Bank of America has cut off Shannon’s debit card and says she has to get a new one. This would otherwise be a minor inconvenience except for the fact that Shannon is in Irkutsk, Russia on a 2-week Trans-Siberian trek.
A place where the postal systems are so unreliable that “many Russian offices have their mail sent to Finland, where it is then privately couriered to Russia.” Shannon attempted an EECB on Bank of America and had her mother, who is listed on the account, call BoA as well, to no avail. Anyone know how to say “I haven’t yet booked a stay at your hostel but would like to have a package sent there, can you hold it for me” in Russian?
Here’s her letters:
“Mon, Aug 10, 2009 at 12:47 PM
To Whom it may concern:
Bank of America on July 28, soon after I arrived in Irkutsk, Russia, for a 2-week trans-Siberian vacation, deactivated my debit card after I withdrew about $400 from an Irkutsk ATM. This was quite unexpected since I had called Bank of America before my vacation to inform them that I would be in Russia. My boyfriend, who banks with Citibank, used every ATM I did and experienced no problems. I am very thankful that he is a Citibank customer and had access to his money, because Bank of America literally stranded me in the middle of Siberia with no access to cash and a limited window of time to get out of the country before my visa expired and I became subject to enormous fines.
Being in Irkutsk, Russia (I have included a map for your convenience) and having had trouble communicating to hostel management that I needed to call Bank of America’s toll-free number, I e-mailed my mother, Valerie O., to ask that she call BoA and have my debit card reactivated. My mother, who spent several hours on the phone with various representatives, was told that my account was “compromised,” and the only option for me was to have Bank of America mail a new ATM card to a hostel in Russia where we were staying. At this point it became glaringly apparent to me that Bank of America does not often do business in Russia. The Russian postal system is famously unreliable, as are courier services there. In fact, many Russian offices have their mail sent to Finland, where it is then privately couriered to
Russia. Also, we had not booked many of our hostels and hotels in advance, and explaining the situation to a hostel or hotel over the phone with my 30 words of Russian would have proven frustrating indeed.
In closing, I would like to know why I should continue to bank with Bank of America after it has proven completely incompetent at handling my affairs while I am abroad. This is not the kind of account “protection” I signed up for. I would like to be compensated for my extreme inconvenience, and the inconvenience my distraught mother went through while futilely attempting to right the situation on the phone. If Bank of America does not rectify the situation to my satisfaction
within two weeks, I will close all three of my accounts and move my money to Citibank, and urge my parents to do the same.
“Mon, Aug 10, 2009 at 5:13 PM
Hello, I spoke with Max White concerning the incident below, in which I was literally stranded in the middle of Siberia with no cash flow because Bank of America did not heed my notification that I would be abroad for two weeks. Ms. White informed me that there was nothing Bank of America could do for me because I myself was in error for not contacting Bank of America from Russia, upon receiving an e-mail notifying me of my account being frozen. This despite the fact that my mother, whose name is on my account, called to try to rectify the problem from the U.S. I was told that because my mother had called, the situation had actually become *more* suspicious; apparently Bank of America thinks my own mother was trying to defraud me.
I insist that my complaint can be escalated further, because I am quite outraged over being stranded in Siberia with no money and for the rude treatment I received upon escalating my complaint. How was Bank of America supposed to help me even if I had reached them from Russia? More offers to send me a new card through the infallible Russian postal service? I was told repeatedly throughout the episode that the card in my possession *must* be closed.
Bank of America has used super-science security technology and policy-making to determine the following: not reactivating a card used in Russia prevents fraud, but sending a new debit card to an unverified address is A-OK! Luckily it turns out that Shannon has a backup credit card she can use. But what if she hadn’t? Future international travelers take heed of this tale and protect yourself accordingly.