It Happened Again: Don’t Leave Home Without At Least Two Of These!

I can’t believe this happened again, though with a different friend. Doesn’t he read my blog posts on TWG? This time on my friend’s FIRST day, which was to start a seven week trip around Mexico, the ATM ate his debit card. He had no cash on him. His bank told him they’d send a new debit card, but after tracking the card’s delivery and waiting four days, my friend had doubts about getting his card.

He contacted me for help. Sure. I found his other debit cards he left behind, and we made plans for me to FedEx the cards to him. A lot of stress, a lot of extra money spent all because he left home without a back-up card.

The first of these “don’t leave home without two of these” stories was even worse.

It began when I received an email from a friend. It was titled, “Big Request.” Let me start by saying my friend is an experienced traveler and spends six months a year in Mexico, yet still she made a big mistake. Here’s what she wrote:

“I have a big request for you: My Capital One Visa credit card was hacked, so I had to cancel that account. However, that is an important card for me to have in Mexico, because they do not charge a foreign currency exchange fee on purchases. So, they are sending me a new card in the mail, and say it should arrive in 4-6 days. Capital One does everything online and it was difficult to tell them to send it here to Mexico. Please check all mail from Capital One, find the card, and FedEx it to me here in Mexico. I am sorry to burden you with this, but there are levels of bureaucracy involved here that are daunting.”

Image source:

It took 7 days for the card to come to her home in the states. I sent it via FedEx to her the next day. It never came to her FedEx center and they couldn’t seem to track it down. Because of the tracking issues, she asked me to take a photo of the shipping receipt and send it to her. Finally I got this email almost three weeks after this saga started:

“The card came today. It had been stopped by American customs. None of the labels were attached to the envelope. It looks as though Customs took it and then gave it back to FedEx, who likely sat on it a while. The topmost note on the envelope was a label describing how many times I called, along with an odd notation of a future date for an office hold. It’s crazy!!”

My friend was feeling so stressed out by all this so I didn’t want to point out the obvious. I kept thinking to myself, who travels with ONLY ONE credit card that doesn’t charge a foreign currency fee?

So please don’t forget, we all need to take at least two on every trip. We need to take two ATM cards as well. I have a great strategy for this!

Final Thoughts

Is paying a foreign transaction fee the worst thing in the world? Absolutely not. But it is disappointing when we end up paying fees when an ounce of prevention by carrying two credit cards with no foreign fees can prevent a pound of fees :) Sure, we want to use as little cash as possible when we travel so as not to miss out on miles/points. If we don’t have multiple ATM debit cards though, it is wise to take a bit of cash along!

14 thoughts on “It Happened Again: Don’t Leave Home Without At Least Two Of These!

  1. desikid

    Good advise.. I am travelling to Mexico and was planning to take my Citi Prestige card only.. Now, will bring one more backup card as well with debit card.. Of course, I will have cash in mexican peso too…

  2. Kenny

    I have had my debit card eaten by an ATM, twice I think. American Express is actually quite reasonable for cash advances, a lot better than any kind of craziness like shipping a debit card.

  3. Jason

    Why oh why does anyone travel away from home without back up cards???
    I don’t mean to be harsh, but that is stupid to go overseas without back up cards.

    1. Shelli Post author

      It’s not harsh, Jason. I agree. Forgetting to take extra cards is one thing. But not thinking ahead with cards somehow comes back to haunt us. I doubt either of these friends will make that mistake again……I hope!

  4. Charlie

    Been there. Done that. Twice. The first time American Express bailed me out with an emergency cash code that I could use once at a Chilean ATM machine. The second time a friend bailed me out with Swiss Francs from her stash because Chase was down for maintenance. I now travel with multiple credit and debit cards.

    1. Shelli Post author

      Great stories, Charlie, and lessons learned. I learned mine in South Africa. ATM ate my Schwab card. What a messy way to “get it”, but once you do, you never forget :)

    1. Shelli Post author

      Hi Christian, That’s too general a question for me to answer. I’d say it depends on the bank or credit card issuer policy, and might be different for credit cards and debit cards.

    2. Grant

      If you say your card was lost or stolen, they will send you a new card with a new card number. But if you say that your old card is bent or worn, they will normally send you a replacement card with the same card number. I hope that helps.

  5. Pingback: Hilton Times Square for free after canceled AirBnB, is a 3% APY Robinhood account safe, Prestige claim success and more

  6. Luke Vader

    Always good to avoid “single point of failure” scenarios if/when possible, a.k.a. have a backup plan. Good tips, thanks.


Got something to say?