Warning: travel card active immediately

Giovanni opened a travel card account and loaded the account with foreign currency for use on his overseas trip, received the card and PIN and left for his holiday around Asia. Giovanni believed the card would not be activated until he registered the card online. Giovanni left the card and PIN together in his hotel room. The card and PIN were stolen.

By the time Giovanni discovered the theft, and notified the card issuer, the thief had withdrawn the entire balance, about $1,000, from Giovanni’s account at a nearby ATM. The card issuer sent a replacement card to Giovanni and his holiday continued uneventfully.

Giovanni’s view

When Giovanni returned to New Zealand he complained to the card issuer, asking it to refund the money stolen from his account. Giovanni considered the card issuer should have made it clear that the card was active from the time it was issued.

The card issuer declined to reimburse Giovanni for the money stolen from his account. Giovanni complained to FSCL.


Although there was no explicit warning that the card was active on the information provided when Giovanni received the card, there was a warning to memorise and destroy the record of the PIN. If Giovanni had followed this instruction, the loss would not have occurred.

The card’s terms and conditions stated that the card was active as soon as it was issued, and that the customer would be liable for loss if the customer failed to take reasonable steps to keep the card and PIN safe.


We advised Giovanni that, in our opinion, the travel card issuer was entitled to decline his request for reimbursement of the money stolen from his account. Although disappointed, Giovanni agreed to discontinue his complaint.

Key insight

Although we did not uphold Giovanni’s complaint, we accepted that he genuinely believed he needed to register the card online to activate it and would have taken better care of his card and PIN had he known the card was active immediately. In our opinion, the more information about card security that is provided with the cards, the better. A customer is more likely to read a letter issued with the card than the fine print in the terms and conditions.