Advice Needed: Prepaid Debit Cards & Myanmar

IMG_2048 (1)i hopped on the Simple bandwagon a while back and while i really enjoy the new-fangled online bank, it does have some limitations. the main one is that my debit card cannot be used in certain countries. this wasn’t an issue earlier this year since when i went to blacklisted Latvia, i was able to use my Bluebird. however, there are no American Express ATMs (as of this writing) in largely still cash-based Myanmar, so Bluebird is out as an option, and so is American Express’s Express Cash program (both further discussed, along with my bank’s policies, in an earlier post).

i looked into Green Dot’s prepaid debit cards but they do not allow you to use international ATMs. i did, however, discover that Chase Liquid should work (according to their call center), and i would do it, but i don’t want to deal with paying the monthly fee, though it might be a good last-ditch backup.

is my best option, then, just to carry around the cash? my hotels are prepaid, so i will just need to bring enough for my intra-Myanmar ticket (which i’m paying for once i land) and transportation, admission, and food. my biggest fear is not getting the money stolen *knock on wood*, but rather running out of money. on the other hand, i don’t want to carry around too much. i suppose if worse comes to worst, i can use my credit card for a cash advance, but i don’t like the sound of that at all. i guess i should just pretend i’m visiting in the pre-ATM days, heh. (unfortunately those days were also the pre-inflation days!)

yes, yes, i know i should probably change banks, but let’s just say for now it’s not an option. suggestions as to a maintenance-fee-free prepaid debit card that works in overseas ATMs, or a Visa or MasterCard program that, like Express Cash, links your credit card to your checking account?

8 Comments on "Advice Needed: Prepaid Debit Cards & Myanmar"

  1. I was in Myanmar last year. take very crisp $100 bills and go to the market where there are dozens of money-changers. You get a better FX rate on the $100s than on smaller bills, and they will reject any bills that aren’t pristine. You will get a stack of bills worth maybe a quarter each, but it’s much easier to spend the small ones so you should request those specifically.

    I know that Myanmar is supposedly connecting to the international ATM but you’d be silly to arrive in Myanmar with enough US cash to cover your expected expenses…

    • cool, thanks! yeah there are apparently quite a number of visa/mc ATMs all over now, even up in bagan, but yeah, looks like i will (and should) be bringing cash with me.

  2. It would not be a bad idea for you to open a second ‘travel related’ only bank account. Figure out which bank or credit union would allow you to keep a minimum amount of money in it with no monthly fees, i.e. maybe $1000 or less. Then, when you are ready to travel, top up that account with money you may need for expenses whilst traveling. It wouldn’t have to necessarily be a checking account. It could be a savings account only….but that way you would have a debit card when you need it for travel….with no sweats.

  3. Cash. All cash, all the time.

    Crisp, clean, new $100s. Of course, that’s also hard to do without a bank branch available to you but it is, by far, the best way to get by in Myanmar. I wouldn’t do anything else.

  4. Hi Jon,

    Finding myself in a similar situation in Cambodia. No bluebird. Lost my fidelity card. How did Myanmar go? Are you still in the region?

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