Thursday, February 14, 2013

Lost in Japan: How did I managed to get out of the airport when my credit cards refused to work

Japan is one of the most technology developed countries in the world. However, I had such a difficulty situation when I first visited the country in October 2010.

Tower of Tokyo. Any manga or anime character fighting to save the world that day
I just landed in Narita Airport at 1pm. My friend was working and she will meet me in the Starbucks Ofuna Station at 7pm. I had more than enough time to arrive, get money, take the train and have a coffee while waiting for my friend. Wait a moment! Did I say to get money??

After collecting my baggage, I went to the closer ATM. I tried to withdraw some money. At that time, I had a Visa and a MasterCard linked to my Spanish bank account. ANY of them were working

“Unfortunately we are unable to process your request”


What to do?

I keep looking for other ATMs at the airport. In all I was getting the same message.
“Unfortunately we are unable to process your request”.

I had only a little cash with me, around 20€ without counting the coins, that they won’t be accepted anyway as the exchange office usually accept only notes. I would not even make it to Ofuna…

This was in October 2010. In that time, I still didn’t have any smart phone. I was using my old Nokia. Obviously the roaming from my Spanish provider will not arrive that far. 

I was carrying my laptop. I tried to get wi-fi to get in touch with my friend (probably calling her with skype or something).  The lady at the information desk polity indicated me, that there is no free wifi at all and in order to purchase access, I have to buy some internet cards…No credit cards accepted, sorry…

I had to get to this station by 7pm somehow!

I think this moment was one of the hardest situations I’d ever experimented as a traveler. Not run out of money but not being able to withdraw any money. Or contact my friend in Japan or anyone else. Not having any idea while my credit cards are blocked, when I was using both around the world without problem (and just a few hours ago I was using it in Helsinki without any difficulty).

But it has to be a solution…I just need to think…Where to get money?

In that day I was lucky enough that my auntie was working in a different bank and long time ago opened a young saving bank account for me. I just had 300€ on it. I never used this credit card, it was hidden in my bunch of promotions cards, business card, voucher…I wasn’t even sure if I could remember the pin.

But I could! I withdraw all the money. I paid for my train ticket and head to Ofuna in Kanagawa 神奈川 district…Meet my friend and recovery from the jet lag (basically sleep a few hours because I couldn’t refrain myself to go outside and discover Japan).

This photo wasn't taken in Japan but in Auckland the other day. I was so happy to see takoyakis!

Days after I discover that any of the ATMs in the city “liked” both of my credit cards. I have to transfer money to the other account and get all the payment done with the other credit card. I even went to the main office of my bank in Tokyo and they couldn’t give me any reason why my credit cards were declined. 

Also, as a curiosity, in that time (October –December 2010. I don’t know nowadays) Japan was still a cash society, it was very rare that they will allow you to use the credit cards anywhere. Pretty annoying for such a develop country.

Since then and after being working in a cruise ship for 2 years and being paid in cash all my salary. I will most likely carry a combination of  US$ cash and credit cards from different bank accounts (now I have a English bank account, very convenient to use in the Commonwealth countries as they don’t charge you commissions and they do a very fair currency conversion) in case I got stucked again somewhere.

Have you ever been somewhere without cash, network and wifi?


AntonioGM said...

I experienced a similar situation in Tokyo. In Narita I managed to withdraw money, as I usually carry a Citibank Visa credit card which works on all Citibank ATMs around the world (there was one in Narita).

However, none of my debit cards worked. Event my Citibank card only worked on selected ATMs like the ones in the Post Offices or 7Eleven.

But once I was in the outskirts of Tokyo, and I needed to walk for 3 hours to be able to find an ATM which accepted any of my cards. I tried more than 20 different ATMs until I reached to a 7Eleven and discovered that....

Galipón said...

Japan... the technology country... But only really functional if you are japanese!

Well, I am surprised your credit cards worked in the kombini shops. Here in Sendai every ATM says "Not overseas cards issued".

The only ATMs that work are placed in the Post Offices, so be careful if you go out of Tokyo next time ;)

Cez said...

I agree with you, there's nothing worse than being unable to get your money out. I have actually had that situation before, but I use several cards and it happened because my banks have blocked all my cards. I am really thankful for that becuase someone copied my cards' details and tried to buy a flight ticket for $1500.

Ps. When I sent you the email today I thought you were in Japan because the first paragraph talks about arriving and I didn't notice until later that it's a post about the past.

Noelfy said...

So 7 Elevens or Post office!!
Thank you guys! You are the one that had been in Japan after me. I was looking forward to hear comments like: "That doesn't happen anymore!"

You were really lucky Cez that they blocked your cards! Stupid scammers everywhere! Did the bank realize that it was someone trying to buy a ticket or they blocked it before?

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