42

I've been pickpocketed twice and had debit cards swallowed by ATMs twice over the past decade or so. I've also had cards expire during a long trip.

For my upcoming trip which I envision will last over one year, I just asked my bank what can be done.

They cannot give me two cards for the same account. So I can't keep a backup card safe.

In the past it took about six weeks to get my bank to replace my lost card, even though my bank (ANZ) had a branch in the country I was in (Laos).

Normally I've had a debit card and a credit card from the same bank so if I lose one I can use the other to access the account. But I can't get a credit card at the moment.

In the case of my card expiring during my trip, the best they can do is send a new card to a relative about two weeks before my card expires and I can get the new card sent out, though how easy that is depends on the country I'm in. The bank might also be able to send the new card internationally, also depending on the country.

Has anyone else here had to deal with similar circumstances before? What have you done to improve the situation?

  • 14
    Sounds like you need a better bank. And a second bank, also hopefully better than the current one. I’d be surprised if New Zealand is as backward as USA, but in USA, we have two debit cards on each account (two banks) but admittedly not with the same name. And two credit cards on the same account. We also have the ability to get online and transfer funds with no fee from one bank to the other. – WGroleau Jan 2 at 8:07
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    Carrying some traveler's cheques, say $200 worth, can give you some fallback. I have been in some situations (remote island in Laos, power failure on Thai island) where cards couldn't be used but traveler's cheques could be. – paj28 Jan 2 at 11:18
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    If you are in NZ and can switch banks, I presently have two different EFTPOS cards from Kiwibank on the same account, and have previously had a debit card there too. I don't think they let you get a second debit card on the same account though. – Someone Somewhere Jan 2 at 11:52
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    At every bank I've ever used, you can open more than one account. It sounds like you presently have one "saving" type account (no card) and one "current" type account (it has a card). Click or walk in to the bank and open one, two, three more "current" type accounts. You will get a card for each. Couldn't be simpler. – Fattie Jan 2 at 13:12
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    Having two cards on the same account may not help anyway as from personal experience the bank may insist on cancelling both if you report one stolen. – mdewey Jan 2 at 16:01

16 Answers 16

47

This is a fairly simple approach, but I have a couple of different cards (including ATM/debit and credit) from different banks (which also helps with ATM compatibility issues). When I travel, I take care not to keep them all in the same place. This takes some effort to ensure they're being stored securely and don't get lost, since you're moving them around more than normal. Unless I'm the victim of a serious robbery in which everything is taken, I have an backup option if anything goes wrong.

For example, I might take a card out of my wallet and leave it in a safe at my accommodations. If pickpockets are a concern, besides taking the usual precautions (which could be anything from putting my usual wallet in my front pocket to a travel wallet on a chain to a body-worn hidden pouch), I sometimes move a card to a different part of my body or bag.

If you're doing this with ATM/debit cards, you don't necessarily need to keep a lot of money in the second account, just enough to last you for a few days until you can complete a transfer in an emergency. At least with US banks, a savings account with a lowish balance is one way to accomplish this; there usually aren't any monthly fees (though the interest is generally near-zero), and while there's a monthly transaction limit, it's sufficient for at least a few withdrawals a month.

  • 1
    Yes with my bank I technically have two accounts. One pays a small amount of interest and has all my savings in it, the other pays almost no interest and I transfer to it just before using an ATM. Unfortunately they tell me the former account is an online-only account and doesn't qualify for a card of its own. – hippietrail Jan 2 at 1:04
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    Dude it's utterly normal to have more than one account at the same bank. Regarding the latter account you describe - the one with the card - simply open another account (or say, two more, three more .. whatever you want) like that one. Each one will come with a card. – Fattie Jan 2 at 13:13
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    This should be really easy to do with ANZ, as they offer free issue of travel cards with a separate attached account and a spare (anz.com.au/promo/personal/travel-international/anz-travel-card). I have used similar products from other Australian banks and assuming that they are the same, the spare should have a separate number. – Jack Jan 4 at 1:11
  • @Jack: My understanding has always been that these "travel money cards" are great for people going to one or two countries but not for people going around the world with no plan. But maybe I'm wrong. In any case we do not yet have a specific question about them and I mainly see people bringing up their positive attributes so I've asked a new question to find out about their negatives: travel.stackexchange.com/questions/129575/… – hippietrail Jan 5 at 0:44
19

