Just a warning to those who may be traveling soon.
We've been to Italy and Ireland previously, using our Bank of America ATM cards extensively with no problem.
My husband and I just returned from 11 days in Italy where problems with our ATM cards nearly ruined our trip.
One of the hotels we booked, as well as a private tour, required payment in cash.
Two weeks before our trip I called Bank of America to advise them that we would be traveling outside the country and requested an increases in our ATM withdrawal limits. I was told that all was set.
The first indication of a problem was the day before we left. My husband wanted to withdraw extra cash (US $) before we left just in case. He requested an amount under the limit I was told we had and it was declined.
We called B of A from JFK the next day on our way to Italy. After being on hold for what felt like an eternity, we were told that the problem was that the problem was due to the fact that the effective date of the increase was the date of our departure and that all should be well.
We arrived in Venice and had some Euros left over from our last trip, so didn't try to get cash until our second day there. My husband's card was denied, I was able to get cash. We figured maybe it was just an anomaly related to the bank we were getting cash from.
So we tried at a couple other banks to get cash with his card and kept getting a "your card is not approved for international withdrawal" messages. So we tried my card and got the same message.
We waited until B of A would be open in the US and tried to call their international number on the back of the card. It says to call collect. No one at several hotels could tell us how to access an international operator from Venice and kept telling us to just get a calling card. So at our own expense we bought a calling card and started calling the number. Naively, I thought a company like B of A would know that if you're calling that number you're out of the country with problems and need specially handling.
Not so much. You just get put into the normal automated customer service queue. We got the first person and she told us we needed to speak to the ATM Fraud department and transferred us where we got another automated system prompting us to input our card number. Then we got an automated message stating that there were no problems identified with our card and disconnected. We called back and went through the same process using my card number instead of my husband's with the same result. We called back again, explained that what was happening and asked for a warm transfer to a live person and were disconnected. Finally on the fourth call we were transferred to a live person in the ATM Fraud department.
She was helpful, though a little caustic for my taste given what we'd already experienced. She said there was no indication of my prior two calls advising them that we'd be in Italy. In addition she stated that since my husband's card was only an ATM card rather than a debit card, it would never be approved for international withdrawals (even though on two prior international trips he had no problem and neither of the people I spoke with before we left indicated this). Now, because we had tried to make withdrawals that were considered out of the ordinary, both of our cards had holds placed on them. She told us she removed the holds and that we should be fine now.
Relieved, we went out to test it. Neither of us could get cash again!
So we went back to our room to start the calling process again. It took four more calls to get someone actually willing to help us who didn't try to connect us to an automated system or disconnect us.
After a great deal of time and research, including a conferenced call with the ATM Fraud department where the agent, knowing we were on the line, laughed when told what we were experiencing, showed different information in her system than the customer service rep did and told the customer service rep that she wouldn't be able to make a correction, that the customer service rep would have to contact customer service!
The customer service rep finally determined that a) the previous ATM Fraud person hadn't actually removed the hold on my card even though she told us she had and b) my husband's card couldn't be increased to the limit he was told he had because he only had an ATM card. She was able to get my hold removed and at least now we knew what the parameters were on his card. She entered and confirmed the date of our return.
Our cards both worked fine after that. Until 2 days before we came home, my husband again was denied!
We stayed in a lot of small places which did not have wifi access and neither of us has an international cell phone, so we weren't checking email or voicemail - we were on vacation.
Upon returning home, we had numerous emails and voicemails from B of A's fraud department. What good does that do? We were already out of the country.
Another source of aggravation is that this was supposedly all for our protection. Yet, throughout the course of their respective voice response systems, we were asked to enter our accunt numbers, ATM card numbers, security codes, birthdates, social security numbers, etc. How secure is that? We refused to enter most of it, but it was unbelievable.
I am so sorely disappointed by this experience. I have been a B of A customer for over 20 years and am seriously considering moving our account. We spent literally 3+ hours of our last day in Venice dealing with this.
I intend to make this situation known to them because I'd hate for others to have similar experiences, but given the apparent breakdown in their own internal communications and diparate systems, I don't even know who to contact.
Has anybody else experienced similar issues and do you have any tips on where to start with B of A?
If you are planning to use your B of A ATM cards abroad, I would contact not just customer service but also their ATM Fraud department if you can figure out how to get through to them.