CHARLESTON, W.Va.-- West Virginians planning to go to Florida for a bowl game in the coming weeks might want to add an item to their to-do list: call the bank.
It's a step people may not consider, but doing so can help guarantee they will have access to their bank account while traveling through other states.
In the past year, several banks began changing how they monitor debit card activity and how they allow those cards to be used for certain out-of-state transactions.
The changes were prompted by new methods identity thieves are using to steal bank customers' information.
Because money is instantly transferred in and out of accounts when a debit card is used, banks now try to cut off access at the first indication of potential fraud.
And since they are watching for abnormal account activity, banks are asking their customers to call them if they expect to use their cards in places or ways they normally don't.
"All banks run fairly sophisticated anti-fraud measures when transactions are presented for authorization," said Craig Stilwell, an executive vice president at City National Bank.
"Transaction amounts, as well as the location of the transaction, could trigger the bank to temporarily suspend a card, until the activity can be confirmed with the customer."
That could be a problem if the customer is on their way to a seat at the Orange Bowl or visiting family in another state at Christmas.
"Obviously, if folks are traveling, it is harder for them to be reached by the bank to confirm a transaction," Stilwell said.
Banks' inability to reach customers in such instances has led to some debit card users trying to pay for things on trips and learning their card has been deactivated.
Despite the inconvenience, banking officials say it's one of the best ways they've found to fully protect their customers' accounts from fraud practices like skimming — where consumer card information is stolen during what appears to be a normal purchase.