Credit Card Follies

Okay, consider this a public service announcement for those very few of you who’ve not figured this out yet.

Having not traveled much in other than official business capacity…and not much overseas travel even at that…I learned a few things on this trip to ZA.  Yeah, even at my tender age of mumblety-three.

So, first – – Show of hands…which idiot forgot to tell the credit card people that he was going to ZA?  Yep, I’m the only one with my hand up in the air.   I got to the end of the first week there and, trying to make a purchase of a day petting the elephant (no, not a euphemism), was informed that my Visa card had declined any further purchases.  Okay, on the good side, they did notice a ‘slight’ irregularity in spending and shut down the card.  That irregularity being that 98% of previous purchases were made in the Wilds of Ohio (the other 2% within the confines of the U.S. of A.).  Actually, I’d prefer they shut down the card if there were charges starting to pile up from Notusualkastahn or some such.

On the bad side?  They shut the card down at the end of the business day on Friday.  No one to talk to that could start the card back up until Monday.  Now, come to find out that there IS a number to call, separate from the main bank office.  Just never knew (since, again, I never called to let them know).  We had tons planned, but little cash money to do anything.  Yeah, I had an AmEx card, but not a lot of folks accept that because of the higher than normal fees they charge the merchants to accept that card.

Finally getting it straightened out on Monday, I was again able to use my card…just in time for the number to be scammed somewhere (I’m guessing it was the grocery store, but really can’t be sure).  Since the second week was mostly at Girl Child’s village, I didn’t need to use the card much.  Until we tried to pay for something the following Saturday.  Now that was festive – –

Called an automated number I’d gotten from the bank on Monday to find out why the card wasn’t working.  That call went something like —

“We’d like to confirm your last 5 charges.  Please press ‘1’ if you did make the charge and ‘2’ if you did not.

“$124.15* from company XYZ?”  [pressed ‘1’]

“$43.50 from company MNO?” [pressed ‘1’]

“$4,315.90 from company ABC?”  [SMASHED key ‘2’]

“$2,540.70 from company JKL?” [CRUSHED key ‘2’]

“$32.30 from company RST?”  [calmed enough to press ‘1’]

they looked **just** like this, i'm sure

Ended up having to call back to talk to a human to get the card canceled and the charges refused.  And back again stuck with what little cash I had on hand (plus the meager cash reserves of Daughter Person) and the AmEx (hoping I could find places that would take it).

So, tip #1 from your Uncle GnuKid?  Call your credit card company to let them know you’ll be spending money in another country.  They’ll be less likely to freak out and shut down your card.

Tip #2?  When you call, make sure you get an international number you can call, even on weekends, to work out any issues.

Tip #3?  Careful of over-reliance on AmEx to save your butt.

Tip #4?  Plan extra cash on hand (knowing full well you don’t want too much cash…there are issues there as well…).

My tip for avoiding getting your card number scammed?  Sorry, troops.  I’ve got nothing.  Neither did the credit card company.  If someone really wants your number, they’ll figure a way to get it.

In the end?  All was well enough…the trip was not ruined (though did have a blemish).

And to the twit who tried to charge some R30 000 on a credit card that wasn’t yours?  Thank you… your greed actually saved me from having to pay.


*yes, a bit weird that I was making purchases in Rand, but the system already converted them to Dollars for the phone call.


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10 Responses to “Credit Card Follies”

  1. Rob Says:

    Friend of ours recently had their bank accounts broken into. Wiped out chequing and savings balances and maxed out their bank credit cards. Quite a story when it happends close to home.

    I’ve been lucky so far, but haven’t travelled as exotically as you have recently. I barely skim the statements each month, but probably should take closer note, I suppose.

    I can’t believe these jerks who think they can just live off the backs of others they’ve ripped off. I’d say the death penalty is almost too good for them. Almost, but not quite.

    Glad that all worked for you in the end.

  2. Mitzi G Burger Says:

    The perils of international travel. What nasty scammers!

  3. nursemyra Says:

    oh creepy. I had a bad experience in Seville with credit/debit cards too. didn’t realise I couldn’t just sign for everything like i do over here and I didn’t have a PIN so I couldn’t use my cards for anything… had spent all my cash in Barcelona. Rang my bank but they could only provide me with a PIN via snailmail so I had to wait for days. It’s an awful feeling being overseas and unable to access your own money. Personally I prefer travellers cheques but the banks want you to use cards and ATMs instead.

  4. kyknoord Says:

    I’d hoped you would be spared the “traditional” South African welcome, but it seems it was too much to hope for. Foreign visitors often get hit, because they aren’t used to the high level of crime and are unfamiliar with the tricks the scammers use.

  5. Dolce Says:

    I was called by my credit card company when I was in London. They observed some high charges on my card. I said with glee: “yes, that’s me, I’m shopping!” The guy laughed and wished me luck. Bless them for caring!

  6. daisyfae Says:

    zoicks! there are people out there who try to steal credit card numbers? how awful!

    seriously, glad you got it sorted… i’ve got a few travel tricks to mitigate damages should it occur, but they are diligent and will get one eventually…

  7. Stephanie of Stopbouncing Says:

    Oy vey!
    Our bank calls us ALL THE TIME if there’s something fishy on our charges, so we called them before we went overseas.
    Good to know about the back-up card though, because that too was our back-up plan…

    Glad to hear that hiccup didn’t mar your trip.

  8. Lynn Says:

    good tips gnukid but i want more colorful euphemisms!!

  9. Girlunpinned Says:

    Oy vey. Welcome to Africa – we do things differently here. Next time get a cash passport – preload with cash, available at any ATM in the country (remembering of course the $1 ‘fee’ (dollar, not ront!) they slap on ever 10$ drawn. Protects you from currency fluctuations(important when you’re going ZAR to $).

  10. thegnukid Says:

    rob – yeah, i’m with you on doing unspeakable things to people who feel they can just take your stuff. now to just figure out what those unspeakable things are.

    mitzi – well, it isn’t going to stop me from traveling, that’s for sure. still makes me mad. but lesson learned for next trip.

    nursemyra – exactly! i had money just sitting there that i couldn’t access. MY money. made me angry. but, figured it out and made the trip fun. just as you did in Seville.

    kyknoord – i was warned about the crime in ZA, but not so much credit card scamming as outright pickpocketing and carjacking. still, it was all part of the experience, yes?

    dolce – yep, at least they do keep an eye on things for you. saved me quite a few dollars, even if it was inconvenient. glad you were able to continue the fun shop.

    daisyfae – ooo, dear, your sarcasm is showing. tuck that back in, will you? [snort] unfortunately, they’re too diligent. but i’ll learn. improvise, overcome, adapt!

    stephanie – the hiccup had a little of last night’s dinner in it, but didn’t ruin things. i live, i learn, i keep traveling!

    lynn – [chuckle] will spin some up for you, dear lady. euphemisms are most fun when most colorful.

    girlunpinned – welcome back to The Wilds. i’m thinking next time i just bring lots of cash and a rottweiler or doberman. but thanks for the cash passport tip.

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