Credit Cards and Me – Not Always Best Friends

Credit Cards and Me – Not Always Best Friends

In one of my previous blog posts, I told you about how to prepare for an international flight (you can find the checklist here). I also told you about how important it is to take your credit card with you, and to bring some cash even if you plan to pay using the debit or credit card. Actually, even if I have told you what to do, I have experienced a lot of problems and it seems that I have never learned my lesson. This post is a bit (or actually very) embarrassing to me because if I think about it I even wonder myself how my travels went smooth more or less though I am  not able to deal with credit and debit cards when traveling 🙁

So, I have not even told many about this issue and those who know always ask me “How can this have happened to you?” Well, here is my love-hate relation with debit and credit cards…

Bali

 My first story about my issue with bank cards happened in Bali.  I went to Bali with my sister a couple of years ago. When we went there, I think we didn’t have a credit card with us. What we both had were debit cards, cards we used in Australia and within Europe and which always had worked well so far.  Well, there is always an end to something and Bali proved us that life is not smooth.

 We first went to Bangkok for 5 days and paid mostly with cash we had with us. After that, we traveled to Bali.  After few days we decided to withdraw some money so we did not have to spend our last cash.

This happened on a Friday afternoon. So we went to the ATM and for some reason, it didn’t work. We couldn’t withdraw money. So we thought that maybe we should check the other ATMs, but when we tried it, none of our debit cards worked. We even went from one ATM to another, still none worked and we weren’t able to withdraw any money. We could not figure out what the problem was but we got kind of scared because we were running out of cash.

This was really a bad situation since it was already heading into a Friday evening and we had the weekend before us. We couldn’t call anyone and we couldn’t ask for help. Fortunately, there was an older German couple in our hotel, whose age was similar to my parents,so they apparently saw their own kids in us and they were willing to lend us money. They said that we can transfer the money back to them when we return in Germany. They even stated that they trusted us and shared that it will be fine. We really didn’t want to accept their offer because we felt uncomfortable with it, but it seemed to be our last chance. Back then I did not know anything about WesternUnion or things like this so our mood was kind of bad. While I laughed after a while trying to make the best of it, my sister took it more seriously and our weekend was kind of ruined.

We waited two days and finally went to the bank on a Monday. We were able to withdraw money with our ID. It turned out that our bank in Germany restricted withdrawals in Bali since there was too much fraud and in order so withdraw money we were supposed to let our bank now in advance of an upcoming trip to Bali.

USA

New York

When I went to the USA in 2014 I booked some accommodation and trips in advance – with my credit card (yes, I finally got one in 2014). For the trip I took my credit card, well at least I thought so, and also some cash also. So, eventually I left for my trip to New York but when I was in New York, I noticed that I forgot my cards and only had around $600 in cash. I then called my friend who went to my parent’s house (from where I had left to New York) and she told my mom she wanted to borrow a book and in reality she wanted to send me a copy of my credit card just in case. As my mom really liked that friend she stayed with her while my friend was looking at my bookshelves though she really just wanted to grab my purse with my credit card in it. If I had told my mom about that card she would have stressed out and worried too much so my friend and I had to come up with a lie. My poor dear friend sweated so much as she could not get rid of my mom and also was not able to get the card so after a few minutes she had to tell my mom that it would take a while because she had not been sure which books she was going for so eventually m mom left and she grabbed my card and sent me a copy via email. I only figured out later that a copy does not make any sense to any hotel and the whole action was worth nothing. she went to my house to take a picture of my credit card, so at least I have something to show.

It turned out that the New York hostel did not even care about it because I paid upfront and I was fine for 10 days though I was really on a budget.

I then visited my cousin in Los Angeles and I told my sister that she should transfer money via Western Union so that my friend’s cousin could hand it over to me, which she did. Well, my sister had no idea I was so badly organized and had forgotten my credit card, as I told her my credit card just was not working.

Las Vegas

But it has left a stupid kind of feeling, especially during the last two days and two nights of my trip. I was supposed to go to Las Vegas and for the first night, I picked a room at MGM which I also paid for in advance. But when I arrived there and wanted to check in, they asked for my credit card, which I didn’t have. They said it was okay but asked me to give them $200 (or so) in cash as a deposit. However, I didn’t have that much left because the money I asked my sister to send me was an amount that should cover my daily expenses only.

The hotel’s front office receptionist didn’t want to let me check in. I was really scared at that time since I just booked a hotel for the first night and didn’t book one for the second night. So I waited and went to another receptionist and I told her my story. I recounted that I booked in advance and paid using my credit card which I forgot, and didn’t have money for the deposit. For some reasons that lovely receptionists accepted my story and allowed me to check-in.

