So as if getting grilled at the border wasn't enough, I just learned the hard way that VISA doesn't necessarily mean VISA. Apparently, there's a number of different flavors over here in the US. The flavor accepted by cab drivers and most ATMs outside the Union Square area in San Francisco doesn't take kind to expiration dates in 2012 and fancy chip security — like all European countries are switching to.
So I just had an... uhm... "interesting" experience with an asian cabbie that was going to take me down to a store to do a last-minute purchase for a friend. We get all the way down there before his machine finally rejects the card because of "invalid expiration".
Of course, I only have five bucks in cash, which wasn't going to cut it. So following the directions of the guy at Best Buy we drove a bit further down to some shopping district to a Safeway. I get in to get cash out of their Well's Fargo ATMs, which of course doesn't work either. It offered a kind suggestion that I should contact my financial institution, though — thanks Well's!
I try the register, but that won't let me get money out either (but would let me get a coke, yay!). So I have to go back to the cabbie once more and now he's starting to get really unhappy about the situation. After a bit of back and forth, we decide to head back to the Union Square area to try more ATMs, finally finding one that works.
So $25 lighter, I'm back at the hotel without my intended purchase and actually kind of looking forward to the grueling 15-hour flight back to Denmark tomorrow. It's been great and all, but I'm ready to get home.
Always keep two different cards at hand (at least) and a bit of spare cash. I always keep a master card in addition to my VISA card. I never use it but hey, It's free to have.
Nåårh lille pus...Det er da også noget værre pjat med de amerikanere. Glæder mig også til du er hjemme igen :)
Argh. That must have been frustrating.
Mary: Yearh, was about to say that too ;)
Cash is really a must when travelling. Never travel with less than $100 in your pocket if you want to avoid those kinds of nuisances. This situation is not limited to the US. I have heard that the Swiss are incredibly annoyed by people who use credit cards. Check out http://www.slembeck.ch/toolonginswitzerland.html, "You know you've been in Switzerland too long if...". One of the items is: you know you've been in Switzerland too long if you feel broke with less than 300 franks in your pocket.
Mary, your secrets are reveiled:
Poor little thing, that's what you get when you involve yourself in those americans. I'll be glad when you come home tomorrow.
Debit networks are regional affairs. Getting an ATM card to work from state to state is tricky in the US, much moreso internationally. The encryption scheme requires a much higher degree of physical connectivity than you might imagine, and aside from Switch/Solo from the UK (which is rare), authorizing European debit transactions is nearly unheard of in North America.
As far as credit processing goes... the expiration flaw is a prevalent bug, particularly in the portable terminal market (popular with cab companies) where a certain vendor is notorious for filling their terminals with crappy software. You can always request a voice authorization from the number on the back of the card and have the merchant "force" it through without the expiration date. It's counterintuitive, but perfectly valid with Visa.
Tangentially, I know a certain processor who is impressed with Instiki and considering deploying a similar app internally with Rails. Good stuff. Thanks.
Had a similar experience in Croatia this summer - I don't give a €#%@ for the banks claims about the funcitonality and greatness of the new VISA (only thing it does is causing throubles for the customers and saves the bank money).
I would ask my bank to pay the $25 PLUS a fee for the inconvenience ...