But one of my biggest fears is losing access to my money while I am traveling. Today that nightmare (at least partially) hit! I tried to get pesos from an ATM and my card was "Declined"! I thought I may have input the wrong PIN or perhaps the exchange rate had changed and I was asking for an amount over my daily limit. I tried again, reducing the requested amount and being very careful with the PIN. Declined again! I went to an Internet cafe, called my Credit Union on Skype and discovered my card was canceled for a "suspected fraudulent swipe on February 24". No discussion, it was canceled. "No problem", she said, "just drop into any branch and we will give you a new card and PIN". I told her to send me a return ticket from Cancun and I would drop in tomorrow. "Oh, I don't know what to say, the card is canceled and I can't change that".
The problem is, the card has not been used or out of my pocket for over two weeks and the only place I use my debit card is in bank branded ATM's. It is not possible that it was swiped on the 24th. Her answer was that someone may have cloned the card and tried using it on that day. I was lucky their computers picked up on it, she said. Shit! Now what?
I got Norma to have her get some cash and two of her cards do not work either. One because of "suspected fraudulent use" and the other because she was using the wrong PIN number. The PIN number is a mystery because she has had the same card and PIN for years and it has always worked. Until today. The "suspected fraudulent use" card they will honor if she calls them every time she uses it. When they get the call they will take the block off for a short period of time. This is not workable in Mexico because there is never access to a phone where you are using the card. Big Problems. She tried a credit card that allows cash withdrawals (charging interest from the instant you get it) and it worked. Mixed blessings.
I bought groceries and handed her my Visa. It worked but I do not have a PIN for withdrawing cash as I refused to pay interest on it. It hindsight, that was a mistake. I have an ATM card from an unsed account at ING bank and can transfer money into it so I am not in big trouble, just inconvenienced. And even more paranoid.
When you leave the country make sure you have several ways to get cash! Credit cards are of limited value as few places accept them. Pesos rule in Mexico. Loose access to them and you are in real trouble!