Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Western Union to the rescue

I will repost this link again about how to protect yourself from ATM thieves.

I spent most of today trying to get cash.  Yes, I have a credit card -- but you can't buy everything with a credit card and it was very limiting.  I felt ridiculous buying a diet coke and a Mars bar this morning on a credit card at the grocery store.  And the vending machine in the hostel is taunting me.  Also, I can't buy breakfast or any other meals here without a credit card.  It's been difficult.

My bank was unsuccessful in unfreezing my bank account.  Although there was fraud, they tried to unfreeze it for an hour (twice) while I was at the ATM.  I used up all my cell phone minutes in the process and had to go back to my hostel and try to call them on skype.  They tried again another time, and it was still declined.  I then asked the hostel, and they sent me to a bank by a huge, beautiful church with gilded figures perched upon large domes.  I would have liked to be a tourist at that time, but I was following my map for a bank instead.  I walked into one bank and the very friendly girl told me it was not that kind of bank and sent me around the corner to a bank called Nordea.  Inside, it was beautiful with a very efficient system for seeing a teller.  I gazed at a display of antique handbags and pins while I waited just a few minutes.  When I saw a teller, she said it was impossible to get money from my credit card without a pin code or to have my bank transfer money since I do not have an account there.  It was possible 10 years ago, but not anymore.  Probably because of security.

She suggested I go to Western Union, which was on the top floor of a very famous department store in the city center.  I went there and they told me to contact someone at home to send funds and then return later with the control number.  I also tried Forex exchange, but they said the same thing -- with no pin number on my credit card, I could not take out money.

Ahh, I had thought of that.  I called my credit card company to get a pin, but they would have to send it to my home address and it would take 7 days.  Too late.  I don't have a pin for my credit card because when I used to have one, I'd be tempted to take cash advances at the awful 19% fee.  Once I had an ATM card, I stopped doing that.

Many travel lessons learned.  Although I travel all the time, I've been pushing my luck by not having a good backup option for hard cash.  For now,  I contacted my father who sent me funds via Western Union, something I've never had to do before.

I know this song is about a telegram, but I still felt it was relevant for another Western Union service.  :)

I will obviously pay him back when I come home because all of my money from the fellowship (and direct deposits from work) are sitting there in the bank account I cannot access.  But I guess I should breathe a sigh of relief because if they didn't notice the fraud, they would have cleared out my account and it would have taken months to get the money back.  Yeah, I'm lucky.

Travel isn't always supposed to be comfortable.  It's also a challenge.  While this isn't exactly fun, I've learned and will grow from the experience.

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