Bank Of America Tries To Ruin Your Vacation For Your Own Protection

Reader Drew went out of his way to ensure that he’d be able to get money from ATMs (using his Bank of America card), while on vacation. Despite his best efforts, he learned that a) putting a note on your account saying that you’ll be in England and b) drawing less than the maximum daily amount from your account is still not enough to keep BoA from putting a hold on your account. He’s written in with some advice for other Bank of America customers who are planning on traveling soon…

So in preparation for a trip to England last month, both my wife and I decide to contact Bank of America to let them know that we’ll be traveling overseas. We’d hate to be stuck in some little town in the Cotswolds with nothing but a few pounds and a crappy exchange rate between us and dinner. While my wife calls BoA directly and plays phone tag to end up at the right ATM division to have a note placed on her account, I go down to the branch office near my work where a nice Bank of America account rep gets to play phone tag to end up at the right ATM division to have a note placed on my account. So the only benefit to me going down to a local office rather than calling is that I get to have someone else wait on hold while I admire that freakish-necked woman, a creature of taut sinew and gnashing teeth, that adorns all the ads draped around the office.

Oh, and I learn that we will not be charged extra fees on our BoA ATM cards from Barclays ATMs. I guess that’s worth the nightmares of the BoA She-Gollum crawling across my ceiling to devour my flesh and credit rating.

Anyways, you don’t have to be a Consumerist reader for very long to guess what happens next: My card stopped working. I had attempted to withdraw 100 pounds from a Barclays ATM in Witney and was denied. I then tried to withdraw 35 pounds and succeeded. My wife withdrew 100 pounds from her account at the same ATM, no problem. I figured that I had tripped some sort of daily limit (the exchange rate is all over the place, so I may had gone over the 200$ daily limit by a few bucks) and wasn’t too worried – I had credit cards on hand for back up (as recommended by that couple who went to Japan on honeymoon and lost a day due BoA’s tomfoolery). I’d just try again the next day.

I did. It didn’t work. I waited another day. And it didn’t work either. I try again, this time in Oxford. Still, nothing. By now, my wife is getting tired of being the cash machine (it’s hard to pay for real ale and recommended donations with plastic!). Suspecting something beyond Bank of America’s passive dislike of letting people access their money, we stop in at an internet cafe to check my account balances and see if there’s some sort of notice. I really didn’t want to do that as most internet cafes are really, really sketchy and the only one we could find practically had an ‘Identity Theft Here’ sign on the door.

Sure enough, there’s an email from Bank of America in my inbox saying that due to unusual activity, my ATM card was suspended. My only recourse is to call up Bank of America and talk to a rep to have things cleared up. Luckily we had rented a cellphone for our trip and brought the international toll-free number just-in-case. So we retire to a pub (I didn’t know if I would need to access the internet or drop in at Barclays again so didn’t want to wait until we were back at our rented cottage in the country – also I was thirsty) by the river and I make my call. And wait on hold. And wait. And wait. Robotic notices that my wait time would be 2 minutes play every minute or so. After the tenth replay of this message, I order another pint. And then wait another ten minutes.

Finally someone picks up and I explain my problem to them. They want me to verify my identity by reading out all sorts of valuable information to them over the phone. So if my bank info wasn’t swiped in the internet cafe, it certainly could be picked up here. It didn’t help that the Bank of America rep was apparently a citizen of Northmumbletown whose phone was kept at the other end of a long hallway, thus requiring me to shout random answers about my financial history in hopes of answering her increasingly more difficult verification questions. I try to walk around the pub to a quieter side, away from the crowds, but manage instead to stumble into a crowd of angry swans.

So if anyone was in Oxford and saw an American tourist, cellphone in one hand and beer in the other, fleeing around a pub from a gaggle of pissed off, honking swans, you have Bank of America to thank for your afternoon’s entertainment. Next time, I’ll bring some Benny Hill music.

Once the Bank of America rep is safe in the knowledge that I am who I say I am and I am safe from the swans, we get down to business. I ask what the problem is and she says that due to unusual activity, my ATM card was suspended. I ask what was unusual about the activity. She says (well, mumbles from her end of the hallway) that it was being accessed in England. I ask if she can see the note that I had placed on my account saying that I would be in England. She pauses and says she can. So what’s the problem? I mean, I can understand that some sort of automatic block was tripped, but surely someone would see the note and then override it, right? Well, not really. The amount that was attempted to be withdrawn was really close to the 200$ daily maximum.

Wait – close to the maximum? Not over the maximum? With the exchange rate being what it is, 100 pounds came to something like $198. Apparently, in Bank of America-land, a maximum really isn’t a maximum. Being two bucks shy of the max is really the same thing as going over it due to BoA Magic Rounding, which is weird because I bet if I underpaid my credit card by two bucks, they’d slap me with a $35 fine in a heartbeat.

After my account is fixed, I complain about all this and the BoA rep assures me that it was being done to protect my account. Protect my account? Considering the steps I had to go through to figure out what was wrong with my account, using internet cafes and shouting out personal information over the phone, my account felt significantly less secure! As I type this, there could be a cunning swan somewhere in Oxford ordering up a bunch of goods using my ill-gotten account information. I took the time to learn Bank of America’s rules and made sure to play by them, but in the end they seemed to just ignore them, even to the point of ignoring the reasons why they put the rules in place to begin with.

And it’s not like they are even consistent when it comes to ignoring their rules! My wife had been happily withdrawing 100 pounds every day while my card was out of commission. Why didn’t her account get blocked? She had the same note and the same ‘close to the maximum’ withdraws…

My only advice for anyone planning to travel overseas with their Bank of America cards is to plan for hassle. Even if you do everything they say you should to ensure a smooth trip, something will go wrong and before you know it you will be on top of a picnic table talking to a distant Bank of America representative trying to get your account fixed while your wife hurls bread at an army of angry swans in order to distract them from the blood and account information they so desire. Plan for Bank of America to drop the ball. Make sure that you have a cellphone that works, the international contact number (001-770-491-4064), your own laptop, and an infinite amount of patience with you at all times.

Oh, and some crusty bread helps too. You know, in case of swan attack.

