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Bank of America ATM Nightmare

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Bank of America ATM Nightmare

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.

1. Re: Bank of America ATM Nightmare

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Removed on: 8:05 pm, May 30, 2011
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2. Re: Bank of America ATM Nightmare

Thanks so much for your kind reply.

Camden, Australia
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3. Re: Bank of America ATM Nightmare

Sorry to hear about your problems, especially when you took the time to advise the bank. Customer service appears to be an issue and what a frustrating experience with something that should be straight forward.

Not had problems myself as yet.

New York City, New...
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4. Re: Bank of America ATM Nightmare

I too always advise BofA for my Visa, etc and never had any problems. I take the person's name and note date/time of my call in which I alert them to my travels. I also know not to take just one card from one bank just in case something unfortunate occurs.

This is not an Italy issue - this is a bank issue. You had a bad experience but I don't see how it is relevant in any way to this forum.

Are people who advise their banks supposed to now be worrying they will end up experiencing the uncommon situation you had? I just don't get it.

Edited: 6:47 am, May 30, 2011
niagara falls.canada
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5. Re: Bank of America ATM Nightmare

Sorry to hear fo your horrible experience. It could be a wake up call for me as I do rely so much on the ATM's when travelling.

Tallahassee, Florida
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6. Re: Bank of America ATM Nightmare

I think the main problem here is the difference between a debit card and an ATM card. I remember when the debit cards first came out I considered making it just an ATM card but decided against it. I have a BOA debit card and have never had a problem using it overseas (of course I realize there is alway a possibility of a first time) but I will continue to rely on my debit card (along with a backup debit card from another bank, and bringing some cash with me).

I thought you would have to go out of your way to get a ATM card versus a debit card but it sounds like you didn't realize the difference. Hard lesson to learn while your overseas.

Edited: 8:11 am, May 30, 2011
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7. Re: Bank of America ATM Nightmare

I am confused, as usual, isn't a debit card exactly the same as an ATM card except that it also has a Visa or MasterCard logo?


I am sorry the original poster had such a frustrating experience.

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8. Re: Bank of America ATM Nightmare

Let me go on ...

I have an ATM card that I use to get cash from ATM machines. It does not have my name on it nor any Visa or MasterCard logo. I could not, for example, go into a store that accepts credit cards and use it to buy something. I consider this an ATM card.

I could have my bank re-issue this ATM card to me with my name on it and a VIsa logo. I would then be able to use it wherever Visa is accepted and still be able to get cash from an ATM. I would then consider this a debit card.

Edited: 8:47 am, May 30, 2011
San Diego
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9. Re: Bank of America ATM Nightmare

ljaguar, My ATM card was JUST an ATM card because my husband hates debit cards for purchasing. He just thinks it is too dangerous to use a card attached to our bank accounts. I have always been able to use it to withdraw money from ATMs in the Visa/Plus system. I will have to ask my bank(Wells Fargo) if there is something new that makes it impossible to use that way.

Windlassie, I am sorry you had such terrible trouble!! I am glad that you managed to find a way to still enjoy your trip!

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10. Re: Bank of America ATM Nightmare

ljaguar - that's not the main problem, we had one of each and my husband doesn't want a debit card for the same reasons as riffsmom's husband - you should be able to make ATM withdrawals with an ATM card no matter where you are, they cut my debit card off too as soon as I made my first withdrawal

riffsmom - we did have a wonderful time despite these issues, thank you!

MomCat - my main purpose for posting was to alert other BOA customers that they could have similar problems so that they might have a back up plan before they travel, I did not imply that it was an Italy problem, it just happened while we were in Italy