9

This might be a bit of a long shot, but hopefully someone here will know.

I currently am scheduled to travel the US and Canada for around three weeks. I don’t have any credit cards in my name, but I do have a debit card issued by Kakao Bank (a Korean tech company) and branded with Mastercard.

Will I be able to use this card as a simple debit card while I’m abroad? I would assume so since it is from Mastercard but was wondering if anyone here has same or similar experiences.

  • 2
    Yes, Mastercard and not Maestro. – Seankala Feb 4 at 9:02
  • Be careful: hotels, car rentals, etc... are used to make "reservations" on credit cards, for possibly quite large amounts. On a debit card, this will count against your spending limit, and either the hotel/rental will not be able to make the "reservation" or they will but then the card will have reached its limit. Also, of note, this limit is independent from the amount on your bank account. – Matthieu M. Feb 5 at 14:57
27

Your MasterCard branded card should work fine with some caveats:

  • The big one is that the card doesn't have EMV contactless (which isn't really a thing in Korea) so you won't be able to tap it on the terminal. You can't even use Google Pay or Apple Pay, which apparently don't accept Korean credit/debit cards. LG Pay and Samsung Pay might work if you have it, but I wouldn't count on it. And of course your Kakao Pay app will not make a payment in the US or Canada. You'll have to use the chip.
  • In Canada, if you use a Korean MasterCard, expect everyone to make you sign a receipt, even for the smallest purchases. Any shop that gets a lot of traffic from Americans will know how to handle this (as Americans have to do this too) but unlike Americans, who can avoid this inconvenience by using contactless, you'll be stuck with it. If you go far off the beaten path, you might find the shopkeeper quite confused by what the terminal does when it processes the payment.
  • In the US, signatures have been mostly phased out, but you may still be asked for one in some places, mostly restaurants.
  • Speaking of restaurants, tipping is generally expected in both Canada and the US. In Canada you will usually select the tip amount on the payment terminal; in the US you usually write it on the receipt that you will be asked to sign.
  • In the US, occasionally even the chip won't work and you'll have to fall back to the magstripe. In addition, some places in the US, mostly some restaurants and pay-at-the-pump gasoline pumps, still don't have chip terminals. In some contexts in the US, such as at restaurants, the employee will expect to physically take your card; try not to be too shocked.
  • A few US terminals will ask you for your ZIP code (postal code) but be unable to verify it for non-US cards. If this happens, the first time, enter your new 5-digit Korean postal code; if it doesn't work you can try again by entering 00000, but you'll most likely have to pay with another payment method or go to another shop entirely. If this happens when you are trying to pay for gasoline at the pump, you can pay inside instead.
  • You'll pay foreign exchange fees (and ATM fees if you use the card to get cash). You should verify with Kakao Bank what those fees are; I wasn't able to find them from a web search. And as always you should notify your bank that you intend to use the card internationally to reduce the risk that they block the card when you try to use it outside your country.
  • Speaking of ATMs, you should be aware that some ATMs do not have chip readers and thus you won't be able to use the card to get cash there. (Korean debit cards can only get cash at a chip-enabled ATM.) These are usually smaller third party operated ATMs like you might find in convenience stores; most bank ATMs should read your chip and work fine for cash withdrawals. MasterCard has an ATM locator which can show you chip-enabled ATMs.
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  • I have had European issued MasterCard credit card, Visa debit, and Visa prepaid (Revolut). None of the cards worked at the gas station pump terminals. I defaulted to paying in cash for gas instead. With the Revolut I had to enable mag-strip. It is disabled for security reasons by default. – jnovacho Feb 5 at 13:05
  • 1
    When noting that the bank should be notified, to avoid blocking the card, it may be useful to also note that the OP should double-check their spending/withdrawing limits while abroad. These limits can be quite low by default, and it's never good to be stuck without access to cash. – Matthieu M. Feb 5 at 14:55
  • @jnovacho did the gas station terminal ask for a postcode/zip code? If so, did you enter anything? – kiradotee Feb 5 at 16:28
  • @kiradotee It's been a year so I'm not sure, it's possible and I think I put in 90210 ( it's the only US zip code I know) But the card was still declined. – jnovacho Feb 6 at 7:55
  • @jnovacho ah ok! I've heard anecdotes that some tricks could be typing 00000 or 99999 (or for British postcodes just the numbers padded with zeros, so for example if the postcode is CR2 6XH then it should be either 00026 or 26000). I remember I couldn't make the train ticket machine work for my New York train because of the zip code issue and had a similar issue when buying a ticket at the counter. What I did to make it work (though don't remember exactly which option helped), it was either one of the four above, or the fifth option - simply pressing OK and not typing in the zip code at all. – kiradotee Feb 6 at 13:57
1

A MasterCard branded card will most likely work just fine, the only time I have had a MasterCard that did not work was a mainland China card that was clearly stated only for mainland China use.

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0

I can add a few experiences from the US.

  • One employee had to ask a supervisor if they accepted my credit card that lacks embossed name and number (despite a VISA logo on the front side).
  • Does the card have a PIN? If so some employees don't know how to handle it if their terminal asks for it.
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  • 4
    US-issued VISA cards aren't embossed any more either, neither are many MasterCard cards. That employee was probably new or confused. – Michael Hampton Feb 4 at 23:38
  • Yeah, my Discover card isn't embossed, either. – Martha Feb 5 at 15:22
  • I concur with Michael; my debit and credit cards are US-issued VISA cards, and haven't been embossed for years. – T.J.L. Feb 5 at 18:47
  • Might be something else then, she felt it between her fingers just like it was the lack of embossing. Maybe the design put her off, how "brave" are the US card designs? I had the pink one: i.stack.imgur.com/PPJwB.png Examples of Kakao cards (not sure what if seankala has one of these): koreabizwire.com/kakao-banks-keys-to-success/92894 – Anders Feb 5 at 21:44

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