navy Federal credit card to work consistently, or have you just given up and started using another card?  I would love to hear solutions.


About the Author

Kate Horrell
Kate Horrell is a military financial coach, mom of four teens, and Navy spouse. She has a background in taxes and mortgage banking, and a trove of experience helping other military families with their money. Follow her on twitter @realKateHorrell.
  • Bolton

    I have been in two services since 1995. I have had 2 Navy Fed cards of some kind since 1997. I have used those cards on every continent but Africa and Antarctica. Not once in all that time and travel have I had NFCU ever suspend my account for Fraud. Not once have I called NFCU to “warn” them I was going to be traveling outside of the USA. Does the author have some kind of aftermarket “Fraud Alert” feature with another company? NFCU is the absolute best Credit Union in the World. I am always out for the best deal and at every PCS I call all the local banks and C.U. to see if they can beat NFCU. Not one company in all that time has ever beat NFCU’s customer service, loan rates, or portability. 2006 was the last year I lived with-in driving distance of a branch. I still use NFCU for all my banking business no matter where I am at. I am currently in Asia and have used my cards all over the place, with no problems on or off post.

  • Marie

    I’ve had friends complain about this too. My husband and I have had this same problem just traveling within the US. We have even called to tell them we will be traveling and have our account noted. Yet, we have had our account frozen numerous times. Sadly, after all of these “fun moments”, our account really was hacked and over $1,000.00 was taken before they caught it and froze our account. (In a state we have never lived in or visited on the other side of the country) We eventually got it all back and never had a problem since. I can’t imagine having the headache of living over seas and this happening. Yes, it’s a great protection service and nothing is perfect. But, NFCU has some ‘bugs’ to work out.

  • Patrick

    I’ve had his issue before that why I carry an American Express card. AMEX is better suited for world travelers. I’ve been overseas since 1995 and when I travel to Guam or Japan or return stateside my account sometime gets locked until I call them but AMEX has never done this.

    Navy Federal is a really good bank but they do lack a bit on travel issues.

  • Ken

    I have been depolyed 3 times and still have the same card. Everytime I deploy or travel, I call them and they note I will be using my card overseas. I have had no problems at all. You probably need to call them and talk to a supervisor. Additionally, at least your card is being protected. You will get that problem with any bank

  • Will Owens

    I am stationed in Australia and have Navy Federal. The only time me or my family have had problems with NFCU freezing our accounts was when we went on leave back to the states. They seemed to know when I transfered (I forgot to warn them) but when I was all of a sudden using my card in San Diego, it was frozen within 6 hours of my first purchase.

    • KateKashman

      We lived in Australia, too! (Though it was over 10 years ago.) We never had a problem with our Navy Federal credit cards there. Here, we only have problems when we a) purchase train or airline tickets (especially Swiss Air, for some reason) or b) when we purchase gasoline for our car. Something in their system flags “gasoline” and “a lot of money” and assumes that it is fraudulent. We have a large vehicle, so a full tank of gas at economy prices runs us around $180 US. I’ve actually had had the fraud detection guys tell me that “gas can’t possibly be that expensive.” Well, yes, 70 litres at nearly 2Euro a litre will end up to be a large number in US dollars.

      Hope you are enjoying OZ, we were sad to leave.

  • Mambo Minnow

    I had this problem too when sailing in Southeast Asia on my last ship. Too many different countries in a short time. You would think Navy Federal would understand better than most.

  • Mick

    Well, Navy Federal Social Media Team, this has been at least the 10th time YOUR bank has frozen my cards and I’ve been living overseas (UK) for 12 years. Every time I call, I get a ridiculous explanation how charges in London (where I work) are considered suspect. This is ridiculous! The NFCU visa card will not allow you to purchase tube tickets in London! It’s been that way for at least five years. Before that time, it would allow a charge of 20 GBP and then that was it. Now, it’s nothing.

    Navy Federal is great with lip service and their phone representatives are always apologizing, but let’s face it, YOUR fraud department just does not care. Either train them or fire them. This is making your organization look entirely unprofessional.

  • Louby