Final Update 10/15/15: After emailing with the Capital One support person below and given that they’d provided the credit that I asked for, I reactivated my accounts to give the new text alert system a try. Their exec support team called and made it quick and easy to reactivate the accounts. We’ll see how it goes.

Update: I received the following response from Capital One through my media team query:

Thanks for forwarding, Jeff, and I’m sorry for the inconvenience of your card being blocked for suspected fraud when you were trying to make an international, online purchase. Capital One has tools to help alert customers to fraud declines, and rather than the email alert, perhaps a better solution for you would have been our text alerts. I apologize if no one informed you of that option. The text alerts enable customers to immediately clear a fraud concern by responding to the text we send when we suspect there is fraud. This enables the customer to continue using the credit card. We strive to balance protecting customer accounts and avoiding disruptions in service and again, apologies this didn’t meet your expectations. Further, not hearing back from our Executive Resolutions department was a slip on our part and we gave your account a $100 courtesy credit for that miss. It was unacceptable. Let me know if you have any additional questions, and again, we’re sorry that these fraud flags led to ending your relationship with us.

I have asked for more information about the text alert system and whether it actually does slow the shutdown or allow it to be easily managed. The support team never told me about this either time I encountered this problem. My experience last week was that the card was shut down immediately after the decline.

On Sunday, Capital One declined a $280 travel reservation I charged at India-based and immediately shut off my card for all transactions until I contacted them by phone. The reservations, meals and seats that I’d taken time to reserve for my partner and me were lost. It was frustrating and unfortunately, it wasn’t the first time that CapitalOne had shut off my card after a single suspect transaction. But, I’d actually purchased from using my CapitalOne card on two other occasions in early 2014. It was an example of very poor fraud detection and led me on a tour of their pathetic customer service.

I’ve been a customer with Capital One for nearly three years. I try to pay nearly all my expenses with my CapitalOne account to maximize rewards points and organize my spending in one place. So, I’ve charged a lot of money with the company. I’ve also made every one of my monthly payments on time. I’m an excellent customer.

So, if three or more unusual transactions totaling more than $500 rapidly appeared on my account, I’d understand them shutting down my account. Less than that, I’d expect an email notification or a phone call before valid transactions were blocked.

Instead, in this case, a single international transaction for less than $300 from a company which I had purchased from twice before triggered an immediate shut off in my account. This is just weak data analysis and stupid fraud analysis. It also can leave a customer at risk if they’re solely reliant on the card.

Earlier Charges to

Earlier Charges to

After having this happen twice before (once with Capital One), I was tired of being asked to make phone calls to the bank’s terrible customer service lines just to get my card access back. The last time Capital One shut off my credit card due to fraud it suspected, I was so frustrated I asked the customer support team to place a note on my account that I would close my accounts if it happened again.

So, Sunday, I began the tortuous process of reactivating my cards. First, I spoke to their online chat support – first connected with what seemed like overseas support tech “Alonso.” He began with the typical patronizing comments, “As a consumer I myself understand how it feel when you are unable to use your card to make purchases” and “If I were in your place I would have felt the same way.”

@AskCapitalOne Unanswered Direct Messages

@AskCapitalOne Unanswered Direct Messages

After ten minutes, I was connected to “John.” After making no progress, I instructed him to close my accounts. Finally, John said, “I’d be happy to escalate this issue to our Executive Resolutions team and have a representative contact you back by phone. Would you like to speak with our Executive Resolution team before we proceed to close?” After I relented, John said, “A representative from Executive Resolutions will contact you in 1 – ­2 business days regarding this issue.” I never heard from anyone. I think this is just a tactic they use to reduce closure rates.

Then, I reached out to Capital One support over Twitter – and was told to follow them for direct messaging. I did as instructed and never heard from them. I emailed Capital One’s media team to ask if they would like to comment on this story but have not received a response.

I finally called into their support lines, waded through the overseas layer of customer support up to what seemed like a domestic support personnel – and closed my accounts. I don’t necessarily expect different experiences with my new card providers but I no longer wanted to remain with a company that cared so little about how their policies were impacting me and my time — or one that used data to predict fraud so stupidly.

For example, if Capital One saw a single transaction it suspected might be fraud, it could keep my card active long enough for me to respond to a text message or email (or the next transaction) before shutting down my account. Or, it could wait until it saw a short series of suspect charges before doing so. There are intelligent data models for fraud detection and stupid ones but the banks don’t care. They want to minimize loss without regard to their customers’ experience.

Posted by Jeff Reifman

Jeff is a technology consultant based in the Pacific Northwest. Check out Portland Wild, a visual map-driven guide to Portland's public art, its Heritage Trees and its Little Free Libraries.