Personal Finance

Hassles with foreign ATMs

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  • Oct 4th, 2014 4:17 pm
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[OP]
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Mar 20, 2009
8862 posts
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Vancouver

Hassles with foreign ATMs

I and others from my company travel a lot overseas, and these days we usually get cash by getting it from an ATM with a Canadian bank or credit card on the international Maestro or Plus networks. It's a great convenience, and in most first-world countries it's reliable. But if you travel more widely, it's not nearly as reliable in other countries. Many of us have encountered this annoying problem (4th time for me now!): The foreign ATM approves the transaction with the Canadian bank, and then it shuts down due to a communication failure or local equipment error, and never issues the cash or any kind of transaction receipt. They never close the loop with Canada - according to the Canadian bank, the transaction has taken place.

When this happens, in my experience it never gets fixed automatically by the foreign bank, and it's virtually impossible to get any information from the foreign bank directly. The approved process is to dispute the transaction through your Canadian bank. This is a lengthy and difficult process, as the foreign bank will usually take months to respond, and then usually claims that their central database shows the transaction completed. They don't seem to ever seem to bother reconciling transactions with individual ATMs. And of course there's no proof of what happened. It usually gets resolved in the end, but only after a long time and a lot of hassle, and then only because the Canadian bank accepts your version as true, which might not always be the case.

This is really a ridiculous flaw, and while I wouldn't want to lose the convenience of getting cash advances from foreign ATMs, I think Canadian banks and credit card issuers should be putting more pressure on these foreign ATM operators to meet certain standards of reliability if they are going to display the Maestro and Plus logos on their machines. It's not rocket science to have closed-loop transactions that don't post to your account until the foreign ATM confirms that the cash was actually issued and taken. If the machine loses contact before that, then the transaction should be marked "incomplete".
7 replies
Banned
Sep 13, 2014
403 posts
11 upvotes
Toronto, ON
Cash in usd will never have issues of ATMs nightmares
Deal Addict
Mar 2, 2005
2021 posts
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Timetobuychina wrote:
Oct 3rd, 2014 7:56 pm
Cash in usd will never have issues of ATMs nightmares
+1, in the same boat OP, have learned over the years to carry USD with me when traveling to Asia/ S America etc...
Deal Fanatic
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Nov 23, 2005
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Ask yourself this; what jurisdiction do Canadian banks have over some ATM operators in a third world country? None! Canadian banks are not governing bodies and as such, have no power to change anything. You have two options here. Keep doing what you are doing now, or bring cash with you when you are going to areas where you know you might have a problem.
[OP]
Deal Fanatic
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Mar 20, 2009
8862 posts
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Vancouver
Cash has its own problems, like danger of theft and loss, limitations on amount of currency which can be carried across borders, and highly variable exchange rates.

As for jurisdiction, the Canadian banks are members of Visa and Mastercard, which operate the international Plus and Maestro networks that the foreign banks belong to in order to process international transactions. Membership in Plus and Maestro must be approved by Visa and Mastercard. They are therefore in a position to require certain reliability standards, and the Canadian banks which are partners in Visa and Mastercard are able to influence those standards should they choose to do so.
Deal Addict
Feb 10, 2013
4006 posts
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Richmond
You don't need much cash in 3rd world countries silly. Example china. We never bring more than 5k cad to china/hong kong. We don't need that much. Most of the time we only use 1k cad. And we still have left over currency.
Sr. Member
Jan 30, 2013
681 posts
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RICHMOND HILL
bluebellrose wrote:
Oct 4th, 2014 4:40 am
You don't need much cash in 3rd world countries silly. Example china. We never bring more than 5k cad to china/hong kong. We don't need that much. Most of the time we only use 1k cad. And we still have left over currency.
you must be a very frugal backpacker!

This guy is a businessman! Get a diamond necklace in Hk and could set you back $10K alone that is the cheaper ones
Deal Addict
Feb 10, 2013
4006 posts
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Richmond
goldenball wrote:
Oct 4th, 2014 9:43 am
you must be a very frugal backpacker!

This guy is a businessman! Get a diamond necklace in Hk and could set you back $10K alone that is the cheaper ones
But he isn't buying that stuff is he? Going to china, get your rmb at a hong bank and just pay them the fee. I don't trust mainland banks.

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