-Drew

(Photo: meghannmarco )

Comments

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  1. You mean people *still* bank with BOA? Lord I hope whomever is left closes their accounts and finds a better bank/credit card issuer.

  2. jamesdenver says:

    For cash I always make sure I know my pin numbers for cash advances.

    Yeah I hate cash advances and the associated fees – but can come in handy in I get dicked around by my bank (for trying to access MY money)

  3. esd2020 says:

    The daily limit is only $200 to start with? That seems kinda low.

  4. Jaysyn was banned for: http://consumerist.com/5032912/the-subprime-meltdown-will-be-nothing-compared-to-the-prime-meltdown#c7042646 says:

    Here is some advice, change banks.

  5. The Great Aussie Evil says:

    It’s in the name, people — Bank of AMERICA. They don’t want you to leave the good ol’ USA and head to any other country not under our grip.

    P.S. Thank you for not allying with WinLive Search like the rest of the network, Consumerist.

  6. PinkBox says:

    Of course it should have never happened at all because of the note placed on the account, but at least they fixed the problem after a phone call. I personally would have called the second my card stopped working.

    The same happened to me twice during cross country trips. A quick phone call remedied the problem.

  7. snoop-blog says:

    I know some feel like BoA works for them and that’s fine, but if they were the last bank left on the planet, I’d invest in some mason jars and a good shovel.

  8. IphtashuFitz says:

    Odd. Just over a year ago I spent a month down in New Zealand & Australia and used my BoA card at ATMs numerous times without any problems whatsoever. I also did call BoA (and Amex, Visa, etc) to let them all know the dates I’d be in those countries, and I also found local banks that partner with BoA so I wouldn’t be charged any fees, but I never had any problems whatsoever. I withdrew $200-$400 Au from ATM’s on a semi-regular basis while I was there and never once got denied.

  9. MrEvil says:

    Too bad traveler’s cheques are as rare as hens’ teeth and not widely accepted. They still aren’t very secure either.

  10. nrfx01 says:

    This is the single most entertaining BoA post on here in a while. OP should know its not swans you need to be wary of, its those damn talking ducks you have to watch out for.

  11. Buran says:

    Oh good lord here we go again. By now isn’t it apparent that it’s just easier to use credit, not debit/cash, when traveling when credit is readily available? I take $100 in local currency with me and use credit as much as I can.

  12. badgeman46 says:

    People! Its called CASH! And if you arent comfortable traveling with cash, why not load up a pre-paid credit card?! Why does anyone even use a bank, especially BOA?! Credit Union, people! Money in a safe at home! Lets say BOA gets even 10 bucks a month on fees, and I am sure it is more! If you use a safe at home instead, then you will automatically have $3,600 more money over a 30 year period!

  13. They probably flagged his account because “customer was making many inquiries about traveling overseas and not wanting to have account flagged.”

  14. Wormfather says:

    I know this is going to sound really crass, but all BoA stories henceforth will be “blame the victim” stories. Because at the end of the day, you banked with bank of america. I dont care if you walked into a BoA and got shot, you shouldnt have been banking with them to begin with. Trust me, I know, I live with a BoA customer.

    It’s like dating a stripper…excpet with worse odds.

  15. mike says:

    Here’s another “Get of out BOA” thread. This should be fun.

    I’ll grab the popcorn.

  16. sleze69 says:

    The moral of the story is to NOT bring a BoA ATM card with you when you travel overseas. Bring an ATM from a competant bank.

  17. Cash. Cash. Cash.

    Next time take some with ya. With a little planning ahead you can get a better exchange rate than the Tourist exchange rate at the airport.

  18. Pylon83 says:

    This submission was about 10x longer than it should have been. I have yet to understand why people insist on including useless garbage information in their complaints. All it does is dilute the actual meat of the complaint with crap like “I was thirsty” or the junk about the swans. Succinct and extraneous fact free complaints are the easiest to read, and the most powerful. When you include all the extra crap, all the reader thinks is “wow, there must not be much to the actual complaint here if it was necessary to pad it with all this garbage.

  19. robocop is bleeding says:

    @Buran: This works when traveling in cities or well populated areas. Trying to buy some veggies from a roadside farmstand or a single pint of beer in a village pub with plastic.

  20. bobfromboston says:

    People who recommend carrying cash when traveling in tourist-heavy cities in Europe don’t know what they’re talking about. Pickpockets (and muggers, in certain areas) are rampant, and many of them are smarter than you are when it comes to separating you from your cash.

    If you want to risk it, fine, but please don’t tell everyone else that cash is the way to go.

    As for the comment about travelers checks being scarce and not widely accepted — that’s simply untrue. I don’t care for them (they’re inconvenient), but they’re accepted all over Europe.

  21. VA_White says:

    @Pylon83: Thanks for your input, Data. Some of think the bit about the swans was funny and entertaining. You and your BFF Sgt. Friday can go start your own blog with nothing but facts if it chaps your ass so much.

  22. VirgilReality says:

    “…So if anyone was in Oxford and saw an American tourist, cellphone in one hand and beer in the other, fleeing around a pub from a gaggle of pissed off, honking swans, you have Bank of America to thank for your afternoon’s entertainment. Next time, I’ll bring some Benny Hill music…”

    Priceless, Drew…Simply priceless…

  23. Buran says:

    @robocop_is_bleeding: “when credit is readily available” *slams head on desk*

  24. mpines says:

    I’ve had the same sort of problem with Washington Mutual in Japan, England, and Eastern Europe (note in file and still having my account placed on hold by fraud prevention). Its a serious problem, particularly if you are traveling alone. I’ve resorted to carrying backup travelers checks just in case I can’t access my money in a country that is not big on credit cards. It sucks.

  25. bonzombiekitty says:

    , I can understand that some sort of automatic block was tripped, but surely someone would see the note and then override it, right? Well, not really.

    really? You actually expect a huge bank like BOA, or any non mom&pop bank, to have an actual person looking at your account when it’s flagged? Of course they don’t. It’s all automated. They don’t have an actual person look at your account until you call them up.