Consider opening a second account at the same bank. Get an ATM/debit card for the second account. Carry both cards: i.e., duplicate your current setup. The cost to you is whatever the bank charges to open or maintain the additional account, plus the lost interest on the money the second account. But it'll give you a second well from which to draw water.

  • Doesn’t even need to be same bank but would be easier if it was. – Notts90 Jan 2 at 14:14
  • Can you explain more how interest is lost? – Lightness Races in Orbit Jan 2 at 16:33
  • @LightnessRacesinOrbit: Money sitting in the second account (typically you need at least a small non-zero balance to avoid automatic closure) isn't sitting in a savings account. So you lose out on the difference in interest rates. – Ben Voigt Jan 2 at 17:40
  • @BenVoigt Interesting. My interpretation was that this money would otherwise have been sitting in the first current account and thus subject to the same conditions. – Lightness Races in Orbit Jan 2 at 17:41
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    @LightnessRacesinOrbit: Whenever I take a backup card, I make sure that it is not convenient to access (for pickpockets, which means it's also inconvenient for me) – Ben Voigt Jan 2 at 17:50
17

If you have a friend with a mailbox in Europe, you can open an account with Revolut. You can also wait for the official launch in Australia, which is scheduled for March 2019. Revolut solves your problem by allowing an unlimited number of issued debit cards and by also letting you instantly order a new card to any address in the world. In addition, it has the following benefits for travel:

  • It is extremely easy to lock/unlock cards, as it's done directly from their app
  • Revolut doesn't charge commission on international currency conversion, unlike normal banks which charge around 2% for each foreign transaction that you make
  • You can top it up through any other bank card, so you could for example ask a friend to top it up in case of an emergency
  • You can tie your Revolut profile to a virtual phone number from a service like Anveo, which means you could access your account even if your smartphone is stolen along with the SIM card inside it.
11

If you are in New Zealand, Kiwibank's Loaded for Travel card might provide part of what you are looking for: it carries (some) overseas currencies natively (i.e. you load it in foreign currencies, using the exchange rate at time of load), and they give you two cards linked to the same account (you can disable one if you lose it by calling them or using the website).

From the website:

You get two Loaded™ for Travel cards – one for general use and another as a back-up.

Anecdotally, I found the web interface for loading cards to be a little difficult to use (luckily it integrates well with Kiwibank online banking so I didn't need to use the Loaded for Travel site too much, you really only need it to register your cards initially and to transfer money between different foreign currencies on the card).

You do have to live in New Zealand to register, though:

Loaded™ for Travel cards are only available for purchase by persons in New Zealand and are not offered to any person outside New Zealand (and by purchasing a Loaded™ for Travel card you represent to us that you are in New Zealand and not outside New Zealand).

  • No my bank always suggests these travel cards but I investigated them and they might be OK for a short trip to one or two countries or businesspeople visiting the same places over and over. But for somebody with little plan likely to visit many countries it just doesn't work out. Usually only certain currencies are provided or have a good rate and conversion rates using extra currencies tend to be expensive. – hippietrail Jan 2 at 6:19
  • I've asked a new question specifically about when these "travel money cards" have any downsides. By the way I can't even find a Wikipedia page bout the cards even though they've been around for a few years now. They are kinda touched on a bit in a couple of articles but I can't find the article focusing on them. Anyway my new question: travel.stackexchange.com/questions/129575/… – hippietrail Jan 5 at 0:41
10

Maybe if your bank has a mobile/cell-phone app that allows you to tie your credit card/debit card to it and use it instead of carrying your real cards (basically you will still have your real cards to act as a "backup" if your phone is lost.

