Avoid Debit/Credit Card Issues Abroad

Picture this: You’re spending time abroad in Europe. You decide, on a whim, that you’d like to go to Spain, so you book a flight and before you know it, you’re on your way. You touch down, get your passport stamped and hop on the first thing en route to the city centre. You reach your place of accomodation and pull out your card to pay, but something goes awry and it declines. You try again but to no avail. Suddenly you realize your worst nightmare might be coming true. In a panic, you ask the location of the nearest ATM. Your shoes must have grown wings— a la Greek God Hermes— because you fly to the cash machine in record time. Card inserted, you punch in your pin, enter a cash amount and wait… rejected! You try again… declined! You try three different ATMs. Same conclusion. Now you start to freak out: you realize you’re in a foreign country with only a couple Euros on hand and zero access to your bank account. What are you going to do? 

The above scenario happened to me on a trip to Barcelona. It is something that could have been avoided had I taken the necessary precautions and contacted my bank prior to getting on that plane. Had I made the phone call, I would have been informed of an issue in Spain at the time, an issue which caused my bank to block transactions made throughout the whole of the country. 

So, before you go anywhere, the first thing you need to do is contact your bank/credit card company: 

  • Inform the bank of your plans to travel abroad & have them notate your account. If you neglect doing this, you run the risk of your account being flagged for ID theft. Your account will be frozen, and you will be screwed.
  • Ask if your debit/credit card will work with the local ATMs. Not all Cash machines are created equal. If you know beforehand, you can take the necessary precautions (i.e. Exchanging currency at the airport, Obtaining travelers cheques or a Prepaid Travel Debit Card
  • Talk to company to find out if your country-of-choice is on bank’s ban list. What’s more, ask if they can forsee any problems in the coming weeks. Leave nothing to chance. You don’t want to get somewhere only to have the above scenario happen to you.

Did I resolve the issue? Of course I did. I called my mother and had her withdrawl money from my account and wire it to me. But that all could have been avoided had I taken a moment to contact the bank before my departure. Happy Travels! —VJ