  26. Buran says:

    @Wormfather: Excuse me, but THERE IS NO EXCUSE for blaming the victim when they’re not the ones who fucked up. If you can’t stand the fact that someone who does everything right is NOT AT FAULT, maybe you need to start your own damn blog, and who the hell makes you click on the stories where all you do is scroll right down to post, and spew forth crap about how it’s THE VERY CAREFUL AND THOUGHTFUL VICTIM’S FAULT?

  27. darkrose says:

    Why do people still insist on banking with the Megabanks?

    Go with a local credit union.

  28. NightSteel says:

    BoA and banks in general still suck, but as much as I love my credit union, they aren’t infallible either. I just got back from Italy. My wife and I had notified our credit union that we would be traveling abroad and noted our accounts too, and while we were over there, my credit card got declined while trying to make a purchase. I had to use my debit card instead. We thought the bank had deactivated our card.

    When we got back to the hotel and called our CU, it turned out that their credit card acceptance system was basically completely hosed, because the telephone rep couldn’t do anything for me other than accept a report of a stolen card. We used the credit card for the remainder of the trip without incident, save to withdraw cash from ATMs with my debit card, which worked fine.

    When I got BACK, though, I had six automated messages, all from my CU, all wanting me to call and confirm the overseas activity. At least they didn’t deactivate our cards (even though we thought they had). So, banks suck, but it’s not a problem unique to BoA. The system itself is broken if you can follow all the steps you’re supposed to and still have problems.

  29. SuffolkHouse says:

    Oh GOD! Stop with the blather! I got the point!

    “As I type this, there could be a cunning swan somewhere in Oxford ordering up a bunch of goods using my ill-gotten account information.”

  30. bonzombiekitty says:

    This story again brings up the point to bring multiple forms of payment when going overseas. I’m anal when it comes to traveling overseas.

    I take debit & credit cards, travelers checks, and a small amount of local currency if I have access to it (mostly so I can buy something to eat when I get off the plane). The traveler’s checks are divided amongst my bags and my wallet and one of my credit cards remains locked in the room. I also keep photocopies of my passport distributed amongst my bags along with important contact info.

  31. Dobernala says:

    @Buran: I sympathize with the victim here but its painfully obvious that banking with BoA is asking for trouble.

    The comparison to picking up hookers and not expecting an STD seems rather apt here.

  32. muffinpan says:

    I would consider death by swans preferable to dealing with BOA.

  33. Buran says:

    @SuffolkHouse: OH GOD! Stop with the incessant whining when no one made you read the story, and when some of is like to be entertained! We get the point!

  34. lemur says:

    @MrEvil:

    Too bad traveler’s cheques are as rare as hens’ teeth and not widely accepted. They still aren’t very secure either.

    Traveler’s cheques worked well enough for me while I was in India for 10 weeks 2 years ago. There was a place about five minutes away from my flat which exchanged them at no extra charge. I easily got them though my credit union and easily used them in India.

    @Buran:

    A credit card is not necessarily better than a debit card. I’ve been in situations abroad where credit cards worked but not debit card, and in situations in which debit card worked but not credit cards. And if you add check cards, you get even more permutations. It seems that banks have no darn rule about anything. And judging by the OP, it seems that even if you tell them ahead, you can still be screwed.

  35. Buran says:

    @Dobernala: Oh really? Then please explain why I have never, ever had a problem. Ever. Of any of the sorts of ways in which people whine about them. And plenty of others have said the same in other similar stories.

    There’s no excuse for the blame flames being slung around. We were told BY THE EDITORS to stop unless the victim really did fuck up in a way that truly was their fault.

  36. Brie says:

    What other credit card companies issue disposable numbers?

  37. Buran says:

    @lemur: And no other company has ever fucked up? Ever? Not one bit? I doubt it. Carry two credit cards. Preferably three. Always worked for me when one failed due to having to get a new number due to fraud, or other problems in which I had to stop using a card.

  38. Dobernala says:

    @Buran: I didn’t say everyone had a problem. Its just obvious that BoA has a poor track record as compared to other banks. With those odds, I don’t think its wise to bank with them.

  39. BlondeGrlz says:

    @Pylon83: I thought this story was both hilarious and helpful and was just thinking I would like to read more from this guy. I wonder if Consumerist could offer him a job? VA_White‘s suggestion was right on, why not go read some government reports or something if you can’t take a little humor with your post?

  40. bcsus83 says:

    reason # 5,639 that I will never, ever, use BOA again.

  41. RandomHookup says:

    I was in London, using one of BoA’s predecessor banks, when I discovered I wasn’t activated for overseas use. When I tried to contact them, all that I could get out of anyone was a bleeding 800 number. Even 411 gave me the same 800 number. Thanks for being so global in your mindset.

  42. starrion says:

    Well, at least BoA didn’t slap on some overdraft fees because he nearly went over the daily maximum and deducting the daily maximum from his average daily balance for the last 90 days means that 37 days ago he would have been in overdraft. That will be $350 in overdraft fees.

    Worst company in America? BoA For the Win!

  43. bohemian says:

    I thought I read somewhere that American Express was doing “travelers checks” on preloaded credit/debit cards now? If that is the case those might be easier to use when out of your local area.

    We had our account get locked because we made a purchase three states away during a family emergency. Never mind the trail of purchases from our city all along the path to where we went for gas & food. At least a quick call to the bank had it cleared up and our daily limits upped until we got back.
    We also usually travel with two separate debt/credit cards so if one got tweaked we could at least pay a hotel/restaurant/gas transaction without the police being called.

  44. katylostherart says:

    do more calculation and withdraw as much as you need all at once and use a credit card for the rest. it’s what i did when i was checking out the place. granted you have to keep better tabs on what you spend (which is a good thing) and you’ll watch your wallet like a hawk (also a good thing) but the upped attention really does make up for the pain/fear of not having any money.

  45. bohemian says:

    @starrion: How IS BOA doing in the worst company polling?

  46. katylostherart says:

    @RandomHookup: also always know how to dial home from another country. us is something like 027 +1 + area code or something. i don’t know if we use the 011+27 and then carry on with number.

