Ok, so here’s the story we didn’t tell you about New Year’s Eve. Before we went out that night I happened to check my bank account online and noticed four recent ATM charges on my card from Great Britain. First of all–we were half the world away in Thailand! Second–all the money I had in that account at the time, more than $500, was completely gone. I started to panic as I showed Mark my account history and asked if he recognized any of it, he didn’t.

It was a frustrating way to end 2014 as we fell victim to debit card fraud. I had last used my card at an ATM in Krabi, Thailand, and the fraudulent ATM withdrawals happened later that afternoon and continued the following day until the account was drained. The machine we used must have had a card reader that we didn’t notice at the time, which seemed odd as it was at a legitimate bank downtown.

ATM in Thailand

I usually have more than $500 in that checking account, so we were lucky there wasn’t more for the thieves to take. It had been our plan from the start: keep our money spread through more than one bank account and have multiple cards with us. This allowed us to immediately freeze the card that had its information stolen.

Unfortunately, the card we had to stop was the Charles Schwab checking card, the main card we’d been using for the past seven months. It was always our first choice because it doesn’t charge any fees for foreign transactions and it also refunds all ATM fees, which has saved us a ton of money in the long run. Although we had other cards we could use to hold us over, none of them refunded ATM fees like Charles Schwab.

We needed to get that card back in action! We talked with a customer service agent at Charles Schwab who was super helpful in sorting out our situation. She told us to send our current mailing address through Charles Schwab’s online messaging system and then she would get the card shipped right away. At the same time she forwarded our fraud claims to the appropriate department and said they would contact me within three business days.

Charles Schwab FedEx new card to Thailand

Within just three days, I received my new debit card mailed to my hotel in Patong, Thailand! I had emailed the document with the mailing address on a Friday and received my FedEx package containing my debit card on Monday! It was also cool that the card they sent me had a new EMV chip on it, which is great for use overseas like we saw in Europe where it’s the main form of card-payment processing.

Charles Schwab FedEx new card to Thailand

The card had travelled thousands of miles from Virginia to Tennessee to Alaska in the United States, onto China and then Thailand, in only three days. It was such a relief to get a new card so quickly. As for the fraud claims, the representative in charge of my case contacted me and also asked me to send a few documents to him. In the meantime, Charles Schwab put a provisional credit into my account equalling to all the money I lost.

Charles Schwab turned this horrible incident into a quick and easy fix. I was so impressed with their great customer service and the speedy delivery of my new card halfway around the world. They are my bank of choice while traveling.

*****

Don’t fall victim to debit card fraud like I did! Here are tips for protecting your money while traveling:

  • Regularly check your bank account, especially after using an ATM.
  • Use multiple bank accounts to spread your money so if one gets tampered with, you won’t lose all your money.
  • Have multiple bank cards with you in case you have to cancel one due to fraud or theft.
  • Don’t consider yourself immune from fraud, it can happen at any ATM at any bank.
  • Bank with Charles Schwab using a Charles Schwab High Yield Investor Checking Card! Don’t let the fancy name scare you off–anyone can apply for it. Through their process it was easy to receive a new card and file the claims for fraudulent charges. Plus, they don’t charge fees for foreign transactions and will refund your ATM fees!
  • File a police report of the missing money if you fall victim to debit card fraud. Our first contact with Charles Schwab recommended getting a police report, so we did. We went to the police department in Krabi and they filled out a report stating we used an ATM in the city, after which fraudulent charges occurred. We submitted a copy of the police report with other requested documents to the fraudulent claims department at Charles Schwab.
  • If you don’t have a phone to call your bank back home, use the call option on the Google Hangout app. You can make free phone calls to the U.S. using this option. Our connection was always good when we had to call Charles Schwab customer service using the Google Hangout app.

6 Responses

  1. Scott M

    Schwab is head-over-heels the best bank for travelers around. I wish I realized that they would be so good about getting a replacement card quickly, we lost ours in Morocco (thankfully with pennies in the account) but assumed we’d never be in one place long enough to get a replacement.

    Reply
    • Britnee Johnston

      Oh no! Yeah I was really surprised how quickly they sent us a new card. I should also mention that they didn’t charge us the $15 replacement fee either! Where are you guys headed to next?

      Reply
  2. Christine Boothe

    Wow, it’s terrible that something like that can happen so easily, even when you are extra careful. Glad to hear that Charles Schwab holds up to their good reputation…we just opened our account. We leave for our RTW trip this Sunday (ahh!). Thanks for all the good info! Safe travels.

    Reply

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