I sat on my CC a while back, so it literally snapped and broke the chip and pin, but my phone was more than happy to cover the period while waiting for the new card.

  • or ApplePay / GooglePay – Agent_L Jan 4 at 13:12
9

I agree with other answers that the best option is to get a secondary payment card from another bank or service.

However, when you lose your card(s) it's unfortunately sometimes the case that a card was lost in a purse or bag that also contained other important items. In some disaster scenarios, travelers lose not only their cards, but also their phone, ID, etc. This answer deals with how to mitigate the adverse effects of even such disasters.

When you lose absolutely everything

Western Union

Western Union allows you to receive up to 1000 USD, even in the case you lose your passport. The money is collected using a secret password given to you by the sender. Before your journey you could ask a trusted friend or family member if they would be willing to do that for you should you find yourself in such a situation. It is easier if you have talked to them in advance and made sure that they know how to use WU, minimising the time needed during an emergency. This means that you have a last resort in a total emergency when you lose absolutely everything. WU offices/agents are found all over the world, even in small towns in remote areas. The main inconvenience of this approach is that if you do not have identification, WU demands that you report loss of ID to the local police before receiving money in such a way. However, in a total emergency, that may be less inconvenient than other options. Also, it is important that your friend/relative verifies that it is actually you before sending, as claiming to be a loved one in distress is a common scam method.

While I was backpacking in challenging areas I always used to have a 2000 rupee note (25 EUR) hidden in my shoe, just in case of disaster or anything and I needed to access the internet, get a taxi, or anything like that. This has the additional benefit of helping you out when there are no working ATMs nearby, or when the internet is down in your area.

Cryptocurrency

Some countries have Bitcoin ATMs. In places with no such ATMs, you may possibly find someone willing to trade cryptocurrency for cash. For emergencies, you could keep some bitcoin in case you lose everything. You could keep the secret key to this bitcoin in the cloud somewhere, encrypted with a password that you have memorised. You can also print the secret key (use a cipher for safety) and keep it with you. Many Bitcoin ATMs require a smartphone to withdraw money, so in case you lose absolutely everything, you may need to borrow a smartphone, or print a QR code at an internet cafe.

  • I've been saved once by Western Union and one by Moneygram so I know them both well, when I need them. But for things such as a card getting swallowed or cancelled in another country's ATM I'm not worried about the foreign bank doing fraud with my card, just about being able to access my money again. – hippietrail Jan 3 at 1:12
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    If you are asking a friend to arrange the possibility of doing that, I would set up a "passphrase" with him unless he won't transfer a dime, in order to prevent that he falls for the common scam of "friend stranded in a foreign country". – Ángel Jan 3 at 2:00
  • @Ángel in fact, Personal Finance SE features plenties of questions about stranded friends – usr-local-ΕΨΗΕΛΩΝ Jan 3 at 13:26
  • @usr-local-ΕΨΗΕΛΩΝ I know (yet was unable to find a suitable question to link to). My goal is to avoid the friend being scammed. – Ángel Jan 3 at 14:23
  • Normally bitcoin ATMs works better for people putting money into the system, and badly for people going the other way round. – Pierre B Jan 4 at 14:32
8

Can you get multiple pre-paid Visa or MasterCard? I know Spain and USA have them. Most of them have a small activation fee but some of them have no other fees. You add funds to them online from your bank card, but you don’t have to carry the original bank card with you. They function like a debit card.

  • "They function like a debit card" --> Well, they simply are – usr-local-ΕΨΗΕΛΩΝ Jan 2 at 15:14
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    @usr-local-ΕΨΗΕΛΩΝ One description of a pre-paid card is "A debit card without checks": debit cards are generally issued off of checking accounts, which can be accessed through checks or other means. A pre-paid card pretty much can be accessed only through the card. – Acccumulation Jan 2 at 23:25
  • I may be wrong but my impression is that "checking accounts" are not really a thing outside the US. Maybe they were formerly but not anymore. Or maybe they are just extremely different from country to country. – hippietrail Jan 5 at 0:34
  • Are these things "travel money cards"? I just asked a new question asking about the down sides of those types of cards: travel.stackexchange.com/questions/129575/… – hippietrail Jan 5 at 0:37
7

If you're going to be somewhere that long, you should really set up local banking there. Come to it, you really are living there so you should make sure to line up all the formalities - ID, healthcare, etc. I assume you are doing this legit, and not absconding on your visa.