  47. Crymson_77 says:

    America banks suck. None of them wants to deal with overseas stuff. That is why I always keep my Amex around and pull the cash before I leave (and stay extremely attentive to what’s going on around me from that point forward!). I have NEVER had a problem using my Amex unless the business didn’t take it. Sadly, I have had issues (numerous) while using the BofA CC I carry as a standby…surprise? Nah.

  48. civicmon says:

    My friend had his ATM card frozen in Japan. Thank heavens for Skype but finding a local number to call from overseas isn’t always easy.

  49. SacraBos says:

    @The Great Aussie Evil: At one time, their call center was based in India. Nice to know Apu has full access to all my account information. My wife and I still refer to them as Bank of India.

  50. gqcarrick says:

    I still have BOA, but probably not for long. I have to drive out of the way to use the ATM which is a pain, and half the time when I go to a few of the banks around me the ATM is out of cash.

  51. Wormfather says:

    @Buran: OK, I’m going ask, why the hell do you have such a hard on for me? Is it my avatar, is it my suave demenor or is it just the fact that you’re bored?

    A. I read the post.
    B. Stop using caps so much, it makes you look like a fuckwad.
    C. If you follow me as much as I think you do, you would know that my fiancee is a member of the BoA Faithful
    D. I think you need to stop trying to rip people a new one until you fix your sarcasm meter.
    E. Fuck off, yeah, I said it.

  52. GothamGal says:

    I hate BoA, but I was in Paris, Milan and Rome for a month and used my card without problems. I also called to ensure that I would not have any problems. The weird thing is I never mentioned Italy as we just decided to go while in Paris. Should I complain that I do not feel protected by them?

    I do feel that I am playing Russian roulette with them, like I will eventually take a bullet.

  53. Wormfather says:

    @Buran: And oh yeah, I said nothing about the people who write this blog or the quality there of, so your calls for me to start my own blog are not only unfounded but complete stupid and irrelivant. Go to hell.

  54. Buran says:

    @Dobernala: Every company fails at one time or another. Personally, I’ve not had a problem, I can find an ATM nearly everywhere and not have to pay fees, and the bill pay works excellently. I don’t see why people get slammed for going with what has always worked well for them. Other than this being “blame the victimist” these days.

  55. Buran says:

    @Wormfather: Wow, you’re telling me to fuck off and go to hell for calling you on constantly bitching at anyone who uses BofA, having a hard-on against someone who did nothing wrong, and for not liking how I emphasize things I say? I don’t give a shit what you think of me, so fuck off and go to hell.

  56. uomdeacon says:

    @darkrose:
    I guess unfortunately I do bank with BoA, though I have yet to have any problems, however apparently it’s just a matter of time. The main reason I do bank with them is that I travel a lot, and while I used to use a local credit union, the convenience of having free ATMs anywhere I go out-weighs the inherent “good”ness of a credit union. I know that many credit unions have fee-free agreements with ATMs in other cities, but it’s far more convenient to just walk up to a BoA ATM vs looking up where a fee-free CU ATM might be.

  57. ChuckECheese says:

    @badgeman46: I wonder if they take Wal-Mart Money Card in Timbuktu. And $3600 after only 30 years? Why, I can be buried in a used boat with that kind of money.

  58. Major-General says:

    Ahh, reminds me of being in Munich between trains and my friend being told by BoA that he still had a hundred bucks available with the rest of his account on hold. Halfway through the trip. Apparently there is an extra special fraud office no one knows about that he had to call on Eastern time business hours. Or after 4 pm local time.

  59. johnva says:

    The solution to this is really simple: bring multiple forms of money and have a backup plan when you go overseas. Credit cards are a better idea than debit cards most places overseas (bring multiple ones from different companies if possible for just such a situation as this). And always have at least a little bit of cash in the currency of the place you’re going, so you’re not stuck if all else fails. I understand that people get pissed about this sort of thing, but if you’re going to another country you really, really should have a backup plan. The financial system can still be a little bit iffy when you’re accessing money across international borders.

    This isn’t just a BoA problem. This can happen with any bank or credit union. Most of them use automated systems that “learn” the normal pattern of your transactions and flag for denial any that deviate from that pattern by enough. Your transactions are not reviewed by a human as they are processed, so if this system flags you, things like this can happen. And international transactions while on vacation ARE outside of most people’s normal pattern, so the system technically isn’t even wrong in saying that it’s anomalous. Now should they have a better system for handling this sort of thing in place for when people notify them of travel? Probably. But it’s not as easy as just having them look at the note on your account in realtime and approve the transactions. Debit cards are often “tighter” than credit cards on this sort of thing, because they don’t want their customers screaming at them for letting their money get stolen electronically.

  60. Wormfather says:

    @Buran: Dude, go back and read your comments in this and other consumerist posts. You’re full of negativity, you do not possess the ability to detect sarcasm and worst of all, you think you know EVERYTHING.

    “Oh good lord here we go again. By now isn’t it apparent that it’s just easier to use credit, not debit/cash, when traveling when credit is readily available? I take $100 in local currency with me and use credit as much as I can.”

    Well that’s fine and well, but you know what, EVERYONE DOESNT WANT TO DO IT YOUR WAY.

    Every comment you make is trying to take someone to task regardless of whether your right or if they’re just stating an oppinion. I think you’re the one who needs to go start there own blog. Also, I dont bitch at anyone who uses bank of america, in fact when a BoA post comes up I typically will type “Bank of america, Bank of Opportunists” after reading the post and be on my merry way. You are the one that seemes determed to be named Mr. Vitrol. I accused you of having a hard-on, dont recycle the insults, it shows a lack of orginality.

    With all that said, yes, I told you to fuck off and go to hell, you deserve both. Ass-hole.

    I will appologize for not checking this for spelling and grammar though, that’s quite rude on my part. Troll.

  61. aka Cat says:

    To anyone who thought this post was tl;dr and skipped it:

    Go back and read it. It’s worth it, just for the homicidal, identity-stealing swans.

  62. Ben Popken says:

    @Wormfather: @Buran: Both of you chill out and stop with the cursing, capitals, and personal attacks, or you may soon have a visit from *~El Bandito~*

  63. muffinpan says:

    oh wow cool wormfather and buran are having a fight. Go get em. Fight Fight. I root for them both to get knocked out. Yeaaaa hit em harder.

