50

I live in France and I was recently traveling to Ireland. During the trip, my debit card stopped functioning. I discovered the problem when I arrived in a hotel and wanted to check in. The card was refused, and the person at the reception invited me to go to an ATM in order to bring some cash, as the hotel accepts only payment by card or cash, and won't accept a bank transfer. But when I tried to get the necessary amount of cash, the ATM plainly rejected the card without even asking for the PIN code. A few other ATMs behaved the same, and the card wouldn't work in a supermarket either.

I called my bank, but they just confirmed that there is absolutely nothing wrong with my bank account, and nothing is blocked, so the problem was really with my debit card. The only option they suggested is to try a different ATM. It should be noted that this bank doesn't have any subsidiaries in Ireland.

Thankfully, I wasn't traveling alone, and so I could deal more or less with the difficulty of not being able to get my own money. This made me think, however, of what could have happened if I was alone or if the person I was traveling with wouldn't lend me a rather important amount of money to pay the hotel (as well as food and other expenses).

So, let's pretend that as a French citizen, I'm alone in either Ireland or the UK, I have no more than twenty Euros in cash, and my debit card stops working (or I lose it or it gets stolen) while I need about six hundred Euros to pay to the hotel right now. What exactly are my options, in a context where I still have a smartphone with Internet access and I can pay by Internet and use PayPal? Is there some way to send oneself some cash or to retrieve it somehow without a debit card?

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    Embassies of my country do give money to people in these situations and pay it back once they are back home. It could be a practice in your country's embassies as well.. just check – Nean Der Thal Oct 31 at 21:59
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    That happened to me a few years ago at home, the card chip suddenly failed, and it was difficult enough to cope from Saturday evening until my bank opened on Monday morning. I will still vote for this question to be closed as too broad. Your options will strongly depend on where exactly you are and where you are from. – Tor-Einar Jarnbjo Oct 31 at 22:21
  • @NeanDerThal : that works if you are in the capital or a large city where there is an embassy, and is reasonably close. If you are in a more remote location, it's not so easy... – vsz Nov 1 at 5:08
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    FYI It's inconceivable the French embassy would help in this situation. – Fattie Nov 1 at 11:39
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    I find it surprising that someone would travel far from home with only one means of payment (i.e., with only one payment card). As you have discovered, it is a single point of failure that could engender total disruption of your trip, and it is one, for most people contemplating international travel, easily evaded by procuring multiple payment cards. – Calchas Nov 2 at 19:28

10 Answers 10

31

Both Visa and MasterCard offer worldwide card replacement services for lost or damaged cards. There may have a fee attached, which will probably be taken from your bank account but as far as I can tell Visa will get a replacement card to you pretty much anywhere in the world within a couple of days and I assume MasterCard would be similar. Its literally part of the services they provide.

Both providers also do emergency cash advances, probably either via a teller at a local bank or possibly via a card-less transaction at a nearby ATM. And getting a new card definitely sounds like it would save a holiday or trip, especially if you've only just started it!

Visa page for lost / stolen / damaged cards. Relevant snippets of text:

Get a new card Visa can work with your Bank to expedite the replacement of your card and send it globally within 24 to 72 hours.

Call at any time. Freephone numbers are supported 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Language support is available in a multitude of languages.

MasterCard page for lost / stolen / damaged cards. Relevant text snippets:

Wherever you are worldwide, you can always call Emergency Services with any card-related need. When you call our global directory, you can count on a representative who speaks your language, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

Emergency replacement cards Emergency cash advances

For the sake of this specific question, the toll-free emergency card services numbers for Ireland (other countries can be found at the relevant provider's link above) are:

  • Visa: 1-800-55-8002
  • MasterCard: 1-800-55-7378
  • How does this work in practice? How do they verify that the replacement card and cash advance is received by the right person? Do you need to show ID when picking them up at the teller? What forms of ID are accepted? What if you lose your ID together with your card? – jkej Nov 1 at 12:41
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    Right, the "emergency cash" feature of Visa/Mastercard is the only real solution for "instant {really instant} cash". – Fattie Nov 1 at 12:55
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    @jkej: different cards have different things. I believe if you have an AMEX card, any hotel that takes AMEX should allow you to book a room even if you don't have the card, they have some special emergency authorization procedure for that, and it's touted as one of AMEXs perks. So you could lose your whole wallet and everything and still be ok to get a room for the night if you're an AMEX member, etc. – whatsisname Nov 1 at 21:28
  • Good suggestion; I didn't know there was such service available. While the replacement card service wouldn't help in a context where I need to pay six hundred euros right now, the emergency cash advance seems to be exactly what I could have used. – Arseni Mourzenko Nov 5 at 20:03
47

My advice for anyone who wants to get out of a difficult situation is to not get in that situation in the first place. In this case, the easiest way would be to take a second debit card, or a credit card, with you.

