Going Debit Card-less Abroad

like a good customer (and one who likes to avoid hassle), i notified my bank about my upcoming trip to Norway, Latvia, and Sweden. no problem, they said, except Latvia was on the block list (see below) of the underlying bank that powers their debit cards, “due to fraud risks and government regulations”. as i recall, last year either Turkey or Ukraine (i think it was Ukraine) was on the block list but i was fine because i still had my Bank of America account open in parallel (because Simple didn’t have check deposit yet — #startupbankproblems).

what to do, what to do. five days without easy access to cash!

  • i could just go the traditional route and bring dollars to exchange (which i don’t think i’ve ever done? i’ve always — always — gone the ATM route)
  • i also saw that Bluebird lets you withdraw at ATMs that take American Express
    • i called them up and they told me i could use Parex Banka, but when i check the American Express ATM finder i only see Citadele as a partner? in any case, looks like there is a Citadele ATM at the airport.
  • on the Amex ATM finder page, i saw something about the Express Cash program. i’m on the phone now with American Express to ask about it, and it looks like with my card (the Platinum), it’s not a cash advance program (since this is just a charge card), but it works like a debit card and takes money out of my checking account (i signed up and gave him my checking account information). the fee is up to $5 for each withdrawal. the only problem is that they send you a PIN via snail mail and it takes 5-7 days to arrive, and i leave in 4. well, i can hope the USPS gods are with me, i suppose!

i think my current plan of attack is: take $100 with me as a backup, but use the Express Cash program if i get my PIN in time, or else put money into my Bluebird account and use that instead. i will keep you posted. thoughts or advice appreciated!


as of today, the blocked country list for my bank is:

  • Albania
  • Belarus
  • Bosnia-Herzegovina
  • Colombia
  • Côte D’Ivoire (Ivory Coast)
  • Croatia
  • Cuba
  • Democratic Republic of the Congo
  • Iran
  • Iraq
  • Latvia
  • Lebanon
  • Libya
  • Macedonia
  • Mauritius
  • Myanmar (Burma)
  • Nigeria
  • North Korea
  • Slovenia
  • Somalia
  • Sudan
  • Syria
  • Yugoslavia [<–uhh, not a country anymore!]
  • Zimbabwe

this is kind of sucky because several of these countries (Myanmar, Colombia, Lebanon, several countries that were formerly part of Yugoslavia) are on my to-do list. 🙁

Slovenia is surprising to me, though, since they’re now part of the Eurozone?

Welcome Slovenia to the Euro!

From a 2006 trip to Brussels

p.s. i’ve only ever been to Ljubljana (when i had a German bank account, so no ATM problems); it’s really lovely there!


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