What To Do If You Can’t Access Your Money While Traveling

It’s happened, one of your worst travel nightmares. You’re preparing to buy a new trinket or pay for the meal you’ve just finished and your bank card is declined. You’re confident you have money in the account but for the life of you, that debit card or credit card isn’t working now. Or, you’ve been happily accessing your monies via ATM but now, the only thing you’re seeing at each machine is the “transaction denied” message.

When this happened recently, I went into a panic. Screwing with my finances is the fastest way to spike both my blood pressure and rage meter, but this wasn’t a case of identity theft or insufficient funds. No, this boiled down to some places in the areas of South Korea I was traveling within no longer accepting international MasterCard.

Not being able to use your hard-earned money while away from home can be very scary. Sure, you can travel with extra cash on your person, but that can be unsettling for some travelers, too. For those carrying cards, what can be done to avoid this issue?

Call your domestic bank in advance of your travels abroad

Taking a moment to alert your home country bank or credit union that you’ll be using your card in a foreign country can be the dividing line between smooth sale-ing and broke waters. Before leaving Texas, one of my banks informed me that using their card in some countries could be a serious problem because of its easily being duplicated. I’d never heard of anything like that, but speaking with a banker helped me to decide on how to handle the account in the event of an emergency. Hopefully, if you’ve been living and traveling overseas for some time, you’ve already tended to this. If you haven’t, and it happens (last minute travel deals come to mind),

Contact your bank immediately if a transaction’s blocked

Clear your mind of the worries about how much an international call could cost from your cell phone and get on the ball about letting someone back home know what’s happened. There’s likely a free chat feature with your bank on its website or app, and you genuinely cannot afford to wait and see what will happen. Maybe there’s a domestic outage? Maybe there is damage to your card’s magnetic strip or chip? Whatever it is, you want to talk with someone who can help you sort the issue out as soon as possible.

Bring more than one card along with you

Having at least one other card along for the travels is also helpful, especially if it’s a card like PayPal or Cashapp. Sometimes, two of the same brand cards work in one space and not the other; and it’s odd but again, the logic isn’t as relevant as being prepared. Preventative measures don’t always have to make immediate sense.

You might be traveling with friends and family who are willing to spot you a few bucks until things are sorted out. Things might come to the point of having to find a Western Union if the problem is going to take more time than you’d like to get sorted out. Whatever the case may be, I hope you’re never faced with this. If it happens, at least you now have a few more ideas about how to survive it.


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