Blocked bank cards cost holiday-making Brits £240m in bills

Blocked bank cards have cost holiday-making Brits a total of £240m, largely due to hefty phone bills incurred after trying to reactivate their cards from abroad, new research shows.

A quarter (26 per cent) of Brits have had their cards blocked while on holiday, despite 61 per cent of those informing their banks that they would be going abroad, according to a survey by uSwitch, the price comparison and switching service.

Reactivating cards has also proven to be a time-consuming exercise, with Brits spending on average 66 minutes of their hard-earned time away on the phone to their bank trying to unblock their cards at an average cost of £42 each. One in six had to wait for over 24 hours before their card was reactivated.

Without access to their own money, one fifth of holidaymakers were forced to borrow money from friends and family and 6 per cent had to pack their bags and abandon their trip altogether.

Although banks typically block cards for security reasons, 19 per cent of holidaymakers said they would like to see banks use technology to identify genuine fraud. For example, using GPS tracking to figure out how far your card is from your phone at the point of purchase, or being able to unblock your card through the provider’s app.

Tom Lyon, money expert at, called on banks “to up their game” and make greater use of technology to provide customers with more efficient ways of reactivating their cards when abroad.

“If you are heading overseas, let your bank know about your travel plans. It is also worth providing your bank with your contact number and making sure your number with them is up-to-date, to allow them to get in touch if you run into problems,” said Mr Lyon.

“If you do incur costs such as call or data charges when trying to reactivate your card, ask your bank for a refund. If your bank turns your complaint down, you can take your case to the free and independent Financial Ombudsman Service.”


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