ATM experiences in Cusco
We love living in a First World Country where $2 ATM withdrawal fees are merely an annoyance when using another bank’s ATM. God forbid being charged a fee overseas at the ATM then another hefty one back home for having the cheek to use a different bank. For the life of us we never did find NAB or Commonwealth Bank anywhere in South or Central America! In addition, no Australian Travel Card has the ability to load ANY South or Central American currency. US$ on Travel cards also f@ck all use unless you are happy paying $5 per transaction PLUS 5% exchange fee!!
Fortunately, Citibank have a handy, fee free card that is free for transactions and charges no fees for ATM withdrawals. Some local banks tickle you for a few bucks, many, especially those with Citibank affiliations are free. Just the exchange rate at the time.
First ATM withdrawal was in Lima, Peru. In goes the card, PIN entered, 400 SOL please, (About AU$160), clunk clunk, whir whir! Receipt first, thankyou for your transaction. More clunks and whirring! Screen flashes up a message.. TRANSACTION CANCELLED, PLEASE TRY AGAIN. Not fucking likely! Same procedure in a different flavour of ATM ended with the desired 400 SOL in the wallet. End of story? Not so fast! Back in our accommodation, we check Citibank Online to find TWO X $160 withdrawals! Transaction cancelled my arse! To make matters worse, all communication with Citibank has to begin by obtaining a secure PIN through your mobile. No dramas in Oz. No dramas if you are on a fully paid plan whilst travelling the world. No use at all when the d!ckheads in the Telstra shop have set you up on a plan that has no coverage in most of South America. No problem, will find somewhere to make a phonecall in Cusco tomorrow..
Remember those dodgy phone booths in Internet Cafes that you could use and pay when finished? That is as good as it gets in Cusco and pretty sure it was the only one in town. Heaps of fun as you navigate your way through the infinite number of options before arriving at the not wholly unexpected, please enter your 4 digit one time PIN number! Are you fucking kidding? Shouting OPERATOR into the handset a lot and jabbing the 0 key a few times got me to a slightly more promising, “Please hold whilst we transfer you to an operator”. Please hold whilst the counter over the telephone shows the cost of this call escalating faster than Australia’s National Debt!
Eventually, I am informed by a very distant, but very helpful lady that this is a rare occurrence but will take up to 90 business days to solve.
Rare occurrence?! 2 days later, different card, different bank, 700 SOL please. You have to be kidding? Same script as last time! This time however, we are in a bank branch and go straight to the counter with the hope of a swift resolution. No chance! The ATMs are operated by a third party, you must contact your bank in Australia and have them investigate. Personally, I would have thought the easiest solution would be for you to hand me the 700 SOL that my statement currently informs me should be in my sticky hand! No SeÃ±or! Back to the phone booths tomorrow!
Then to add insult to injury, this bank only allow ONE ATM withdrawal per month, anywhere in their network. Including incomplete withdrawals that effectively steal your cash for 90 business days.
OK, 89 business days later, both transactions were reversed. We are still nervous every time we use an ATM, waiting for the folding stuff to emerge!!