Saturday, April 04, 2009

cold cash

Another bump in the road today.

I had planned to sleep in this morning to fight my cold. My voice was just starting to return, but I thought a little rest would help.

But first thing in the morning, my cell phone started ringing. I had the option of ignoring it, but I am glad I didn't.

On the other end of the telephone was the manager of the credit union. I had been waiting for her call to set up my debit card to work in Mexico.

In a far-too-chirpy voice, she informed me that I had been misinformed. Debit cards could not be unblocked in Mexico. Security. Liability. Blah blah blah.

Kim of Boston had warned me that this might happen. Many credit unions are simply too cheap to install the necessary protections for their credit cards. Apparently, my credit union falls in that category.

My Nyquil-befuddled brain figured out I had a problem. As matters stood, I would have no cash access when I cross the border.

And driving to Tuscon every week to get cash seemed to be a bit counter-productive. Not to mention, the Homeland Security guys would most likely decide I needed a little talking to. And I do not like to talking to them -- ever.

So, up I get. And trundle off to the local branch of one of the few surviving MacDonald's-like banks in town. After an hour, I had my new account information.

I was going to follow Felipe's advice and open an account through CitiBank, but I could not get my cell phone to cooperate. Maybe another day.

I wish I could say it was a nice Spring day in Oregon for this errand. It wasn't. I ended up schlepping through rain and hail. Remember. I am walking to improve my health. By the time I got home, I was ready for bed.

Six hours later, I woke up just in time to get back in bed for the night.

I am looking forward to getting rid of this cold. But I am one day closer to wheels up on my runway south.


Felipe said...

Steve, you shoulda had that Citibank (Banamex USA) account opened months ago.

Calypso said...

Steve - Honestly you need at least two credit cards going down. It is fine to read of people that have had seamless good luck like Felipe and his call to become all things Mexican - in the best of all possible worlds (which his apparently is) that is great - but a wise man prepares for the great unknowns and the lesser ones - like having a card declined and put on hold or having a machine eat it or getting robbed and having to cancel a card (don't keep them both in the same place by the way.

It is great when people get away clean - but it is also better to have a plan for when they don't - bottom line. If nothing else you will adapt with greater confidence - something in the beginning that can be quite nerve provoking.

Sometimes when I get in a wild traffic scene or some other particularly Mexican situation - I am amazed at how far I have come in terms of remaining calm and dealing with the situation - the fear factor will diminish - but good planning only helps you sleep at night.

American Mommy in Mexico said...

Oh the Mexico Way is finding you in Oregon.

The Unexpected is the Expected.

Hope you feel better soon!

Larry in Mazatlan said...


I think I see your problem. The phone in the picture looks like it's off the hook.

Get well for the drive south. The warm weather will do you good. The birds and flowers here this time of year are fantastic.


Islagringo said...

I suppose different states have different rules, as do banks. I belong to a credit union in Minnesota. I have a debit card through them. All I had to do was let them know that I am in Mexico so that withdrawals coming from Mexico would not freak them out. They have even waived the withdrawal fees since I do not have access to a credit union cash machine. I guess I don't understand why your card would just not automatically work here. Thousands of tourists here just walk up to the ATM machine, stick their card in and receive cash. Am I missing something??

Steve Cotton said...

Felipe -- You are correct. In February when I started thinking about it. I just let it slip.

Calypso -- I am developing a backup plan. I hope it works better than my primary plan.

AMM -- Maybe I am being given the opportunity for a pre-test.

Larry -- I will soon take my phone off of the hook for good. Literally, not metaphorically. ;)

Wayne -- I suspect the oddity is with my credit union. For years, the credit union has posted a warning on its web page that its debit and credit cards cannot be used in Mexico. Not a very good marketing tool. If I had understood that I could not get around that rule, I would have signed up with CitiBank months ago.

Felipe said...

Señor Calypso and others are very correct. You need a minimum of two credit cards, preferably from different institutions, things you can manage via the web. I sure have that and wouldn´t have it otherwise.

And ATM cards from at least two institutions. I have that and wouldn´t have it otherwise either.

Ah, nuestro amiguito, you have mentioned often of your tendency to procrastinate. It´s about to reach up and bite you on your behind-ski.

Apologies for nagging when your nasal passages are giving you the devil.

Calypso said...

OK so my compadre Felipe is in agreement. To me a Bank of America and a Citi Bank acct. in conjunction with your credit union - will work - I KNOW you have enough money to go around ;-)

zannie said...

Steve! Walking to improve your health is excellent. Walking even when it is hailing is admirable. But walking in the rain when you have a bad cold is a good way to catch pneumonia. Not a good way to get your recovery under way. Exercise is just fine as long as you don't have a fever, but when your immune system is compromised you want to avoid the cold and wet when possible.

I myself am suffering from a fairly nasty cold at the moment, so you certainly have my sympathies. Take care of yourself!

Brenda said...

Along with your credit cards (which are next to useless here, we never use ours unless we cross the border which is rare) make sure you have more than one debit card. I asked our bank for extras and got about 6 or so. They wear out, sometimes I have heard that the machines eat them (have never had that happen)or you might lose one. Here we cannot get money from the bank on our credit cards, has to be a debit card.

Laurie said...

I agree that you need at least 2 cards. I have three credit cards now. Two are for personal accounts, and one is for mission related activities. I can manage all of my accounts via internet. In addition, I have entrusted my mom with power of attorney. I am amazed at how helpful that has been over the past two years. I will open up a card with Citibank soon and cancel one of the other cards. I am just waiting a bit to amke sure Citibank stays in Honduras. After all, it's been a wild ride for the banks.

mdoneil said...

Have you thought about USAA. I use them for banking and I never have any trouble in Mexico or anywhere else in the world. They also have a toll free number available for Mexico.

Steve Cotton said...

Felipe and Calypso -- When the two of you join on a course of action, only a fool would disregard the advice.

Znnie -- But I got a dividend today. We had perfect weather. Clear skies and warm temperatures in the 60s. Who could ask for better weather?

Brenda -- Good idea on the extra cards. My credit cards usuially nly last me 3 months -- tops. Of course, they will not be used as often in Mexico. But my ATM cards will.

Laurie -- Lts of credit cards here. Lack of ATM cards. I think I used my credit union debit card about twice a year. That is about to change.

mdoneil -- I was once a USAA insured. No more. No need to go back. Long story better told elsewhere.

Constantino said...

Steve, you might also think about grabbing your old expired Oregon Drivers License, just in case you may have to show it to someone who may stop you.
I learned long time ago that the previous license is a safe bet as long as you are new to the country. You will pick up all the info as you go along......