Introducing O2 Travel Alerts: a world-first technology to reduce card fraud and declines abroad

As the digital revolution accelerates at an ever-increasing pace, we’re seeing the real impact technology can have on saving people time and making their lives easier.

Auto-locating a free car parking space, creating a personalised fitness plan and self-adjusting heating at home: digital technologies can solve everyday problems making life easier and quicker than ever before. 24/7 connectivity at our fingertips is a vital part of our day to day lives. We no longer rely on mobile to keep us connected, we expect mobile to help us manage our lives and our passions, enabling us to stay in control of what we want, when we want it.

Our role at O2 – as a technology provider to 25 million customers nationwide – is to help our customers apply digital solutions to analogue problems. As technology continues to evolve, we want to ensure customers get the most from connectivity and understand how it can enhance their lives, making the everyday easier. But while technology has improved many aspects of our lives, there are still some areas where it has the power to make a bigger difference.

Being a victim of overseas payment card fraud – or having your payment card wrongly declined when you’re abroad because your issuer thinks it’s a fraudster – is a big and growing problem for people. In 2014 alone, fraud committed abroad on UK-issued cards increased by 23% to £150m – thereby accounting for almost a third of total UK credit and debit card fraud. [Source: UK Cards Association]

To prevent payment card fraud or decline overseas, currently, people have to take time to contact their banks before they go away, filling out forms or spending time on the phone to a call centre. This process is time-consuming and doesn’t fit with our smart-tech lifestyles. There’s a huge opportunity for technology to transform this experience.

So today, we’re excited to announce Travel Alerts from O2 – a pioneering new service that we’ve trialled with MBNA, one of the UK’s leading credit card issuers – to help people protect themselves against overseas card fraud.

Rather than notifying your bank every time you go abroad, you simply opt into Travel Alerts for your card issuer to be notified when O2 detects your mobile roaming in a different country. The insight here is that most of us aren’t ever more that a metre away from our mobiles, so if you’re making a card transaction overseas and your mobile phone is in the same country, your card issuer is more likely to accept the transaction because it’s highly likely that you are the card user. Conversely, if the card transaction and mobile location don’t match, your card issuer can review the transaction request to help protect you against card fraud.

In this way, the world-first technology saves you time and removes the hassle of needlessly blocked cards for legitimate transactions abroad, meaning you can access your money when you need it, wherever you are.

Glyn Povah, Head of O2 Global Product Development, says, “We’re very proud to have created this world-first new technology to help address the growing issue of card fraud. Travel Alerts completely reinvents the process of liaising with your bank to update them on travel plans and using digital technology gives customers the power to update their bank in real-time.

“We’re really looking forward to Travel Alerts being available to everyone. This new technology will help take the hassle out of accessing our money overseas so we can get on with enjoying our time away.”

Phil Weston, head of Mobile and Digital Communications at MBNA, said, “We’re always looking for new ways to innovate and make processes easier for our customers. We’re delighted with the results from the Travel Alerts trial we’re running with O2.

“By using their mobile phone to update us in real time, customers no longer have to contact us each time they travel, and they’re less likely to be inconvenienced when using their card abroad. We look forward to rolling Travel Alerts out to all customers in the near future.”

So what’s next? We’ve currently trialled this service with thousands of MBNA customers who’ve chosen to opt into the service, and we’ve seen great results in improving consumer convenience and reducing fraud risk. We’re now working hard to make Travel Alerts available to everyone before this summer holiday season, regardless of their bank or mobile provider.