We made our way back to the hotel intending to have dinner at a little restaurant we had spotted at the bottom of the road before turning in for the night. Our trip on the underground took us to THAT STATION — the one where my card got eaten and we thought we could go to the security offices and check for an update.
In the end, we did not need to make that detour — as we met our friendly helpful security guard who gleefully informed us that our card had been found — and would be posted to our home address in Portugal. SIGH ( Sigh here means much muttered swearing under breath and sheer desperation). We double checked it had gone to our Portuguese address and not to the hotel — but, no, he said it had definitely gone to our Portuguese address. We said thank you as gracefully as we could under the circumstances and rapidly changed our dinner plans for the evening.
We decided to dine in. I always travel with crackers of some kind in case I need something to eat quickly. We had a bottle of duty-free champagne saved for our night in Venice as well. We stopped off at the supermarket in the station and bought some pate, cheese and some fruit and bottled water and headed back to the hotel for the night.
First thing to do was look on the internet to see what we could do to correct matters.
Normally, I would have just transferred my money from one bank to the other — however this can take at least 24 hours if not 48 hours — outside of our time frame to check out. Also, I did not travel with the documents with my name/account ID and password and we were not sure if the automated phone check from the bank would cross-country borders. We later established it would not. We toyed with the idea of leaving early but would still have been left short somewhere along the line.
We did wonder if the British Embassy could help us.
“What our consular section cannot do for you. Although we try to help British nationals in a wide range of situations, we cannot:
- get you out of prison, prevent the local authorities from deporting you after your prison sentence, or interfere in criminal or civil court proceedings
- help you enter a country, for example, if you do not have a visa or your passport is not valid, as we cannot interfere in another country’s immigration policy or procedures
- give you legal advice, investigate crimes or carry out searches for missing people, although we can give you details of people who may be able to help you in these cases, such as English-speaking lawyers
- get you better treatment in hospital or prison than is given to local people
- pay any bills or give you money (in very exceptional circumstances we may lend you some money from public funds, which you will have to pay back)
- make travel arrangements for you, or find you work or accommodation
- make business arrangements on your behalf”
That would be a “no,” then.
Any action from any of our banks would be too late as we had limited time left. We could just scrape ourselves home by eating as much as we could at breakfast at the hotel — which we had paid for and by having picnics the rest of the time and taking in free attractions.
All is not lost though — I am recounting our tales of woe to a valued friend whose immediate reaction was can I help in any way? Followed shortly by I can get you £650 in ten minutes for £10 via the Moneygram online service. Talk about a life line! Basically he would do an online transfer via his bank to me which would go to one of their agents in Vienna and he would then send me a code which along with some identification would allow me to collect the money. I gratefully say yes please and thank you that will be fantastic and breathe a huge sigh of relief.
Twenty minutes later, and three failed attempts later — he says I am going to try again tomorrow and if necessary I will go to the Post Office — the main agents in the UK, and send it in person. The next message says — cannot do that the Post Offices are on strike tomorrow. Next message says that is OK I can go to the bank, take out the money and go to Thomas Cook — the other agents in the UK . We say our good-nights and Mr P and I have a rather ridiculous picnic of champagne and crackers with cheese, pate and fruit. Needless to say, neither of us had much appetite for the food and the champagne went down too well.
We are rudely awakened the next morning at an ungodly hour by reception who inform us they have had a call from the security company’s bank about my card and that they will ring the bank back on our behalf after we have had breakfast — i.e when the bank itself was open — not just the security division. Maybe all is not lost after all. I quickly mail my friend and ask him to hold off from doing anything until we have had a chance to call them.
Feeling somewhat worse for wear after the indulgences of the previous night, we speedily head for breakfast — well tea, coffee, nicotine then toast in that order for me — Mr P piled in, in his usual fashion. Suitably refreshed and hydrated we once again head for reception where our long-suffering assistant greeted us with a smile and duly rang the bank for us.