  64. Mina_da_mad_child says:

    @johnva: I’m going to China and Vietnam in a few weeks and wanted to know more of your traveler tips. I’ve never left the country and want to make sure that I’m not stranded like this poor soul. Any POSITIVE advice from any commenter is greatly apprecieated.

  65. Wormfather says:

    @Ben Popken: Appologies, if it helps I have a doctors notice citing my conidtion of tofaritis. I’ll give him a call to up my dosage of chillpillitor.

  66. salguod_senrab says:

    FYI, it is possible if you raise the issue to the right person, and are a sufficiently profitable customer, to be placed in a “VIP” security review queue in which your card is never turned off without human intervention.

    With my main credit card (Chase) I reached the boiling point while buying “unusal” things in connection with a home remodeling. I tracked down the name and address of the VP of Fraud Prevention at the financial institution and wrote him a polite but firm letter at his actual office address.

    For whatever reason this letter struck a chord, he called me and we chatted, and I haven’t had a problem since. I made an “unusual” trip to Miami recently, and got a polite call from a human instead of the card just failing on the next transaction (which was a monthly occurrence in years past).

  67. johnva says:

    @salguod_senrab: Interesting information. That makes sense. My main point earlier was that you can’t expect any machine-learning type system to be 100% perfect if it doesn’t have the relevant information somehow (like your travel plans). They should use that “VIP queue” for everyone, at least temporarily, if people tell them when they plan to travel.

  68. TBT says:

    @katylostherart: The country code for the USA is 1, not 27. If you dial it that way, you will end up calling South Africa. Also, 011 is the US code for an international line(thats what you dial IN the US to call internationally)…it probably won’t work in other countries. Don’t know where you are trying to instruct people to call, but its definitely not the US.

  69. snoop-blog says:

    @Wormfather: Wormfather, you are my hero! Love the icon btw. Are you going to ‘white man’s heaven’?

  70. feralparakeet says:

    Wachovia put a note on my account before going to Eastern Europe, and I never had any trouble.

    When I used my card at an ATM in Chicago, though, it got flagged, and I had to call in to get it unlocked again. I’d used it as a Visa plenty of other places in town on my visit, but the ATM flagged it? Odd. Though, I can’t recall if that was before SouthTrust got bought out by Wachovia. Best. Takeover. Evar.

    /BoA must DiaF.

  71. Tallanvor says:

    I currently live in England, but my mailing address for BofA is in the States. I’ve been here around 18 months now, and only once have I had any problem with either my BofA credit or debit card, and that wasn’t really a problem – it was just a large purchase that resulted in the store having to call BofA, have me verify a few things, and have them rerun the transaction. –It took about 10 minutes, but it was no big deal.

    I’ve also used my cards all over Europe with no problems. –Even Bulgaria was fine! And I haven’t run into any fraud issues either.

    Also, $200 daily limit? Mine is around $500, and I can’t think of a time it wasn’t.

    The biggest problem you might run into in the UK is some places won’t accept cards that don’t have a chip. It’s annoying, but restaurants and touristy stores usually won’t give you any problems.

    I know a lot of people have had problems with BofA, and their refusal to let me transfer money to international banks online is annoying, but other than that, I haven’t had any problems with them at all.

  72. ViperBorg says:

    Or…….

    Stop using BofA!! Yay!!!

    Money under mattress FTW at this point… can’t trust any bank.

    Oh, and bonus points for the Benny Hill reference. That made my day.

  73. robocop is bleeding says:

    @Buran: “when credit is readily available” *slams head on desk*

    Yeah, I hear you on that. It’s just that being out in the Cotswolds, not everything was credit card friendly, especially all those little churches that kind ask (read: demand over pain of death) for a few pounds worth of donation to come in and look around. Also, the pub landlords would give you the stink-eye if you tried to charge a round of drinks on a card. Once my wife and I were back in London, having cash on hand became much less of an issue.

    Of course, there I learned the harsh lesson that BoA would still charge me fees for using my debit card like a credit card, an action I welcome all to “blame the original poster” on.

    Next time my wife and I travel, we’ll try some of the alternative methods suggested in this thread. We’ll also invest in swan repellent.

    -Drew.

  74. RosaFerret says:

    I was so over B of A when they did this to me. That’s what convinced me to start using my credit union ONLY!

  75. BlackFlag55 says:

    I gotta second that … what kind of crazy person still banks with Bunch of Asshats?

  76. joeonsunset says:

    I know this is madness, and I hate BofA as much as the next guy, but consider this:

    Your complaint should be about how long you had to hold to get your card re-activated, nothing more. Banks (and credit card companies) SHOULD have an expedited queue for this type of call, to save people from holding up the line 20 minutes at Best Buy while they call to have their card reactivated.

    You certainly can’t suggest that BofA not use a heuristic to determine when to accept transactions. After all, you expect BofA to indemnify you against fraud, and probably pretty quickly. So obviously they have to have some 100% automated, heuristic system for managing the amount of aggregate fraud that occurs across their accounts.

    Could the system work better? I don’t know. But the system is there to protect THEM, not you. And if they didn’t use a heuristic to decline transactions sometimes, their only protection against unlimited outlays for fraud reimbursement would be their customer’s protection of their PIN code. We know how well people do with things like that.

    As long as financial institutions guarantee 100% fraud protection, basically insuring consumers against their own insecure practices, they will decline transactions sometimes in way that don’t always make sense from the individual consumer. The best way to make up for that would be to have super-short hold times and competent reps taking the calls of people whose cards get declined.

  77. vastrightwing says:

    I agree with everyone who will start blaming the victim from now on. Do not use Bank of America because there is a 75% chance they will cause you great harm: they will either steal your money or hassle you to the breaking point. Put your money in your mattress; it’s safer and more convenient!

  78. Wormfather says:

    @snoop-blog: I’m not sure yet, but I am putting on my own Christmas production.

