Losing an ATM Card While Traveling

  • Don’t carry your ATM card in your wallet. Keep it in a money belt and only take it out when you intend to use it.
  • Put money on a Google Talk or Skype account before you leave the United States. It will cost less than buying a phone card overseas.
  • If you do lose your card, retrace your steps and check with the police station or banks. Although this didn’t work in my case, locals assured me that was where I would likely find my ATM card.
  • Make sure that a replacement ATM card is sent with the fastest shipping possible. My ATM card took eight days to get to me from the time I faxed my request. Snail mail would have taken minimum three weeks.
  • Also if you lose your card, realize it’s not the end of the world. Take it easy. Make sure you’re somewhere you enjoy and live like a local while you wait.

One of the most nerve-wracking experiences on the road is losing an ATM card. In my case, I lost my primary and backup cards, leaving me stranded in Belize for two weeks.

When I first noticed the missing card, I was at the ATM in Dangriga. I opened my wallet and saw two cards instead of two.

That’s odd, I thought. Surely, I must have misplaced it.

I checked every part of my wallet and my pockets. No luck. I backtracked my steps in restaurants and stores throughout the day. No luck. Then, I scavenged my bag. There was no denying it. The card was lost.

I went to a nearby convenience store and purchased a $10 USD phone card. After struggling on a pay phone to dial internationally (001 by the way), I gave up and asked my hostel owner to do it for me. When I connected, I had the bank cancel the car.

One of the problems with traveling is that a new ATM card is useless if it’s mailed to a home address in the United States. I didn’t like Dangriga, and I was ready to go to San Ignacio. I asked the bank to hold off on mailing the new card until I sent them specific instructions.

Now, I had a new dilemma. Where was I going to stay that was economical and comfortable enough for me for two weeks? When I finally found a room that I liked, I wrote down the address and faxed instructions to my bank.

I wasn’t too worried about my situation. Even though I was now paying ATM fees, this was the reason why I had the backup ATM card. I didn’t want to have to do cash advances.

Unfortunately for me, I am completely careless or have holes in my wallets. Somewhere in San Ignacio, I lost my backup ATM card.

Once again, I tried retracing my steps. It was hopeless. When a card is lost in Central America, consider it gone.

Now, I was forced to wait 15 minutes in line to get a cash advance at a bank. They charged $10 USD for the cash advance, in addition to the fee I was going to get from my credit card. This was not going to be a cheap way to travel.

I called my bank to check on the status of my primary card. It was in route, but the card wasn’t going to get to me until five days from that point. By then, it was Wednesday, and I was ready to leave my hotel due to an argument with the owner. However, I stuck it out because I didn’t have another option.

Every day, I would hope that my ATM card would come. I even went to the Fed Ex store in San Ignacio to ask them to call my hotel the second the card arrived.

The fact that I would have to wait until the last minute to receive the card lingered in my mind. I went on a 12-mile walk with a friend to a nearby town. When we returned to San Ignacio, the Fed Ex office was closed. We walked back to the hotel, where I kicked off my shoes and let my legs rest on the bed.

A knock would keep me from resting. I opened my door and saw a white envelope in the hand of the hotel owner.

“They called me while you were gone, and I went to go pick it up,” he said. “I signed for you.”

He handed me the Fed Ex package. I was like a kid at Christmas. He stood in the doorway as I tore open the packaging and then the envelope. A gold card was inside, and I knew this was my ticket out of Belize.

I thanked the owner for his help, and I rushed to activate the card. Ten minutes later, I had a new ATM card and was ready to move on in my journey.

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