Saturday, June 28, 2014

The Brazilian ATM Wouldn't Give Me My Money. And So Started My Nightmare

You are finally there.

Your dream holiday is just about to start. You waited so long for it. You are in Brazil (Rio de Janeiro or Salvador da Bahia) for Carnaval. Everything is wonderful: beaches, people, food. You are laying on the beach and wish this moment would never stop. Everything is wonderful? Think twice.

You do not have any idea of the nightmare you are going to experience: left without a dollar in a foreign country. Robbed? Hijacked? Seduced and abandoned without money?
Nothing of that: the reason of your troubles has nothing to do with Brazil, is your own bank.
What? Are you serious? Well, look at the experience that this writer had, along with many other Anglo-Saxon travellers in Salvador da Bahia and then judge by yourself.
At Banco do Brasil in Barra (the most famous travel district along with Pelourinho in Salvador) this writer meets with several UK and US travellers to withdraw money at the ATM machine.
We have bills, rents, other expenses more or less urgent to pay. We are all with our British and US credit and debit cards ready to do a routine transaction in our countries. Not here.
Barclays connect card (UK debit card) does all the ordinary steps at a normal ATM machine but before getting the money the frightening phrase comes out of the ATM machine: "error in communications," followed by "transaction interrupted." Well, it sometimes happens, let's try again, you think. But then again the phrase comes up: "error in communications." At this stage you try again and again but the hated phrase always comes up: "error in communications."
If you are lucky you try the second and third credit or debit card you have, but the hated phrase always comes up: "error in communications."
And the terrible truth becomes reality: you are left alone and without money in a foreign country.

You think, I can go to the bank teller inside the bank and withdraw physically the money at the desk. Well, only now you are going to realize that the dream holiday has just turned in the terrible nightmare.
Let's just forget about the half an hour line in the ATM machine just to be rejected by the hated phrase. That was nothing: look at this.
First you are going to enter a long line, probably an hour waiting, to meet with the personal bank teller who deals with private clients like yourself.
When, in your rotten Portuguese, you explain the problem the gentle teller says: no problem with your passport and Visa entry card (why do they need that?) we can call Visa and solve the problem.
If you are lucky enough to have brought with you your passport (otherwise you must come back some other day and stay without money for the time being), and think that the nightmare is over the surprise is coming:
First, it is very possible that there are problems in contacting Visa. No problem, come back tomorrow, says the gentle bank teller. And who is going to pay my lunch today, my bills, my holiday entertainment?
And if the bank employee eventually contacts the Visa people, the terrible truth eventually comes up: transaction declined by your own bank.
How is it possible, if you have money in your account (in the case of debit card) or credit line (in the case of credit card)? Well, the answer comes from Minneapolis, Minnesota, United States, and its name is Falcon Fraud Manager.
Published in February 2007 in Brazzil.com

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