Replacing a debit card overseas

By Brigid Duffy
This item appears on page 13 of the August 2014 issue.
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Late on Saturday, the day before my scheduled Jan. 19, 2014, departure for a long-anticipated solo vacation in New Zealand, a defective ATM in San Francisco ate my debit card. That left me with $123 in cash at the start of a 2-month trip.

How do you stretch $123 for two months? Don’t ask me; I didn’t do it.

What I did do was use Skype on my iPad mini to contact my credit union as soon as they were open. (The iPad mini, a retirement gift from former office mates in San Francisco whom I had been visiting, saved both the trip and my sanity.)

The day after my departure for New Zealand was the Martin Luther King holiday, so I knew I would have to wait until at least Tuesday to call my credit union in Washington, DC. I waited until Wednesday, the 22nd, to call but got no answer. Their office was closed due to the blizzard that had shut down the East Coast. I did get through the next day.

Once I verified who I was, the credit union agent agreed to send an emergency debit card to my hotel in Auckland.

So how do you stretch $123 over three weeks? Don’t ask me; I didn’t do it. To begin with, any expenses that I could charge went on my credit card. Regarding other expenses, when I ran through my cash on hand, I went to a bank (ANZ, in this case, but any nationwide bank probably would have done it) with my ID and my tale of woe and asked for a cash advance on my credit card.

Then I went back to the hotel, used the iPad mini to find my credit union’s website and transferred the amount of the cash advance from my checking account to my credit card account. That created a zero balance at the end of the day, when the credit card service would have calculated fees on any cash advances (zero balance = no fee).

I did this twice, and the transaction fees for the cash advances totaled less than $2 (I was a few hours late the second time).

Through all of this, the employees at the Department of Commerce Federal Credit Union were outstanding — courteous, kind and extremely understanding.

After problems with the Auckland delivery courier, my replacement card ultimately was forwarded to the hotel at my next stop, Thames, arriving 15 days after I had requested it. I didn’t get around to using the debit card until Feb. 19 in Queenstown.

Being short on cash for a month, I spent more time in public spaces (parks, libraries, public transit and walking trails) and less in museums, art galleries and tourist traps and on tours. That, in turn, led to more encounters with ordinary people — Kiwis as well as travelers — than I might have had otherwise. That was most satisfying. My New Zealand adventure had become an extraordinary experience.

Patience, persistence and reliable Internet connections: that’s what it takes to replace a debit card while overseas.

BRIGID DUFFY

Kansas City, MO

Please login or subscribe to ITN to read the entire post.

Late on Saturday, the day before my scheduled Jan. 19, 2014, departure for a long-anticipated solo vacation in New Zealand, a defective ATM in San Francisco ate my debit card. That left me with $123 in cash at the start of a 2-month trip.

How do you stretch $123 for two months? Don’t ask me; I didn’t do it.

What I did do was use Skype on my iPad mini to contact my credit union as soon as they were open. (The iPad mini, a retirement gift from former office mates in San Francisco whom I had been visiting, saved both the trip and my sanity.)

The day after my departure for New Zealand was the Martin Luther King holiday, so I knew I would have to wait until at least Tuesday to call my credit union in Washington, DC. I waited until Wednesday, the 22nd, to call but got no answer. Their office was closed due to the blizzard that had shut down the East Coast. I did get through the next day.

Once I verified who I was, the credit union agent agreed to send an emergency debit card to my hotel in Auckland.

So how do you stretch $123 over three weeks? Don’t ask me; I didn’t do it. To begin with, any expenses that I could charge went on my credit card. Regarding other expenses, when I ran through my cash on hand, I went to a bank (ANZ, in this case, but any nationwide bank probably would have done it) with my ID and my tale of woe and asked for a cash advance on my credit card.

Then I went back to the hotel, used the iPad mini to find my credit union’s website and transferred the amount of the cash advance from my checking account to my credit card account. That created a zero balance at the end of the day, when the credit card service would have calculated fees on any cash advances (zero balance = no fee).

I did this twice, and the transaction fees for the cash advances totaled less than $2 (I was a few hours late the second time).

Through all of this, the employees at the Department of Commerce Federal Credit Union were outstanding — courteous, kind and extremely understanding.

After problems with the Auckland delivery courier, my replacement card ultimately was forwarded to the hotel at my next stop, Thames, arriving 15 days after I had requested it. I didn’t get around to using the debit card until Feb. 19 in Queenstown.

Being short on cash for a month, I spent more time in public spaces (parks, libraries, public transit and walking trails) and less in museums, art galleries and tourist traps and on tours. That, in turn, led to more encounters with ordinary people — Kiwis as well as travelers — than I might have had otherwise. That was most satisfying. My New Zealand adventure had become an extraordinary experience.

Patience, persistence and reliable Internet connections: that’s what it takes to replace a debit card while overseas.

BRIGID DUFFY

Kansas City, MO