Credit Cards on Vacation

I have a story for you.  A “perfect storm” of vacation credit card problems left my sister in Greece with only 100 Euros in her pocket.  The issues sprouted from another trip thousands of miles away.  Here is the rundown, and the lesson learned, from the experience.

About a month ago, my younger sister left on a trip to Greece.  Yes, I am jealous too.  She brought two cards with her, thinking she would be fine.  Her debit card was stolen, due to her stupidity, early on in the trip.  This left her with only a Visa card tied to my parents account.  Lucky her?  Not quite.

About three weeks into her month long trip, I took a vacation with my mom.  We each had multiple cards with us.  I had my main credit card, the same Visa as my sister in case my mom wanted me to buy something on her behalf, and my ATM/Visa Debit card.  She had one of the family Visas and a backup card.

On the fourth day of my trip with my Mom, she asked me to buy a present for my Dad using the family Visa.  Declined.

What happened?  Why was it declined?  I had cash and another card, so there was no problem on that front.  My mom tried hers.  Same story.  We called my Dad, who called Visa.  The card was stolen in Alaska, where I was on vacation with my Mom.  At some point, someone skimmed my Mom’s credit card number and tried to buy a plane ticket.

As I said, we were fine in Alaska.  We had cash and cards on hand to get us through.  My sister, though, lost her only remaining card.  I didn’t feel that bad for her, as she lost her first card on her own.  It was a bad situation though.

It took us about a week to get her a replacement card.  Visa sent it priority to her hotel on a little island of about 3,000 people.  They were very helpful, but you have to know to ask.  Visa will get a card into your hands in 24 hours most places in the world with little or no charge.

Because we were locked out of the account, we could not pinpoint where the number was stolen.  We had the card, so it was not like my Mom was careless and lost it.  Someone was sly about it and stole the number.  It is that simple.

What did we learn?  1. Always have a good backup, or two backups if you are across the world on little islands.  2. Call Visa right away and ask for a replacement card to be expedited to you if you are away for an extended period.  3. Be careful when using your cards of vacation.  You never know where the number will be stolen.  It happens in the United States too.