But in case you're already abroad and are stuck with a single broken card, you could ask the hotel if it's possible to pay by bank transfer (using your phone). If so, ask them if you can transfer a larger amount in exchange for cash. Or, depending on where in the world you are, you might use PayPal to do something similar

Another option would perhaps be e.g. Western Union, but I've never used that myself. I suppose you could transfer money to them, and pick it up from a WU office yourself.

If all else fails, contact your country's embassy for help.

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    @Willeke I would never travel without more than one card for exactly this reason. I travel a fair amount and ~25% of the time get at least one random card rejection. And that's mostly in CH/UK/USA - places with less well integrated banking systems are worse. For those who "just do not think about bringing them when traveling." ... I guess that is exactly the group who should read this answer! – abligh Nov 1 at 6:25
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    @Willeke anyone can get a second card. Just purchase a pre paid debit card - UK money.co.uk/prepaid-cards.htm - US usa.visa.com/pay-with-visa/find-card/get-prepaid-card they don't require credit checks and IMO anyone travelling can afford the token admin fees – Sam Dean Nov 1 at 11:31
  • Much of this can be generalized to "Have at least two independent ways of accessing, in your travel destination countries, the money you will need.". It can be two pieces of plastic issued by different companies. It can be an ATM card plus Paypal. It can be a credit card plus emergency cash kept in a money belt under your clothing. – Patricia Shanahan Nov 2 at 9:29
  • Noone sensible will cash paypal, the payment is too easily cancelled by the payer. – Jasen Nov 3 at 8:18
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    Prepaid cards and traveler cheques are both tying down your money in such a way that you need to use them to get to your reserve money. Cash tucked away in a safe place is more easily available when needed. – Willeke Nov 3 at 13:20
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Sign up for Google Pay / Apple Pay and add your credit/debit cards to it. You can then make contactless payments with those cards using your phone. Open the app and then touch your phone to the payment terminal. This works if your debit card is Visa Debit / Debit MasterCard, but not for Visa Electron / V Pay / Maestro.

This will not allow you to get cash, but it certainly will allow you to pay for your hotel, restaurants, and virtually anything else in most of the world where international travelers commonly go.

However, be aware that some card issuers, payment processors, and/or terminals may have absurdly small spending limits on purchases made with Google Pay / Apple Pay, or may not accept the payment at all.

As always, it is a good idea to travel with at least two different cards from different financial institutions.

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    I have not tried but it may be possible in the UK to go to a grocery shop (e.g. Tesco's or Sainsbury's) and get a cashback while buying stuff (in other words, get up to £50 in cash) while paying for your purchase with Apple Pay or Google Pay. – kiradotee Nov 1 at 0:43
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    @kiradotee AFAIK you can't get cash back if you pay with Apple Pay/Google Pay. – Michael Hampton Nov 1 at 2:28
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    @Fattie You can, but it depends on the payment terminal. If the terminal is up to date and correctly set up, the limit will be the same as if paying with the card itself. I've personally used Apple Pay in several hundred £ transactions. But it's not possible yet to rely on, since there are many terminals which have the lower contactless limit. – MJeffryes Nov 1 at 11:46
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    @Fattie In that case, to be a bit more technical, the terminal must support CDCVM. support.apple.com/en-us/HT202527 – MJeffryes Nov 1 at 13:10
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    I actually used this method when abroad and couldn’t use my card. Added it to Apple Pay and used that instead. – Notts90 Nov 1 at 16:30
12

Clone your debit card to Google Pay, Apple Pay or other country specific app installed on your NFC-enabled phone. It is really unlikely that your card and phone breaks the same time. (As Michael Hampton already answered).

My second choice would be: At the hotel reception: cancel your reservation. Make an online booking on the spot with 100% prepayment through booking.com or the hotel's site. You will not physically need your card to do this.

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    I know the answer specifically says UK/Ireland, but as of 2019, this isn't a feasible alternative in other than "the top of the top first world countries". Apple Pay, Google Pay, PayPal, and most others aren't available in most (if not all) of South America for example. Tourist areas will always take Visa and Mastercard, 99% of the time "maestro" (maestro is weird sometimes). MAYBE AMEX, and that's it. Outside tourist areas credit card and cities, card acceptance can drop significantly. – hjf Nov 1 at 18:03
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    @gkertesz Many hotels require you to keep a card on file during the stay for incidental expenses you may incur, even if the room is fully prepaid. Not all, but happens at most hotels I visit. – Calchas Nov 2 at 19:17
11

Western Union is probably the most straightforward.

