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Sunday, March 23, 2014

Bank Skank

Living abroad is easier these days compared to decades ago thanks to internet, online banking, Bill Pay, etc... I simply can't imagine cruising without these wonderful cyber conveniences. Banking has never been easier...
wait a minute... I take that back!

Yes, it is easy to access your bank accounts online.
Yes, it is easy to pay your bills online.
Yes, it is easier to transfer money from accounts online.
But it is not easier to withdraw your very own money.
Traveler's checks are not used much anymore.
It is not easier to manage your very own account.
And customer service is the worst it has ever been in my lifetime.
Fraud protection is the excuse we're given that control of our very own money is minimal.
I say, "Poppycock!"
Vacuum packed shredded Mozzarella cheese dated Jan. 28th
is still fresh after 7 weeks (refrigerated). No mold anywhere!
We have (4) 5-gallon food grade storage containers:
Coconut oil, Masa harina, Hotspur's homemade Kimchi, and Rum.
One of the "biggies" on our List-of-Things-To-Do before we head across the Pacific Ocean was to contact our bank and request that we be sent a new card with a revised expiration date - since our bank card is scheduled to expire this May and we will be...
well, we don't have any idea where we will be.
Wherever it is that we will be we're guessing that receiving a new bank card there will be virtually impossible. But - requesting a replacement card is way easier said than done! Banks just don't issue renewals at your request, I discovered. But 30 minutes long distance with a customer service rep, I finally convinced the Bank that our replacement card be sent to an address in California to a fellow cruiser who would be flying to Mexico in a couple weeks and could hand deliver our bank card to us. I even got an email on March 6th saying the card had been shipped out. But on March 18th, our friend arrived in Puerto Vallarta empty handed. The card never arrived.
Dennis (sv Andante) and Jim checking out Mar Y Sol warehouse in La Cruz
for fresh, un-refrigerated produce. They take orders - even for green produce
that will ripen along the way!

Jim hanging the hammock where we will store our fresh produce on the boat- the idea
is that air can circulate and fruit & veg can swing freely without bruising, banging or mashing.
In the meantime, I rented a car so that our family could save money and reduce the amount of time provisioning for the month long crossing (give or take a week) and the three months in French Polynesia (where food that is not subsidized by the French is very, very expensive). SixT Rent a Car: the company has 3 locations in Puerto Vallarta and for only $32 US I was able to provision with unlimited miles for 2 days. I went to Costco and spent a small fortune on food, but when I went to pay with our Visa it was declined. Thankfully, I had stopped at the ATM and gotten cash - although the bank limited me to $500 of our very own money. Fraud protection...

This fast little Ford Focus cost me slightly more -
luckily you can bribe the cops with a few bucks here in Mexico!
After returning to La Cruz - because I had spent all my cash, couldn't get any more of our money out of the ATM that day and the credit card was declined - I went up to a local restaurant to use Skype to call the bank to find out what was wrong with our Visa card (the marina's internet is weak). When I got the bank's customer service rep, I foolishly mentioned that I never received our renewed card - so she cancelled our Visa card. Fraud protection...

So now, we have no renewed card and the working card we did have... no longer works.
Thank you, Bank!! You're a Hell-per!
I insisted that I speak with a manager, who informed me that once the card is cancelled there is no way on this earth that it can be un-cancelled.
And no, they will not ship a new card to us in a foreign country.
And no, there is absolutely no solution to this problem... except that I fly back to the US and pick up my card in person or wait until it is mailed to our mail management company. And then, I can figure out how to get it... wherever we are. And as I am listening to the manager's monotone voice and hear her robotic, memorized jargon I am thinking to myself, "Why do we need banks? Because our money is safe there?" Oh yes, our money is so safe in the bank that we can't even touch it!
Loading the Costco and Walmart goodies (notice who is sleeping on the job!)

Carolyne... awake and helping!
So, there I am - I have my cheapo rental car and no money and I've wasted 2 hours talking to Customer Service Reps who really are Bank Service Reps... because they absolutely did not give me any service at all except for lip service. Well, I did get one bit of useful information from the bank reps... I did find out why our card was declined at Costco. A $2,663.95 US deposit was charged to our card by the rental car company! Apparently, rental car companies frequently do this when the client refuses to purchase their insurance... which I did. And that large charge on the card would have been one of those "red flags" that the bank talks about... to prevent fraud. And so there was a hold put on the card - which doesn't mean a hill of beans once I find this out because thanks to Bank rep the card has been irreversibly cancelled!
Thank you, Bank. You're a Hell-per!
Killer find at Walmart!! Yay!
But I am a problem solver and so went shopping with our credit cards which no doubt will have numerous foreign transaction fees applied because I am using them in Mexico.
Tell me - why do we need banks again???
Who do they work for???
I think I'll bake some cookies and ponder the demise of civilization thanks to the skanky banks.
There has to be better way.


  1. This brings back memories. I think all our cards were canceled in the two-week period of getting ready to go too. We also had problems the year Totem went--because when her card was flagged--I put her groceries on my card, which got mine flagged. The only way we manage banking was to give my sister power of attorney AND put her on all the accounts. She handles all the hassles for us at home (and they happen--despite having an awesome credit union...).

  2. Meri, Take solace in all the chocolate and beer you've got aboard now. More practically, for what it's worth, our Chase credit card number was stolen in the PV area and they reversed thousands in bad charges, cancelled the card, and FedEx'd a replacement card direct to the Marina La Cruz office for us. Also, the Chase cards we have don't impose any foreign transaction fees--none. We have a Capital One card that also doesn't, and I think they used to be the only ones that didn't, but for our Chase cards, it's the same now too. But I can feel your pain right this moment: Windy is in Thailand and I'm in Mexico and our bank freaked out and froze our ATM card yesterday. Bank said to call Visa fraud folks and Visa fraud folks said to call bank. Now it's Sunday and Bank is closed. Rest assured that there must be a correlation between the stress and difficulties you undergo to launch your crossing and the enjoyment you get out of your crossing. Michael

  3. Stress?? STRESS?? Who is feeling stressed? Did I mention the enormous zit on my nose? DID I?? ;)

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