In my travels, I’ve learned there are two items of importance beyond all others – your passport and your ATM bank card. Maybe in that order, but if you don’t have an ATM card having a passport might not matter.
Over the last five years, I’ve managed to lose/have stolen my credit/ATM card 4-5 times. When it happened in Costa Rica, the problem wasn’t so acute, in that I had a $2,000 emergency fund handy and it didn’t take that long for a new card to be issued and sent to me (although it was first sent to my daughter in North Carolina and then resent to me).
In Indonesia, however, the time lapse is a bit different. Mail from North Carolina takes 17-21 days to make it here, even if my daughter has the time to immediately resend something like a credit card. The bank takes 5-7 days to deliver the card to its U.S, address, so I’m looking at at least four weeks for a card to be sent, redirected and delivered to me.
If it ever arrives.
The first time I lost a card in Indonesia, I had it sent directly to me. Unfortunately, it never made it. Someone intercepted it en route and tried to use it, according to my bank. Without the PIN number, it was useless.
I had it reissued, sent to North Carolina and repackaged to Indonesia. It arrived about a month after the bank sent it out. Fortunately, I was earning a paycheck and had free room and board; otherwise, I would have had to dig into that emergency fund, which I really have mostly to pay for a plane ticket home if things go south.
It was about that time that I realized I needed to have a second, backup, card. So I had the bank issue one and did the same circuitous route to receive it. In December, however, I left my card in the ATM. I’m sure I’m not alone in that but it is embarrassing. I ordered another card, it was sent to North Carolina, repackaged and mailed to me in Indonesia.
Seven weeks later it had not arrived, and wouldn’t you know it, I picked that time to once again leave my card in an ATM. Now, I had no card to withdraw money from the ATM. What I had in pocket was it until a new card arrived.
This time, my emergency fund was only $1,000 and I had no paycheck and no paid-for room and board. Time for panic to set in? After all, I didn’t even have enough cash to pay for a plane ticket to the U.S., and my possible earnings in Batam were iffy, at best, for the foreseeable future.
Not being able to get into your bank account is not a feeling you want to have when you are halfway around the globe from home.
Of course, the first thing you have to do is cancel the lost card and the one that never made it in the mail. I then took the risky step of asking that one of my new cards be mailed directly to me in Indonesia. The second one, I hoped, would be sent to North Carolina and resent to me.
However, my request to my bank resulted in a change of address, so I think both of my replacement cards are heading this way. Maybe in numbers one of them will make it. At least, if one does make it the time to reach me will be two weeks and not four.
There’s a bit of stress in this, so try to avoid my mistakes. And I will try to be even more careful with my credit cards than I have been.
POSTSCRIPT: After I overcame my panic, I realized the people here are pretty honest and that perhaps whoever found my card in the ATM just might have turned it in. So the following morning I did a translation, printed it out and went to the bank. They were very helpful and they had my card! Now the bad news – I had already cancelled it.