While I’m pretty much home bound for the foreseeable future, a daughter of a family friend and co-worker is currently living in Florence, Italy for her college semester abroad. Over the last few weeks, I’ve been listening to her mother fret over various financial issues that have arisen and tried to help her sort out what she can from half a world away.
Since Anne is only gone for a semester, she doesn’t have a bank account over there – unlike when I lived in London for the year and a half. Instead, she is using her American debit card for everything.Unfortunately, she found a few fraud charges popping up right before she was due to take a school trip to Budapest.
With close to two weeks to spare, she contacted her US credit union and sussed out the charges and expected a new card to ship out immediately. When she suddenly found herself mere days away from the trip and still no card, she contacted the bank only to discover that they never sent out her replacement.
Anne doesn’t have a credit card and now – as I explained to her mother – was without access to any of her funds. Remember (again, I had to explain this to my co-worker!), both your savings account and your checking are connected to your card so without checks -which can take 7 to 10 days to clear – and without any active cards, you really can’t access any funds no matter how much your parents wire into said account.
So, what should Anne do?
Well, Anne is lucky enough that her school was willing to lend her cash – 200 Euros – for the trip which she can pay back when her finances are corrected. She did this immediately, but as you can guess, this wouldn’t go very far on the trip she’d already paid for.
My next suggestion – in her tight schedule – would be to talk to friends. Here’s the thing to remember: cash issues overseas happen a lot and they can take a little bit of time to correct. Your friends will understand this and, as long as you keep spending to a minimum and keep track of who to pay back and how much, most friends will help you out and lend you some money. This can be a little embarrassing and feel like you are pushing some kind of impossible barrier but when you need it, you have to get over wounded pride and ask.
With more time, a parent or friend can send a money order or a check made out to cash. Just make sure you have all your information to verify your identity, have all of your account information, and double check what banks you can work with – you generally can’t walk into just any bank and get out money.
If you are traveling or living abroad for a short time, you should also work to preempt this situation all together.
First, keep a bit of cash on hand at all times rather than depending on you cards. You will also get dinged less with out of country fees if you pull out a larger sum all at once rather than have a bunch of smaller charges.
Next, always have a back up system. I’m lucky enough that my parents have given all of us emergency credit cards linked with the family’s main accounts. We can use these if we are in the exact situation that Anne has found herself in. As I have said, moving across international boarders means there will be some serious chances of money problems but until it happens to you, you won’t think of fixing them. Have a back up and you will save yourself at least immediate panic.
Lastly, you MUST (and I can’t emphasis this enough) stay on top of your finances. Whether this is keeping track of your spending habits, checking for fraud, checking that your bank sends your replacement card, or anything else that could possibly happen with your money, you much constantly be paying attention.
As I have said, you don’t think about how things can go wrong until they start to go down hill and then figuring out what to do next becomes a panicked sequence of events that won’t get you anywhere. I know this is what happened to me when I had all my phone issues when I was overseas.
It happens to us all but plan ahead for what you can and keep a calm head. For now, Anne is having fun in Budapest, her mom is freaking out less everyday, and her card is on its way to her.
This is Leave on the Wind, helping you soar.