Saturday, January 26, 2008

One Percent's Not Much, Is it?


That's the cost of the 2001 truck accident in Ethiopia. Or at least that's the cost of my bill at the Khartoum Hilton, which I checked into during a delirium that might have been walking pneumonia, except I was vomiting. I don't think walking pneumonia makes you vomit. I assume I was susceptible to other illnesses since my breathing was impaired due to the cracked rib and bruises.

I'm going through my receipts for the class action lawsuit against Visa and Mastercard foreign charges for 1996-2006. If I took the easy way out, I'd get $25 back. But given that I was overseas for more than 30 months since 2001, I might be better off filing with specific amounts and specific account numbers.

I shredded the financial records for years before this, which means I don't have the records for two months of Southeast Asia travel in 2000, a tourist trip to Egypt and Jordan in 1999, a week in Guatemala in 1999, three months from Kathmandu to Damascus in 1998, a month or so in Hong Kong and New Zealand in 1997, and a month in Central America in 1996. But that's okay. I have evidence of the big years.

As I've gone through my papers, I remembered that I could use the ATMs in South Africa, Namibia, Tanzania, and Kenya to directly access my home bank account. Zimbabwe too, I think, but you wouldn't want to do that due to currency rates. In Botswana, Zambia, and Uganda, I had to use my VISA for the ATM. Some places don't even accept Mastercard.

The debate has been raging now for some time about the best way to take your money overseas. Foreign transaction ATM fees have risen sharply in the last few years, eroding the advantages of using local ATMs. For me, the best way is now to use Citibank ATMs with my Citibank ATM card, thus avoiding fees altogether. I've read on a lot of sites that I should get a Capital One VISA for times when the ATM card doesn't work, as it supposedly has no fees attached other than the exchange rate, which is always slightly inflated in the bank's favor (for all transactions).

For extended trips, I've always taken several hundred dollars US cash in new bills, my ATM card, a VISA card with a four-digit PIN number, and some emergency traveler's checks. I always carry my American Express card too, along with a few personal checks. In a pinch, some local Amex offices will cash your personal check so long as you're a cardholder. I've used Amex offices to receive mail too. Not all of them still do this. And no, I don't wear a money belt or a neck pouch (bulky, uncomfortable, and muggers are well aware of these), though I do send all my receipt scans and account numbers to my own e-mail address.

In the next few weeks, I'll finish adding up my totals for 2001-2006. I'm eligible for a one to three percent rebate. Let's see if it turns out to be worth the energy I've put into it. If nothing else, looking at financial transactions from places like Shanghai, Denpasar, and Bangkok has made me nostalgic, instantly transporting me to another place.

It makes me want to go somewhere instead of to work on the PATH train.

But where?


detroit dog said...

If one percent will buy you a nice dinner, then it will be worth it. (Said by a woman that refuses to fill out paperwork for $25 on a class action lawsuit about water heaters.)

Where to go? Oh....

Amanda Castleman said...

Hard core! I lived overseas for seven of those ten years, but I don't have the paperwork to try the detailed route.

I seem to recall a middle "estimate" option. Maybe that's my bag, baby...

Good luck, Ax.

Marie said...

On the website, there is a reminder that you are entitled to copies of your own credit card bills and bank statements. So if we want these things, in theory, we can get them.

Maybe I'll try to get the 96-99 ones, just to see if it works.

Don said...

Well,in Canada at least, there is a 7 year rule. If you wanted information prior to that, you would be out of luck. If you want information up to 7 years old, they will gladly find it for you at a fee of about $65 hour of their time. Perhaps it is similar in the US?