Having money is useful when you’re travelling. You can use it to pay for accommodation, food, transport and the like. There’s only one thing worse than not having money on the road, not having access to the money you do have.
I Lost My Card
In Yogyakarta, a touristy city in Central Java, Indonesia, I collected my cash from the ATM and walked away without my card. Yes, indeed I did.
In most countries I’ve been to, ATMs won’t dispense your cash until you’ve collected your card. The machines even beep madly until you do. Remove card, take cash, put in wallet, walk away. That’s the standard process. Remove card, take cash, put in wallet, walk away. Do this enough over time and it becomes ingrained. …take cash, put in wallet, walk away.
Indonesian ATMs do it the other way around. They dispense your money and then ask, ‘Would you like another transaction?’ No and you get your card. Yes and it asks for your PIN number before allowing you to make another transaction.
…take cash, put in wallet, walk away. So when it gave me my cash, I put it into my wallet and walked away, leaving my card in the machine. Thankfully, without my PIN, no new transactions could be made. When I noticed the card was missing the next morning, I rang the bank and was told the card was likely destroyed. Fuck.
Thankfully on this portion of my trip I’m not travelling alone. My brother agreed to lend me some money until it could all be sorted out. Thanks bro!
“We can send you out a new card,” I was told when I Skyped to cancel it. ‘It’ll take three weeks to get to Asia, where should we send it?” At that stage I had only a vague idea where we were going to be in 3 weeks. They wanted an address and phone number to confirm receipt. So, I made a plan, booked a hostel in Singapore and Skyped them back.
Once the arrangements had been made they put me through to MasterCard International. I was given two options: arrange for an emergency card to arrive in 3 working days, or get emergency cash which I could collect from any Western Union outlet. It was a Friday and I wasn’t sure where we’d be in 3 working days, so I went with the emergency cash.
Western Union Emergency Cash
Two hours later I got the call that I could collect the money from any Western Union outlet within 72 hours. The next day, a Saturday, I went searching. Google Maps showed plenty so I walked the humid streets of Yogyakarta looking for them. I found only one, a postal outlet and was told to try a bank, but banks don’t open on weekends. I’d also booked a train to another city for early Monday afternoon, giving me only the Monday morning to get the cash before my 72 hours expired.
Before the train, I visited a bank that Western Union online had assured me I could get the transfer. Nope, they didn’t do it anymore. The 7/11 next to the bank had a WU sticker on the door but couldn’t help me either. I walked the street for 30 minutes, visiting several banks, some with the WU sticker, but none could help me. I eventually found a bank, but was told that the Western Union system was down. Annoyed, I got on the train and rang MasterCard International to arrange another emergency cash advance.
The next day, in Bandung, West Java, I went to a large post office, presented my passport, waited an hour and was finally given my cash.
The English Backup Card
I’d worked in London while in the UK and had about £250 in a British account that I hadn’t wanted to touch. But a week later and two more cities along our route I decided to use it instead of Western Union.
The ATM declined my attempt telling me to contact my bank. Since I hadn’t planned to use the money, I hadn’t told my UK bank I was going to Asia. I Skyped the UK and was told it had been blocked because of my attempt. So, they unblocked it. Next day I tried again, still blocked. I Skyped again, went through 4 sets of security checks before the fraud team finally unblocked it. It felt great to have direct access to my cash again.
Your Card Has Arrived
We were two days from arriving in Singapore when I got the email. It was from my bank and the Subject line read, “Your Card Has Arrived.” Relieved, I opened the email and read that my card had arrived in the Sydney. Fuck.
I politely wrote back explaining my card was supposed to be in Singapore. Checking the notes in my account, they kindly sorted it out, arranging to courier the card to Singapore. As a precaution, I arranged for an emergency card from MasterCard International as well. Two hours later I got the message that my bank had declined the emergency card.
Skyping my bank, I discovered it had been declined because there were no notes about my plans to travel in Asia! But… I’d rung them before the trip to let them know and I’d just gone through the saga of reporting my card lost and getting a new one shipped to Singapore! We added fresh notes and they approved the card.
My Card Really Has Arrived, But…
In Singapore, my emergency card arrived and I went to collect it. It had no PIN so I needed to get cash advances across the counter at a bank. I managed this and had cash! Then 3 days later, my new ATM card arrived. I collected it and was pleased that the saga was finally over. Or so I thought. When I tried to use the card, I got the message, ‘Incorrect PIN’. Yup, fuck.
I Skyped the bank and was told that it must be an ATM issue as no PIN change request had been registered. I tried another ATM with the same issue. I had no choice but to get a new PIN sent to me. It would take 3 days to anywhere in Australia or 3 weeks to Asia. I chose to have it sent to my parent’s house in New Zealand, a 7-10 day wait. I’m glad I’d ordered the MasterCard International Emergency Card.
I got the message 6 days later from New Zealand, the letter had arrived. Now in Kuala Lumpar in Malaysia, I tried my card and it works!
Time to get back to enjoying my travels!
Until next time,