Regardless, consider using a PMB for your mailing needs. This is a Private Mail Box. You have your normal mail sent to the PMB. When you're in your home dountry, you stop by once a week and pick up your mail. This also ends all possibility of mail theft, by the way. When you travel, you can ask them to forward your mail anywhere around the world, they will throw it in a "Next Day Air" envelope and off it goes. Most of them are franchises of The UPS Store, so they can ship UPS, but they can also ship FedEx.

So when I need something like that, I just call them every few days to see if they received the mail, and if they did, I ask them to forward my mail. Works slick as a whistle.

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    I will be travelling around the world that long. I won't be in one place that long. – hippietrail Jan 2 at 6:40
5

If your bank allows You can register the card with Android Pay or similar mobile payment service. I was able to use my mobile as quick wireless payment method even when I left my wallet on a bus. Make sure Your mobile phone supports NFC. ( near field communication ) This does not solve the problem fully but quick wireless payments are much faster this way as some advert of that service says: 'you already have your mobile in your hand'. Additionally for a security measure you don't have to expose your wallet in public.

  • Hmm unfortunately my phone is not working properly and I was planning to replace it in Taiwan. – hippietrail Jan 2 at 6:23
  • 1
    In many developing countries (and even some developed ones), mobile payment is still not something you can count on for payments. – Revetahw Jan 2 at 8:33
  • Samsung Pay has an option that works with magnetic stripe readers by replicating the swipe of a card. Great for card readers that don't support NFC contactless payments. – Laconic Droid Jan 2 at 16:27
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    @LaconicDroid true, but not so great for places that don't usually have contactless but do use chip. Japan for example is already cash only for most places except chains and some touristy places, and where they do have card readers it's usually chip. I think if I tried to say, even in Japanese, that I want them to hold my phone by the swipe part (if it even exists), they would be very confused and/or suspicious. Even at home in the US where swipe is still common I have a hard time getting cashiers to understand. It's a good thing to have as a possible option of course, but YMMV, significantly. – briantist Jan 3 at 6:15
4

Everyone's addressed the lost/stolen card, but nobody's talked about the expiration issue, so I'll do so.

If you're going to be gone long enough that you're concerned about a card expiring, check the expiration date before you leave. If it will expire during your trip, contact your bank and see if they'll just issue you a new one now (general advice - I see you've already tried that).

If the bank can't/won't just issue you a new card early, call the number on the back of the card and report it lost/stolen. They'll cancel the card immediately and issue you a new one which should be good for several more years and should more than cover your long trip.

Of course, you'll only want to do this with one card at a time so you have one to live on for the week or two it takes for them to send you a new card. Once you got the new one up and running (and tested), call about the next card.

It's quite stupid to have to jump through this hoop, but if the bank refuses to work with you, they leave no other option.

  • For my last trip I got my next card in advance before I left home. This time they tell me that because my current card is valid for more than six months more, they can't issue the new one in advance. I guess last time my card had less than six months left on it.. – hippietrail Jan 4 at 23:56
  • @hippietrail report it lost, they'll get you a new one Pronto – FreeMan Jan 5 at 3:00
3

Consider ordering a Revolut card (or Monese or Monzo, depending what is available in your home country).

Later edit: Revolut provides a prepaid debit card (Mastercard or Visa) with low or zero fees for most operations, which can be used for transactions in foreign currencies at a good exchange rate (better than the usual Mastercard/Visa exchange rates). The free plan allows limited cash withdrawals and the good exchange rate applies with some limits (such as 5000$/month), but there is no monthly/yearly fee and the topups can be made with zero cost from another card. There is a fee associated to the card delivery, but this is waived during periodic promotions.