After three calls she was eventually put through to the right person after a string of wrong people — who duly informed us that they did not have a clue why we thought that they would keep our cards as they were all destroyed as a matter of policy when they are found — no matter what anyone one claims and under whatever circumstance and that we had been informed of its whereabouts as a matter of courtesy.
Back up to our room and back to our friend — yes please could he help us out. Yes he could and yes we will wait here while he made the necessary trip into town to do what had to be done.
An hour later he returns. Transfer had been done, this was the code word and all I had to do was go to any branch of one of the banks and the money would be there. He had to do it in person as opposed to on-line because his bank — National Westminster had not reached formal agreement with Moneygram over use of their cards. As the Post Office was taking part in the National strike a travel agent has to be used. This meant worse exchange rate and higher charges. The upside was that he had been allowed to send a little more money.
Once again we said our thank yous and proceed to go to the nearest branch of the bank concerned to collect the funds and then move on to the main event of the day — Robbie Williams in concert — which after all was the reason we were here in the first place!
Collecting the funds was simple compared with the rest of the day. We located the bank, took a tram and then walked for five minutes — stopping to look in the Ferrari showroom as we walked past. We can all dream!
Once at the bank, it was a matter of showing my passport, giving my codeword and signing to say I had received the money — all done and dusted in about five minutes. I am going to say another thank you to my friend here — as I know he follows me here — you really did save the week, not just the day!
We had time to take time out for some much-needed refreshments at the Mozart Cafe before going on to the concert where I had iced elderflower cordial spritz-en and Mr P had iced cappuccino — childhood memories for me and a new habit for both of us.
What a wild continuation! I’m actually glad they destroy the cards. That really does protect everyone involved. There’s no chance for stealing or copying or just plain swiping. I’m sure you would have appreciated knowing that from the instant the card became stuck. SMILE!
I thank you for the Moneygram education. I thought Western Union was the money sending standard, but it sure seems like Moneygram is a great service. I did a little check here and I can send up to $899.99 USD to Vienna for a $55 fee for pickup in 10 minutes if I use a debit or credit card. The fee drops to $25 if I use a bank account transfer, but that would take 3-5 days to arrive. I had no idea money could speed internationally like that so seamlessly — but your story confirms the magic! Technology really is amazing.
I was relieved to be told it had been destroyed as well – it would have been difficult for someone to use without pin codes and passwords etc but they are easy to crack given the high spec computers available today. If we had known at that instant – or even before 4.00 pm that day we could possibly have had a replacement one sent to us in time – no doubt at considerable expense.
I had not heard of Moneygram before. I had heard of Western Union but had also heard they were the last resort as their rates are not good. That is a pretty good rate to send that amount that far ! The ten minute factor is amazing. What is also amazing is that it could have been repeated the next day if necessary.
Ah! RIght! Your banking is much more sophisticated and secure than ours. We don’t have CHIP and PIN yet. Some banks offer CHIP and Sign — but that’s really nothing. If you find a debit card or credit card that doesn’t belong to you — and you use it — chances are slim you’ll get caught unless the card has already been reported stolen.
CHIP and PIN is supposed to be here, everywhere, by 2015. I’m not holding my breath… because every single credit card terminal in the country will have to be replaced…
Yes, Moneygram is fantastic, and I agree $55 to send money in 10 minutes across the world is an absolute bargain. I wonder if Western Union even offers an international deal like that or not?
If your card was American Express — they would have overnighted you a new card at no charge and, I bet, you could’ve even gone into a local office in Vienna the same day you lost the card and they would have made you a new card right there on the spot.
I cover chip and pin in my next offering . Great point about American Express too – not sure that is offered in Portugal I will have to have a look – although I am sure they must have agents here at least.
Every card is different with what they offer – and they offer different “goodies” in different countries.
Neat! Chip and PIN is fascinating technology. You can’t use CHIP and SIGN in the USA — nobody supports it — so the feature is a kludge for foreign travel.
Here’s some info for you:
ooh thanks – now to translate it into English !
If you use the Google Chrome web browser, it will automatically translate any “foreign language” page into the language of your choice!