Accessing the right account with ATM-only card

By Alan Groudan
This item appears on page 12 of the March 2016 issue.
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My wife and I obtained a new Bank of America ATM card in early 2015. We had one before and traveled all over the world with it and never had any problems. Unfortunately, on our July 2015 trip to France we were unable to get any money from six different bank ATMs that we tried to use.
I made two lengthy overseas calls to Bank of America in the US, reaching both their customer service and fraud personnel, neither of whom on both calls could find any reason for our difficulties. They said that they had not declined our requests and that we could keep trying and that, if all failed, we should go to their group member bank BNP Paribas.
That bank in Paris had a teller on the entrance floor, with all other personnel on the upper floor reached by an elevator. The teller did not permit me to go up and did not offer any help other than to direct me to a cash exchange up the street.
I had taken a limited amount of cash with me. I also had several MasterCard and Visa credit cards with chips, but they had not come with PINs. While debit cards have always worked for me at ATMs in Europe, I was not carrying any on this trip. We ended up using our cash sparingly and found restaurants that took credit cards.
When I had first applied for the card, an ATM-only card, my Bank of America branch told me that I first had to open a savings account. Aside from the bother of having the extra account, I didn’t see any reason to object. I did use the ATM card at my bank in the US before taking it to Europe. Also, before we left, I made sure that my savings account had over $1,000.
After we returned home, I visited our local branch. The manager observed that our ATM card didn’t have the usual Cirrus logo and wondered if that had been the problem. Late in the year, I was sent another ATM card that looked identical to my old card. In December, I went to BofA’s website, looked for “Contact” or something like that and ended up in an online chat with a BofA representative. Here are excerpts from that chat.
Alan: I just received a new ATM card with no credit card logo or Cirrus-type logo. Can it be used out of the country?
BofA: Yes, an ATM card can be used internationally at any ATM.
Alan: I tried my old ATM card at six different ATMs in France in July and it did not work. I just got the new card and it looks identical to my old card. What is different about this new card?
BofA: I see that the last ATM transaction was for $300 on 11/10, which was successful with this ATM card.
Alan: Yes, in the United States at my local branch, not in Europe.
BofA: I do see that your ATM card is not blocked or restricted. I also see that there are no attempts after the withdrawal. Please attempt the withdrawal again.
Alan Groudan: I am not out of the country, but I am concerned that on my next trip it will not work!
BofA: I can assure you that the card will work when traveling abroad again.
Alan: How can you be so sure?
BofA: Please ensure that you select your savings account as well when attempting to make the withdrawal with your ATM card.
Alan: How can I select my savings account when using my ATM card in Europe. I recall no such option at the ATMs.
BofA: You can select the cash withdrawal option. I will add your checking account as well to your ATM card to ensure that you are able to make the withdrawal, since [the savings account] option is not provided.
Alan: That sounds like the answer to the problem.
BofA: Great! I have added your checking account as well to your ATM card. I can assure you that you will not experience a problem upon your next visit to Europe since these changes have been made.
Alan: Thank you. I hope you’re correct.
I should note that before the online chat, when I used my new ATM-only card at my local branch, the money came out of my dedicated savings account. When I used the card after the online chat, the money came out of my checking account, which — without seeing a way to access my savings account — is apparently what needs to happen with this card at ATMs in Europe.
ALAN GROUDAN
Harrington Park, NJ

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My wife and I obtained a new Bank of America ATM card in early 2015. We had one before and traveled all over the world with it and never had any problems. Unfortunately, on our July 2015 trip to France we were unable to get any money from six different bank ATMs that we tried to use.
I made two lengthy overseas calls to Bank of America in the US, reaching both their customer service and fraud personnel, neither of whom on both calls could find any reason for our difficulties. They said that they had not declined our requests and that we could keep trying and that, if all failed, we should go to their group member bank BNP Paribas.
That bank in Paris had a teller on the entrance floor, with all other personnel on the upper floor reached by an elevator. The teller did not permit me to go up and did not offer any help other than to direct me to a cash exchange up the street.
I had taken a limited amount of cash with me. I also had several MasterCard and Visa credit cards with chips, but they had not come with PINs. While debit cards have always worked for me at ATMs in Europe, I was not carrying any on this trip. We ended up using our cash sparingly and found restaurants that took credit cards.
When I had first applied for the card, an ATM-only card, my Bank of America branch told me that I first had to open a savings account. Aside from the bother of having the extra account, I didn’t see any reason to object. I did use the ATM card at my bank in the US before taking it to Europe. Also, before we left, I made sure that my savings account had over $1,000.
After we returned home, I visited our local branch. The manager observed that our ATM card didn’t have the usual Cirrus logo and wondered if that had been the problem. Late in the year, I was sent another ATM card that looked identical to my old card. In December, I went to BofA’s website, looked for “Contact” or something like that and ended up in an online chat with a BofA representative. Here are excerpts from that chat.
Alan: I just received a new ATM card with no credit card logo or Cirrus-type logo. Can it be used out of the country?
BofA: Yes, an ATM card can be used internationally at any ATM.
Alan: I tried my old ATM card at six different ATMs in France in July and it did not work. I just got the new card and it looks identical to my old card. What is different about this new card?
BofA: I see that the last ATM transaction was for $300 on 11/10, which was successful with this ATM card.
Alan: Yes, in the United States at my local branch, not in Europe.
BofA: I do see that your ATM card is not blocked or restricted. I also see that there are no attempts after the withdrawal. Please attempt the withdrawal again.
Alan Groudan: I am not out of the country, but I am concerned that on my next trip it will not work!
BofA: I can assure you that the card will work when traveling abroad again.
Alan: How can you be so sure?
BofA: Please ensure that you select your savings account as well when attempting to make the withdrawal with your ATM card.
Alan: How can I select my savings account when using my ATM card in Europe. I recall no such option at the ATMs.
BofA: You can select the cash withdrawal option. I will add your checking account as well to your ATM card to ensure that you are able to make the withdrawal, since [the savings account] option is not provided.
Alan: That sounds like the answer to the problem.
BofA: Great! I have added your checking account as well to your ATM card. I can assure you that you will not experience a problem upon your next visit to Europe since these changes have been made.
Alan: Thank you. I hope you’re correct.
I should note that before the online chat, when I used my new ATM-only card at my local branch, the money came out of my dedicated savings account. When I used the card after the online chat, the money came out of my checking account, which — without seeing a way to access my savings account — is apparently what needs to happen with this card at ATMs in Europe.
ALAN GROUDAN
Harrington Park, NJ