Hungry ATMs abroad

I never really saw the point in having a credit card. I am not a person who purchases things she cannot afford. I am a saver. First the money, then the things. I quickly saw the advantages of credit cards when an ATM in Berlin decided to eat my card.

I had just arrived and was super excited to start my adventure. I did have some cash on me, but decided to get some more in case there was something I wanted to do. After opting for ‘English’ the screen completely froze. I waited, and waited, until I knew for sure nothing was going to happen. I pressed all the buttons I could think off that might just return my card. All in vain.

My mind started panicking. I am in Berlin, have no money and no way to get money. The ATM was not connected to a bank building, so I couldn’t go inside to ask. The number on the ATM that you can call for problems didn’t work. All I got was a distorted German answering machine that was not preprogrammed for ‘what to do when our machines eat your card’. All I could do what leave my problem, name and phone number.

At that point I was crying. I was hopelessly looking at people that might help me, but it took a long time for someone to finally respond to my request for help. I just needed to be calmed down. I needed someone to tell me things were going to be ok. Someone did just that, but that’s all they could do. They couldn’t get anything out of the ATM or the phone number either.

So what do you do then? You call your Mum. We quickly thought of a strategy. I called my own bank first to block my pass, just in case it were to come out after all. Then I calculated how much money I thought I might spend in Berlin and had my parents transfer it to me via Western Union. Then I went to the hostel to explain my situation. Luckily they were very helpful and let me pay for half of my stay, so I could pay the other half after the money transfer.

The next day I got a phone call with the details to get the money. I had to go to a Postbank branch and the first one I chose was less then helpful. Since nobody was remotely prepared to try to speak English, I had to explain things in my best German and my best German does not include the bank lingo. I had to wait in a long line, fill out a form, wait again and then they told me the details were incorrect. So I called home again. The details were correct. This bank however, was not going to give me my money.

Can you imagine my desperation at that point? The hostel I was staying at was so kind to look up addresses of other Postbanks. At that point it was too late though. The shops were closing. When I arrived at the bank the next day, they referred me to the Reisebank. At Reisebank I met the friendliest employee. He was an old man that admitted he didn’t speak much English, but as I tried a mix of German and English, so did he. There were no forms, just my passport and the details from home. I had my money, but it wasn’t easy.

When I got home from my holiday I immediately applied for a credit card. The next time some ATM decides to eat my card, I will at least have a backup. Of course I haven’t been in this situation since then.

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