Something very similar happened me last year. Was on holidays in the Canaries, lost my wallet and had stupidly brought out both my ATM card and my credit card. Rang my bank cancelled the cards but they had no local associated banks. Thought I had emergency cash cover on my travel insurance but couldn't get through to the insurance company, and burned through my phone credit trying to.

So was left with no cash, no phone credit, and due to fly home the next day. Eventually emailed a friend at home through the hotel WiFi, we both googled our nearest Western Union office, and he transferred me enough to cover me to get home. I had the money within two hours of first mailing him.

Neither of us had ever used it before, but the process was fairly straightforward. I'd definitely recommend it again in an emergency.

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    This works if you have a friend who can help you out, but it should be noted that WU's website does not work to send money to yourself - something others might think to try from reading your anwer. There's an online form to send, but at least last I tried, all it did was ask for lots of personal information (plus your debit card number), then decline the transaction at the very last moment. (My transaction attempts were not to self, so that wasn't the reason.) – R.. Nov 2 at 15:29
  • I never even thought of that! That would have been helpful, if it worked. – Mohirl Nov 4 at 11:07
8

Some banks offer "emergency cash" facility where they will give you cash, usually via ATM or office of their "friendly" bank.

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    Does that work abroad too? – John_ReinstateMonica Nov 1 at 7:48
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    I've never heard of Emergency Cash before. Could you explain how this works? – Berend Nov 1 at 7:51
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    @Berend, With my bank, for example, you request it beforehand (can be a few minutes before), online, over the phone, or by SMS. You receive a code, which can be used by anyone to retrieve the requested amount of cash at an ATM of your bank (or an affiliated bank), without having the debit card. The cash retrieval code expires after 24 hours. – JonasCz - Reinstate Monica Nov 1 at 9:22
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    I have used this in the UK (I am UK citizen), its very easy I log into my bank app on my smartphone and request emergency cash. It gives me a 6 digit single use pin which I can use at ATM with no card present and it gives me the amount I requested in the app. Limitations though are that I can only retrieve £100 per day this way, and it only works at ATMs branded as my bank. So this wouldn't quite fit the OP's situation – Darren H Nov 1 at 10:22
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    @DarrenH How does this work exactly? On every ATM I have ever used in the UK, you start the transaction by inserting the card, so how can you do anything with "no card present?" A damaged card just gives the error "Card invalid". Maybe this only works for your particular bank and its own ATMs, not in general? – alephzero Nov 1 at 11:13
2

If your concern right now is the hotel, you can book the hotel online and pay using your bank's app or other online payment methods. If you include breakfast and possibly even more meals, you are even covered for those costs.

  • While this could work, it would be a quite expensive option, since my original booking wasn't refundable. This being said, it's still a pretty decent alternative to staying without a hotel room at all, and I haven't thought about that during the trip. – Arseni Mourzenko Nov 5 at 20:06
2

In addition to other answers: keep some cash separately from your cards. 200 USD or 200 EUR are welcome (almost!) everywhere and can get you a lunch, a local SIM (and a phone). A local currency may be better (depending on where you are).

1

With Apple Pay, Skrill, or PayPal, if you can find someone you trust who also trusts you, you can pay them, then they give you cash.

0

This is not a general answer, but since your situation and your example were in Europe, doesn’t your bank allow you to identify yourself at an ATM? Every ATM I went to in Spain had an option to withdraw cash without a card. I never tapped it since I didn’t have an account there so I don’t know how they authenticate.

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    Probably works only if you have an account at that particular bank, with an associated app, and OP has says this is not the case here. – Spehro Pefhany Nov 1 at 19:49
  • I don’t know about France or Ireland, but in Spain, I can use any ATM to deposit cash into any IBAN, not necessarily at the same bank. But getting money out without a card, I don’t know. – WGroleau Nov 2 at 1:32
  • Here in New Zealand the "start without a card" option only allows deposits and payments, not withdrawals. – Jasen Nov 3 at 8:30
  • The ones in Spain do (if my memory hasn’t distorted it) have a touch-screen button to get cash. – WGroleau Nov 3 at 15:32
  • There are apparently ATMs in India that allow you to authenticate through your bank’s app on a cell phone much as you would use WeChat in China to pay for stuff. – Spehro Pefhany Nov 3 at 16:08

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