For the second night, I tried to book something online (very spontaneously) and paid in advance using my credit card and have some cash for the deposit. I was looking for the cheapest hotel for that night since I was willing to pay in cash and in case they did not want to accept my credit card story. It turned out that it was the Hooters Hotel just around the corner of MGM. I am really not into that Hooters thing and I remember how bad I felt to walk in there to check in… However, they also did not let me check in as they needed my credit card be whipped through the card reader. My flight was scheduled for the other day, at around 7 to 8 o’clock in the morning, so that meant that I had to stay awake all night. I decided to go to the casinos, as well as other places, and stayed until 4 o’clock in the morning. I preferred spending money on activities rather than on hotels.

I actually won more than 55$ on the Micheal Jackson slot machine (read my experience here) and thus not booking a hotel turned out to be a good decision 🙂

Malaysia

Because of the previous experiences I was very well prepared for my Malaysia/Dubai trip last year.

I went to Kuala Lumpur to visit my cousin who studied in Malaysia. For my Kuala Lumpur trip, I had 2 credit cards (yes, I just got a new American Express at that time but had not used it by then and I have one Visa), my debit card (I changed the bank and got a new card) and also some cash. During the first few days, I paid with cash and then realized I’m running out of funds so I should withdraw money. I was with my cousin who drove me to an ATM. However, no surprise, it did not work. Actually, it didn’t work because it wasn’t a normal debit card, it was a V card. I was not aware that it only allows you to withdraw money within Europe (I do not pay a monthly fee for that bank account, so apparently I do not get full service).  So I couldn’t withdraw any money from my normal bank card.

I still had my visa card but I don’t have a password since in Germany, I always sign transactions so I never need a PIN code. It didn’t work in Kuala Lumpur since most of the machines would ask for the PIN which I didn’t have. Also, what didn’t work was my American Express card which I just got new and I also didn’t have a PIN code for that either.

So again I was in a stupid situation with hardly any money and eventually, my cousin helped me out again. Again, I depended on somebody. He gave a couple of hundred euros which I paid back once I was in Germany via Paypal.

Dubai / Hong Kong

So, this time, when I went to Dubai and Hong Kong, I initially thought I was already super smart. I took my debit card which is not really debit card, but I have it just in case for my travels in Germany. I also took my PIN code for my American Express (yes, I got a PIN for my Amercian Express since I realized that even in Germany I always need a pin for my Amercian Express) and I brought my visa card because in Dubai you can pay with visa even without a PIN, what’s needed is just a signature. So, on the first night, I wanted to withdraw money from an ATM with my American Express card because I still don’t have a PIN code for my visa card. Eventually, the PIN didn’t work. I went to withdraw money from other ATM machines and went to all the banks since there were a couple next to each other. They all told me it is not possible to withdraw money using an American Express card.

It seemed that it is only possible to withdraw money with a Visa or a Mastercard, Amercian Express is not that common in many parts of the world. Still checked out a couple of banks since I knew my Visa doesn’t have a PIN code and it doesn’t work. Unfortunately, I didn’t find any bank which accepted an American Express card but then I read the back of my credit card which stated that if I want to use my American Express for withdrawals I need to call first and set it free. No problem for me. I called them in Germany and was told I could use it.

 I also had some cash left to help tide me over. However, even though they said that it is already fine and I can use my card, apparently it did not work. I was not sure what the reason was but I tried it several times before giving up.

I had a friend in Dubai whom I asked for some money and who actually gave me some and it helped me to pay smaller amounts (taxi, take away drinks etc.) in Dubai as well as in Hong Kong.

I once again tried withdrawing money in Hong Kong and it still did not work so I had to be a bit careful with my expenses but mostly I was able to pay with credit card and I was fine. On my last day, I actually met another blogger and I paid something for her with my card and she gave me the amount of cash and this helped me for the last 24 hours.

P.S: When I arrived in Germany  I found a letter from Amercian Express. So the letter had a new PIN which allowed me to withdraw money. It was not the same PIN that I use to pay with.- it turned out that there are different pins for withdrawing money and for paying.

Conclusion

So, luckily these (credit) card stories are the only real problems I encountered on my journeys. Luckily, I have never forgotten/lost my passport or something similar but I hope, this will never happen again and you can trust e: For me next long-distance flight. I will be super weel prepared.  you might think that I always

Anyhow, I really hope that I have learned my lessons. That’s why I’m telling you to please always take a couple of currencies of money and having other means of paying so you don’t get in the same situation as I did.

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Credit Cards and Me – Not Always Best Friends