Subject: RE: Money Money Money

I ran into card problems on my first trip overseas in 1993. My Visa credit card worked perfectly well while in Britain, but as soon as I got to France I had trouble on every ATM I tried. The machines would sit there thinking for a while before rejecting the transaction and giving my card back. So I'd try again but get the same result. Then I'd try another ATM and with the same result each time. Meanwhile other people were getting cash out no worries. So finally, getting desperate, I went into a bank to get them to phone through a request. But the person at the other end refused the request because I had insufficient credit. Of course I knew that I should have had plenty of credit on it so I was in a panic thinking someone was ripping me off. Finally I got through to my bank back home and figured out what was happening. Every time I used an ATM it sent the request through to my home bank's computers, which approved the amount and sent confirmation back. Meantime the ATM had timed out on the request and cancelled the transaction. So my available credit had been debited, although apparently the transaction itself is not made against your account until written confirmation is received. After seven days the bogus transactions started to clear and finally I had available credit again. In the meantime I was lucky I had friends to borrow from! In fact I was never able to get money out of any ATM in either France or Italy. Finally in Switzerland I managed to have some success.

The ATM systems are probably much more reliable these days, but the lessons I learnt were 1) take at least two different cards with you, from two separate banks, and from different banking networks if possible 2) if at first you don't succeed (with an ATM), DON'T try and try again!

Peter van Schaik Canberra, Australia