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How to Handle Bank Card Trouble When Traveling Abroad

May 16, 2017

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Banking nightmares can happen to even the most seasoned traveler.

Just ask Billie Frank. An avid traveler and co-founder of concierge and trip planning company The Santa Fe Traveler, Frank tried to withdraw about $230 after hours from a Banco Santander ATM in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, in October. The machine gave Frank her card and a withdrawal receipt, but kept the cash.

“The great takeaway for us was not to use an ATM when the bank is not open,” she says.

Whether it’s a malfunctioning ATM, a misplaced card or an aggressive pickpocket, banking issues that are merely inconvenient at home can spur panic when they occur in a foreign country. Planning ahead and knowing what to do can spare you headaches and save your trip from getting derailed.

Call your bank
If you lose your debit card to an ATM or pickpocket, or simply misplace it, the best thing to do is stay calm and call your bank. However, experts add that you should be aware of how to contact your bank internationally as there is a possibility the 800 number won’t work overseas.

Although your bank may not be able to retrieve your card from a faulty ATM, it can advise you on what to do next and suspend the card if necessary. In some cases, it will even send you a replacement by overnight carrier.

Larger banks usually have a number for customers to call when they’re outside the U.S., but smaller credit unions and community banks often have just one all-purpose number for customers to report a lost or stolen card. Doing your research will help provide peace of mind when you need it.

It’s also a good idea to call your bank before heading overseas to let it know when and where you will be traveling. That can be a good opportunity to confirm which number to call if something goes awry with your card.

Have a backup

If possible, it’s best to avoid relying on one card when traveling abroad. Instead, it’s better to pack multiple forms of payment — cash, debit and credit cards — so you have options if one goes missing or simply doesn’t work.

Some merchants in other countries may accept only MasterCard, while others take only Visa, for example. In many countries, you can use cards only with an EMV chip at unattended ticketing kiosks, like those at train stations and subway terminals.

Travelers should always have backup cash, Frank affirms after her ATM incident in Mexico.

But that snafu had a happy ending — eventually.

“About three weeks to the day the money was returned to our account,” Frank says. “We have a good relationship with our bank. I’m not sure it would have worked out, otherwise.”

Kelsey Sheehy is a staff writer at NerdWallet, a personal finance website. Email: Twitter: @KelseyLSheehy.
This article originally appeared on NerdWallet.

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