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Canceled ATM Card = Traveler’s Hell

Coyhaique, Chile It doesn’t take someone with a perfect comprehension of the Spanish language to understand that when an ATM only gives you a receipt saying ‘Tarjeta capturada por orden del emisor.’ that you have been properly screwed. I stood in disbelief that the ATM just ate my card and recounted the 12,000 pesos (about [...]

Coyhaique, Chile

It doesn’t take someone with a perfect comprehension of the Spanish language to understand that when an ATM only gives you a receipt saying ‘Tarjeta capturada por orden del emisor.’ that you have been properly screwed.

I stood in disbelief that the ATM just ate my card and recounted the 12,000 pesos (about $24) in my pocket knowing that I had enough money for dinner and lodging for one night. This was after crossing the Chilean border and spending a day and a half in Chile Chico, Chile where the ATM also refused to give me or Alan any Chilean pesos. At this point I was relying on the few Chilean pesos I could get for my left-over Argentine pesos the day before.


Looks like it was time to call my bank.

Before embarking on the hell that was about to be my life for the day I thought of how well these conversations could go when
1. I’m not in the U.S..
2. I don’t have an address.
3. I don’t have a phone number. Or a phone.
4. To call them I need to stand on the street and swindle the wifi connection from the corner restaurant.

With a deep sigh I dialed up.

“Um…Hi. I’m traveling in Chile and my card was eaten by an ATM because you ordered it to happen.” I wasn’t really sure what else to say. That seems to sum everything up, right?

In the typical customer service voice, “Let’s see what I can do. Oh yes, I see on your account that your card was canceled because Visa has deemed your card was at a high risk of fraud. It was canceled on March 2nd. But a new one was sent to you in February to replace that card.”

“I’ve been traveling for the last six months and am currently in South America so I don’t have access to the replacement card. I also don’t plan on returning to the U.S. in the near future can you just reactivate my card.”

“Let’s see what I can I do. Can I put you on hold for a minute?”

One minute turns to five minutes which turns into fifteen.

“I’m sorry. There is no way to reactivate your card. Visa has deemed that your card number along with several hundred others could have been copied and they ordered them to be deactivated. Once deactivated there is no possible way to reactivate it.”

At this point we switched over into talking about everything from Visa’s 911 program, emergency cash, emergency cards, regular bank cards, ‘No, you can’t call me. I don’t have a phone number.’, bank authorization processes, ‘No, I don’t have an address at the moment. Let me find out where you can send a card.’, security questions, Western Union locations, bank hours in Chile due to siesta (that’s right, siesta, the banks close for siesta), customs, ‘hold on one second a homeless guy is begging me for change.’, ‘What’s that? I can’t understand you, was I just transferred to someone working on the moon?’, card expiration dates, ‘Can you hold on one second? I need to move away from the stray dog street fight going on.’ and hand-written authorization faxes.

Yes! Finally someone who could cut through all the Visa B.S., give me straight answers and get things done. Paul. The first person who truly understood that the only way to contact me was through e-mail. Paul. The guy who was willing to give me his extension number. Paul. The guy who would personally see that my card was sent to me. Paul. My hero at Charles Schwab.

After all was said and done I should have a new ATM card in a week and a half.

But what about until then? Three tips to get money.

  1. Carry a stash of the only thing that’s truly accepted everywhere. U.S. currency.
  2. Carry a credit card. You can get cash advances. Just make sure to pay off the balance the same day since cash advances accrue interest daily.
  3. Get Visa or Mastercard to wire you ’emergency cash’ if needed. They just need authorization from your bank.

So, what should I do for a week and a half until my card arrives?

Filed under: Chile, Cubicle Ditcher, Money

About the Author:

Sam Langley left a comfortable and profitable job with an insurance company in the USA to travel the world. He has been going for years, and has not stopped yet. Keep up with his travels on his blog at Cubicle Ditcher. has written 147 posts on Vagabond Journey. Contact the author.

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