When will you be away? Your plastic provider wants to know

Sue Hayward reports on a dilemma faced by some credit card holders
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Would you tell a stranger where you live and the exact dates when you plan to be on holiday?

That is just what an increasing number of credit card firms are asking their customers to do when they open an account or make a general enquiry.

Several card issuers including HSBC, MBNA and Barclaycard routinely ask customers about their travel plans – where they're going, when and for how long – claiming the details can be used to reduce the risk of a card being refused. Transactions abroad may be queried if the issuer's fraud-warning system flags up an unusual spending pattern.

Barry Compton, from Bedfordshire, was shocked when his card firm asked for the dates of a trip to Dubai. "They already had my home address on file and now they would know when I was out of the country. So if the information fell into the wrong hands, I could come back to an empty house. When questioned, they seemed terribly embarrassed and couldn't explain why they needed that level of detail," he says.

Andrew Goodwill, managing director of security adviser Early Warning UK, says: "Banks and credit card companies are always banging on at us to keep our personal details safe, but then they ask us to reveal the very information that could lead to fraudulent activity."

Someone who won't be telling his card firm where he's going on holiday is Anthony Riem at City law firm PCB, which specialises in commercial fraud cases.

"Once the information is on the database, there's always going to be the potential risk of someone hacking into it. In addition, criminal gangs could pay call centre employees for information or place their own people inside," he says.

Banks and credit card firms insist security is good but there have been instances of call centre staff selling on customer details.

Halifax and Capital One, two of the UK's biggest card providers, don't ask customers to let them know about their travel plans.

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