  • 2
    Can you explain what exactly those cards are? How are they different from the debit card the OP already has? – drat Jan 2 at 8:26
  • A number of European (I don't know about US) financial institutions allow you to open a debit card account that is not bound to a bank account, has fairly low fees (mainly top-up-fee and withdraw fee), and sometimes has a unique IBAN number that you can use to top the card up. There is no legal limit on the number of cards and different payment services that you can have, nor they conduct credit scoring on you, since the accounts are debit. These cards work on the usual Mastercard/Maestro/Visa/VPay circuits. Revolut is one of them. And works damn good with Google Pay NFC – usr-local-ΕΨΗΕΛΩΝ Jan 2 at 15:12
  • This would be really useful if it were part of the answer. – drat Jan 3 at 7:57
  • @drat: I have added some details about Revolut. – Razvan Socol Jan 4 at 20:06
  • If those are "travel money cards", it seems we have long existed without any questions addressing their pros and cons. I just asked one specifically about the cons: travel.stackexchange.com/questions/129575/… – hippietrail Jan 5 at 0:31
2

This isn't just a problem when travelling - a few years ago one bank in the UK had major issues where no one could get cash out for a few days, from what I recall. (my memory might be flaky, I wasn't affected)

  • What would you do if your bank's systems crashed and you couldn't get cash out?
  • What if your card's pin got locked out and they weren't answering the phone?
  • What if the country you were in had some reason they couldn't make calls out?

Get redundant bank accounts from multiple banks, so if the worst happens you can at least rely on another bank to keep running (maybe keep a small amount in each of these banks?)

  • I considered that but over a long trip the double fees are going to add up. (When I was a kid the banks didn't have the fees they have now.) – hippietrail Jan 3 at 1:16
2

A few additional techniques:

  • Before leaving, try to send Western Union via the website using your debit card. I've never gotten it to work, but if it does work with your card, then just having the card number saved should allow you to WU yourself money from your account even if the physical card is lost.

  • Link PayPal to your bank account (or just your debit card) and have someone local you can send money to via PayPal who can convert it to cash.

  • If available in your country, get a PayPal debit card linked to your account. Last time I used it, you could configure whether you want it to automatically draw from your funding sources when used, or whether you need to manually load money via the PayPal site.

  • 2
    The problem with the first option, if OP loses their card, they’re going to cancel it to prevent fraudulent transactions. – Notts90 Jan 3 at 12:23
1

Where are you travelling to? Depending on how advanced the infrastructure is, you may get some benefit from setting your phone up for contactless payments. Some banks (Monzo that I know of) allow you to remove the normal small payment cap.

I got caught without my bags and wallet in Europe and was able to use my phone to pay my way until I recovered them.

If you're going to assume loss of all possessions, it gets tricky. Depending on how much you're moving about, it may be worth identifying "safe" places to leave small caches. I've used safety deposit boxes for this purpose before, as well as lawyers.

It all depends on how much effort you're willing to go to and how much delay you're willing to endure getting a replacement.

  • I'm travelling around the world for a year and a half with no plan. First stop is Taiwan. I've dealt with loss of various items before, this question is purely about getting the ATM card situation prepared in advance. – hippietrail Jan 5 at 0:28
0

One simple workaround not already mentioned here; request multiple authorized user cards for 'family members'. If the bank does not require a SSN for the authorized user, then just request an authorized user card under your name (because after all, you could have a child by the same name as you). If thats not an option, then use real family members. While the name of the card wont be yours, in the vast majority of cases you wont need it to be. For the few times it matters (i.e. you think somebody maybe manually checking the name on your card against your id) just use cash. ATMs don't care what name is on a debit card (just be sure you set the pin before you leave).

0

Another workaround not yet mentioned: you can open several checking accounts in the same bank (and instantly move money between them). Each checking account will have a different debet card tied with this account. This way you can keep the bulk of money on the bigger account, which debet card you'd only use as last resort, and routinely use the card linked with other account, where you keep $500 and top it up periodically.

protected by JonathanReez Jan 4 at 0:32

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