    Kid: We were just having a little fun.
    Huey: Fun? Do I look like Charlie Brown?…Do I *look* like Charlie Brown? You know what? All of y’all are fired! Get out!
    Kid: What? Awww, c’mon.
    Huey: Did I stutter?
    [Kids groan and then look to Quincy Jones for help]
    Quincy Jones: [shrugs] Hey, don’t be looking at me.
    Huey: Don’t look at Quincy Jones! Quincy Jones ain’t gonna help you! Get your asses out! *Now*!

    My fav episode because it’s the only one where he was just an openly stuck up little brat.

  79. thalia says:

    I’m just trying to figure out why people are still banking with BOA.

  80. mzhartz says:

    I love the original post. At least he has a sense of humor about the whole thing.

  81. Pithlit says:

    Always ask to speak to the security department of a bank when calling about such things. I used to work for a different bank in security (fraud control) and we always asked customer service to forward such calls to us, but they didn’t always. We couldn’t use any information that was tagged onto an account unless that info was added by someone in our department. We’d see such info added to an account all the time by customer service, and it would frustrate us because we have to ignore it.

    I suspect that might have been what happened here. A customer service rep noted that they were going on vacation, and the security dept put a hold anyway because no one in that department was directly notified. It seems a silly way to handle things, but CS reps generally aren’t trained to spot fraud, and banks have to eat that loss.

  82. camman68 says:

    I do some part time work for a local company. My last check was for $75 and their account is through BofA.

    It was a Friday afternoon, there is a BofA branch on my way home and I wanted some BEER money. Rather than drive 5 miles to my own bank I decided to cash the check at the BofA. They wanted to charge me $5 because I didn’t have an account with them. Is this a new trend?

    (It’s not like I was at a PayDay lender or Grocery Store!)

    This was my first time dealing with Bank of America. Hopefully, it will be my last.

  83. Bustachai says:

    Maybe I’m an anomaly, but I’ve been banking with B of A for years with nary a problem. In fact, I just left the country last week. I called my local branch; they gave me a specific number to call for activating my card for overseas travel. I called the number, was on hold for two minutes, then simply informed the representative that I would be traveling to the Bahamas for one week. I used the card down there with no problem whatsoever.

  84. scoopjones says:

    Here’s what worked for me on a trip to China – I called the credit union to tell them when and where I would be using my ATM/credit cards, then I purchased (free) travelers checks from my credit union (you do lose some on the exchange rate, as always), and I also carry a fair amount of cash. My dad, who decided to rely upon only his AMT card, immediately ran into trouble and we had to call home to get it fixed. I, on the other hand, had no trouble and had a great trip.

  85. anarcurt says:

    He did everything right (except for banking with BoA) and still couldn’t get his cash. I prefer using my ATM card for foreign trips. The exchange is ALOT better than cash. Just make sure you have options. An Amex travellers card is good if you can handle the fee ($15 or so on a $500 card). Most likely the problem was an incompetant employee or an IT issue (BoA is known for both).

  86. @The Great Aussie Evil: Doesn’t help. I was recently on vacation to the “other coast” within US and did exactly the same thing as the original poster…called the bank beforehand to let them know I would be charging stuff on my credit card across the country. I even gave them the exact days I’d be there.

    And whaddyaknow, the credit card got locked the 2nd time I used it. Called the bank, got it unlocked. Then went to another store and it got denied again. It was completely awesome!

  87. JaneBadall says:

    Same thing happened to me with WAMU. Except it was England, France and Italy, the card was shut down every three days for the entire trip, I didn’t have a handy cell phone and the “800” number doesn’t really work overseas unless the operator speaks enough English to be patient. It was hell.

    Fun fact: Not only did I call ahead of time on three different occasions but in the 8 weeks this was happening, they NEVER made a note on my account.

    For my next trip, I’ll be using my credit cards and travelers checks.

  88. arcticJKL says:

    Interesting, I had the exact opposite experience.
    I told Wamu and BA I would be in Scotland and England. The Wamu card failed to work and I had to rely on my BA atm card which I had brought as a backup.

  89. thebestever says:

    boa = worst bank ever. i finally got rid of them, but it wasn’t before endless emails back and forth and calls to their service center.

  90. Triterion says:

    They did this exact same thing to me when I went to Vegas, they said it was suspicious activity… I only used it like 3 times, LOL BOA- they used to be so much better before a year ago… did they get a new CEO or something??? I wonder what happened…

  91. kostia says:

    @Pylon83: @Pylon83: I often feel the same way, because most posters can’t write worth a shit, but this one was hilarious and awesome.

  92. nez77 says:

    I don’t get these oversea ATM withdrawals. I just go to my local AMEX area and just buy currencies before I go. Saves a lot a trouble, although you are carrying a ton of cash around you. When I went to Japan, I actually bought out their entire inventory of Yen, which was about $1600 worth.

  93. agency says:

    You know, they accept credit cards in Europe too…When I spent a summer there, I mostly got around using my Capital One and a Wachovia-branded MBNA cards because they didn’t have that 3% foreign exchange fee. I don’t know whether BofA was quick to instate a 3% fee once they bought out MBNA but I did get to opt out of an interest rate hike on that card and still keep it. It’s funny having to see the Europeans punch in their PINs every time they use a credit card just as it’s funny how Visa and Mastercard don’t institute the same protection here, although I don’t mind simply signing for my purchases.

  94. consumersaur says:

    @Pylon83: Because it’s entertaining you nitwit.

  95. bilge says:

    Can stars be rescinded from “star commenters”?

  96. FixinTo says:

    I, too, enjoyed the original post. A little humor never hurt anyone.

    Posts here saved me from moving my payroll to BofA. BofA is currently offering free payroll processing services for the first 3 months, and after the free 3-month period, the fee is about 1/4 of what I’m paying with Intuit. Tempting, yes? The catch is employees must have BofA checking accounts for direct deposit. After reading about so many snafus here, I decided not to subject my employees to the dangers of BofA. Thanks for all the warnings.

  97. Kendra says:

    BoA has been repeatedly, numerous times, denied access to accounts while overseas.

    In April 2006 – I was barred from making any withdrawls MUCH TO THE
    EMBARASSMENT OF ME IN FRONT OF MY NEW SO that I was visiting overseas –
    while in NZ.

