Losing your money and cards abroad feels like a major disaster but you do have options. If you still have cash and cards, click here to read this post instead and if you are not in the UK things may be a little different so there are a few links below.
Well, it happened to me in Bonito, Brazil. Whether the wallet was lost or stolen doesn’t matter, Cash, cards and photographs of my kids were all kept together and disappeared all in the same moment. Losing your money and cards abroad is a real pain but it’s not an insurmountable disaster, it just feels like it when you’re in the thick of it. The first thing to do is remain calm, you have time even if it means missing your flight.
Step 1. Check
First of all, take a deep breath and relax. Panicking does nothing to help and gets in the way. and then check through everything you have slowly, even if you ‘know’ it can’t be in that bag.
Step 2. Notify
Explain to your host, hotel manager or whatever what’s happened people can often become a lot more helpful when you are embroiled in an emergency. Next report the loss at the local police station, and the places you’ve been that you remember being between now and when you last had it. it’s not unknown for honest people to hand in purses and wallets. With the resulting police report, you can get eventually your insurance company to replace the lost funds.
The immediate issue is not often the funds themselves but the access to them. You can see your money on the screen but getting it into the real world can be a difficult matter. It’s likely you’ll need some cash to tide you over. If you are close to returning home then you can get cash and then deal with the cards upon your return. If you are abroad for some time to come then you’ll need Step 4 below
Step 3. Getting some Cash
I cannot personally recommend Western Union. I’ve found them expensive and unreliable but if you use them, don’t commit too much money to start with. My two transactions were blocked at the local agents who didn’t seem to know what they were doing. I ended up cancelling their transactions and battled to get a refund. By all means, initiate a transfer even as a plan B but don’t rely on it to be successful.
Losing cards can cause an issue with your UK online banking as a PinSentry with your card is often needed to set up new recipients. It becomes apparent how limited you become without your card for even the simplest transactions.
So how do you get emergency funds?
If you are with fellow travellers and you already have your bank account linked with Paypal, you could use that to pay them and then take a trip together to an ATM.
I recommend opening a TransferWise account anyway, if you are travelling, since it uses a domestic bank account instead of international and has a better rate for foreign currency exchange. The difficult part will be setting up TransferWise as a new payee in your online banking. If you use Smile bank or Co-operative Bank, you can make a one-off payment of up to £250 a day without needing your card. Check with your own bank whether they have this option. I wasn’t aware of it until my bank told me.
One potential obstacle that turned out not to be an issue was that TransferWise say they require a reference number which isn’t available as an input in the one-off payment at my bank. However, their support told me that if you add your bank account details to your TransferWise account and transfer the exact amount from your bank as specified in your TransferWise transaction then there won’t be a problem. Indeed, my transfer was instant without a reference number.
If you don’t want to use TransferWise, who do you already have listed as an existing payee in your online banking? Contact them to see if they would pay into your fellow traveller’s account on your behalf and repay your contact the equivalent amount if need be, perhaps including a tip.
Do you have Bitcoin? Perhaps fellow travellers can buy part of a Bitcoin from you. Check localbitcoins.com to see who’s buying locally. If you are in a city, there is a fair chance that you’ll find someone. Beware of direct transactions. Use Localbitcoins.com as an escrow service so that you don’t get mugged virtually.
Step 4. Replacement Cards
This is where our American cousins have an advantage. If you have a US bank account, there are a couple of links at the bottom of the page.
US banks happily send replacement cards abroad. Not so with UK banks, not even to Embassies. Note that when you contact your bank, they will cancel your existing card so any automated payments you have set up will fail from then on, so get that Kindle book while you can. Both my banks told me that they can only send replacements to my home address. If I still possessed a home, it would be vacant anyway so unless you have a housesitter or family member with access this is a no go. What the bank was slow to tell me was they could change the home address to where I was in Brazil before sending the card. So I did that.
If you are in a suitable place that will allow you to wait as long as it takes for the mail to arrive then stay there. Otherwise, find somewhere to hole up for a while and change your bank home address to there or estimate where you will be in three weeks time and find an address up ahead in your travels. Consider where you are, though. The mail service in some countries is almost non-existent. Try to get the bank to use a courier than airmail to speed things along a bit.
When the cards are ordered and on their way, you could feel like you are a prisoner unable to embark on the next leg of your journey. Bear in mind that it will take at least a week for your cards to arrive, maybe three or four. there’s no reason you can’t take off and return in a couple of weeks time.
If you use Bitcoin or other cryptocurrencies, consider opening a Wirex account which is a good multi-currency service that issues a debit card supporting Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies.
And so you don’t land in this ‘Losing your money and cards abroad’ situation again click here.