Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Debit Denied

I'm mad. That is certainly not how one wants to come home from a spectacular vacation but I'm mad just the same. I'm old enough to remember the days of stopping to get traveler's cheques before going overseas and having to plot where the nearest American Express office was to convert them at the best rates of exchange. Only fools and the rich used cash advances from their credit cards while overseas while the rest of us relied on cold, hard cash and the hotel safe. Today's traveler can use their debit cards for safety, convenience and attractive exchange rates but therein lies the problem and the reason for my anger.

In the ever evolving world of "fee-basing" I discovered upon returning home that an "International Transaction" fee was assessed each and every time I used my bank debit card. From as little as a 30-cent minimum to nearly $8, the fee ranged on the monetary value of the sale. The additional insult was my bank claimed innocence in the matter, that it was merely a pass-through from the local bank in the country I was visiting who assessed the fee in support of converting the currency values. They wanted a commission, basically, for electronically converting currencies at the point of sale. Please.

The additional mud in the eye was the fact that the "International Transaction" fee said no more than that. There was nothing tying it to the actual transaction for me to trace and either accept or challenge later. I mean, I used my debit card just to buy soda and popsicles at a convenience store - who keeps the receipt for something that simple and even if I did, how do I know which fee went with it? Not knowing about the fees before I departed exposed me to nearly $50 of unplanned charges against my bank account upon my return which, thankfully, I had funds to cover. Still, my blood boils at the thought of even one of those fees resulting in a $35 NSF fee from the bank. I was gone three weeks and used that card at least 4-6 times per day - do the math.

The real anger, though, came something like the third day in to the vacation when my card was suspended. You go on vacation, you make sure you have money in the bank to cover your expenses right? You go out of the country, however, and that suddenly flags as a major departure from your "normal spending pattern" which triggers an alert at the bank to shut the card down as a safety precaution. I checked my funds before I left, the card and account both were in good standing, I'm over 8,000 miles from home and have been suddenly cut off from my financial lifeline?

A few aggravating and agitated long-distance calls later and I've reached my bank, verified my identity and location and had the card reactivated. I'm good to go for the rest of the vacation. I accept their apology for the inconvenience and thank them for looking out for my financial security...but I'm still mad. And I've got an idea how to fix it, too.

Gotta go.

No comments:

Post a Comment