    I couldn’t even make a purchase for food on my trip home.

    I even called a MONTH AHEAD to ask them to put a note in my account,
    and then ask them if I was able to make withdrawals while not
    stateside, and then asked them if I could make pin-pad purchases (as
    most don’t accept credit here due to merchant fees).

    Thanks, BOA!

    (Starving you while you’re not stateside since 2006.)

  98. coren says:

    @Pylon83: I like the funny stories, and the longer ones. If I wanted a straight telling of the facts, I’d be on google news.

  99. Mina_da_mad_child says:

    I just looked into the travelers card and this is what the website said.
    “American Express has determined that it will no longer be supporting the Travelers Cheque Card.”

    My credit union royally sucks and don’t want to use it as a back up to my Commerce. Any other suggestions?

  100. nyaz says:

    Same thing happened to my parents when they went on a cruise to central and south america. Told all there credit companies in advance that they were gonna be out of the country and where and 2 of the 4 credit cards were cut off because of ‘suspicious transactions’ or whatever. Good thing they had cash.

  101. bankof_fees says:

    Call Tyson Price in the Executive Office. His number is 480-225-1310

  102. dantsea says:

    Heh. This is one of the few times I’m glad I didn’t teal-deer the story. Drew kept it entertaining.

    BofA pulled a reverse one on me last year. Two trips to Australia and I told the right department where I was going and I used my card without any problem while in Sydney. First time I tried to get cash back in San Francisco, denied. Said fraud prevention “Your note said you were in Sydney until tomorrow so your account was flagged for possible fraud when you used the ATM at the SFO airport.” Heh.

  103. sixsnowflakes says:

    Credit cards are not “widely accepted” in Europe. Perhaps in Great Britain and France, Germany and Italy are definately not fans of Visa. ATM cards are by far the best way to go. Carrying your entire savings in cash is too risky, and cash exchange rates are atrocious. I’ve never had a problem with ATM cards throughout South Ameria or Europe. My local bank doesn’t charge any fees, and I keep a Wells Fargo card as a backup (horrific fees). Sorry about your bad luck with BoA.

  104. rosie4chai says:

    Oddly enough, I opened a Bank of America account specifically for the purpose of going to Europe.
    Simply, they have a partnership with BNP banks in Paris. Meaning all ATM withdraws come with no conversion fees, atm fees, fees of any kind. Using my card also carried no fees when charging as credit, but using cash taken from the atm was easier, since many smaller stores don’t take credit. Especially flea markets, farmer markets, some supermarkets, street food vendors (2 lbs of fresh picked cherries for 2 Euro?).

    And forget traveler’s checks when going to Paris. They’re a hassle, and you’ll probably get screwed trying to exchange them. ATMs are all over, and BoA made it easy. I didn’t have any problems while I was there.

    And to those who say don’t carry cash while traveling, I disagree. If you walk around with a fanny pack, Hawaiian shirt, and camera strapped around your shoulder, yes, you will get targeted by pickpockets. Honestly, if you don’t dress and act like a typical dumb American, you won’t have any problems carrying cash. Just be smart and be aware of your surroundings.

    Back in the US, however, I have had tons of problems with Bank of America.

  105. OdetteAppius says:

    This happened to me when I travelled to Spain and again when I travelled to
    Thailand. All I have to say is thank God AmEx is always there to back me up
    (via cash advance with the best international customer service). Instead of
    getting the “international toll free” numbers from BofA’s website, I asked
    for the international collect call number for subsequent trips abroad.

    That means, when you place the collect call from the foreign country to BofA
    in the United States they have to accept the charges, and you can BET the
    are going to resolve your issue as quickly as possible (because
    international collect calls are really, really, really expensive).

    The number is (770) 491-4064. Usually, to place a collect call from a
    foreign country you can just dial “0,” but it varries by country.

  106. arl84 says:

    I’m sorry but this story is a bit biased. This is an honest mistake on behalf of whatever customer service rep helped you – the fact that your wife had no problems can account for that – and based on the other commenters so far, everyone at every bank has had a problem like this. So why is BOA so horrible in this instance? It sounds like you were able to get this problem resolved fairly easily, though it’s not their fault that geese hate humans (seriously.. those things are EVIL) because I think you were exaggerating a bit on your hold times.

  107. lizzybee says:

    Citibank Mastercard did something similar to me– blocked purchases from businesses I regularly do business with– but I was still **in the area.** I wish I knew how you avoid triggering the overly-anal and ridiculous “protection” systems that make using a credit or debit card a major chore.

  108. jsttheman says:

    Yes, it does suck that the bank blocked his card after he specifically said that he would be out of town. He shouldn’t had to have called to the bank in the first place. The only thing that he can’t gripe about is the fact that he didn’t feel secure when he had to shout his information. Simple thing is that you should have waited for a more secure location. He chose that place, not the bank. The bank had nothing to do with it. He should have called as soon as he saw that the card wasn’t working.

  109. Raignn says:

    We just got back from our trip to Albania and Greece and had the exact same problem. Called beforehand, got completely locked out of our account the whole time we were there. Fortunately, we were traveling with family.

  110. jmosley1901 says:

    On Friday, June 20, 2008, I walked into the Parkland Branch Bank of America to make several deposits, cash a check and get my payroll out. The check that I was trying to cash was from a vendor who’d made the check out to my mother, who is a signer on my business account. She came into the back to sign the check and to show her identification.

    The check was over the teller’s limit so she asked the Assistant Branch Manager, Song Degarmo, to assist her. She was asked to verify the check.

    All I did was ask them to verify the check. The funds were good. The Assistant Branch Manager, Song Degarmo, explains to me that Bank of America no longer verifies funds over the phone. I ask to speak with the branch manager because I have been a customer of Bank of America for many years and they have always called to verify funds in situations such as this.

    When the Branch Manager, Linda Morley, storms out her office with my check in her hand, she states, “It is obvious that we will not be able to provide you with the level of customer service that you would like. Your account is not entitled to any special treatment. I am closing your accounts.” And with that she storms over to the main doors, opens the doors and turns back to say, “Please Leave!”

    Mind you, we are in the middle of the lobby and there are still customers all around. I still have yet to say anything to her. Quite frankly, I was confused on what prompted her to approach me in such a manner, and I was hugely embarrassed by her antics.

    The Assistant Branch Manager, Song Degarmo, places her hand on my shoulder and pushed me towards the door. I stopped at the door, turned to the Linda Morley and ask, “Can you please explain to me what is going on? Why are you closing my account?” I was not hostile. I did NOT yell at her.

    She says, “I don’t have to explain anything to you! I have the right to close an account for any reason. Please Leave. If you don’t leave I will call the police!”

    I was almost in tears at this point. My mother was still there. It appeared as though Ms Morley was unreasonably hostile towards her, but that had nothing to do with me or my accounts. I said, “You have not even spoken to me and I am the primary signer on this account. I deserve an explanation as to why you are closing my account. I am not being hostile. I don’t deserve to be treated like this.”

    “It is obvious that you are unaware as to how much we have bent over backwards to assist you. The bank is closed. Please leave.”

    “I have been in line since 5:20. The bank closed before I got to the teller window. Are you saying to me that I am not entitled to the same customer service as everyone else simply because the bank closed while I was in line?”

    “That is not what I said! You are putting words in my mouth!”

    Again, Song Degarmo attempted to push me out the door. By this time, one of the other bankers was standing behind them as if she was going to forcibly remove me.

    And so we left. I called the customer service number to find out why this happened. What did I do wrong? Why did she treat me like that? They said that the branch manager can shut down an account for any reason and that what she did cannot be overridden by anyone.

    I have sat on the phone and poured my heart out to several customer service representatives, and spoken to supervisors of supervisors. The last one I spoke with, Tammy Wright said that she was sorry but the only thing she could offer me at this time was a sincere apology.

    I spent Friday night in the emergency room because I had an anxiety attack that was brought about by this entire situation.

  111. AbigailHaemarrhoid says:

    Oddly, I had zero issues with transactions with BoFA for over a year
    abroad in Latin America – provided I used one of their “partners”,
    ScotiaBank. It rarely worked in any native banks, but it has no problem
    with a Canadian “Partner” bank, almost exactly 3,000 miles away.

  112. Anonymous says:

    I, too, have had problems with my BOA check card being locked on me. Here are the two most extreme incidents.

    1. I live in Everett, WA. I travelled to Vancouver, BC a couple hours north for a short weekend. By Saturday evening, I could not use my card, I was at a store closing in 5 minutes and needed to pick up photos, and was on infini-hold with BOA’s automated system. When I finally reached a human (the next day, after spending a half hour hanging on the phone 3 times, at non-insignificant cell per minute rates), they said that my card was blocked because of the international travel. Now London, Singapore, Sydney… I can understand that. Those places are far away from where I live. But Vancouver is closer to me than most of the US is! An Everett girl’s weekend at the Fairmont Vancouver should not trip fraud warning bells if her trip to San Francisco (many times further away) does not.

    2. The WORST story! They blocked my card on NEW YEAR’S DAY and left me with no way to get in touch with them to unblock it, when I desperately needed to use it. I was travelling in Australia, and had recurring charges for various bills that come out around the end/beginning of the month. A few of them tripped on Dec 31 and Jan 1, as they have every month of every year for more than 5 years. BOA knew I was in Australia (because I’d called to tell them, not really expecting it would help, but I wanted to be able to tell them I’d completed that checkbox item when they blocked me). Their fraud detection system saw the auto recurring charges and said, “HOLY COW! She’s in Australia! She cannot possibly be in Manakin Inlet, Iowa or Great Lakes, MN! Her card must’ve been stolen! We must block it NOW, holiday or not!” Of course, the comedy is that I’ve NEVER been in Manakin Inlet or Great Lakes… those are just the fulfillment houses for those recurring charges that are there every month. You’d think someone could have figured out that if I didn’t need to go to those places for the charges to be legit before, I likely still didn’t need to go to them for the charges to be legit.

    Of course, on New Year’s Day, you guessed it, a friend had an emergency in another part of Australia, and I needed to fly there to help them. And, again, you guessed it, card declined. Oh, and because it was a holiday, none of the “Contact Us” numbers on the BOA web site worked, nor did the number on my card. They even helpfully warned the web reader of this by adding the holiday hours to the usual “24/7″ hours for the debit card numbers. THEY BLOCKED MY CARD ON A HOLIDAY AND LEFT ME WITH NO WAY TO GET IT UNBLOCKED! As I am a young woman who frequently travels alone, this potentially puts me in a VERY dangerous situation. Fortunately, I remembered that I’d let the bank talk me into taking out a second account with a separately-numbered debit card, based on my hunch that it couldn’t hurt to have another account that might not get blocked if the first one does, to help me recover from my next blocked card. I logged in on the computer, transferred a few hundred dollars from the locked account to the unlocked one, and was able to buy my tickets with the unlocked card.

    And when I reached the bank the next day, what did they say? Oh, actually, we WERE open after all, you just couldn’t get to us through any of the published numbers. (!) I wondered rhetorically, being open without telling your customers how to reach you is helpful to the customer exactly HOW?

    Let’s just say that a direct number to these people is now written in black sharpie across the face of all 3 copies of my debit card. And when merchants ask what the writing on the front of the card is about, I simply tell them it’s because I travel a lot, the bank has a bad habit of trumping up an excuse to disable my card at least once per trip even through I follow their policy of informing them before my travel, and that is the direct number to get through to the unblockers, which I wrote there so that it will ALWAYS be handy whenever I’m using any of my cards.

    I suggest others do likewise.

  113. Anonymous says:

    bank of america are absolute Nazis and have done THIS to me EVERY TIME I had an important event that required access to MY money.

    They just did it to me a half hour ago. I needed to cash 2 b of a checks and get a cashier’s check. The horrid manager froze our card and threatened not to cash the checks… then because she HAD to cash them, she punished me by making we wait 20 minutes.

    we are giving our tax dollars to these quacks? I really really hope they ALL Lose their jobs. they suck and are the reason America is hurting.