It’s been a week and a day since my Florida Sun Trust Bank turned off the faucet on my debit card. Why? I cannot find out. There is more money in the account than I usually have, so it’s not that. I notified them that I’d be travelling internationally and I had no problem getting cash out of ATMs in Sydney, Australia, earlier in the week. It choked the day I tried to buy my new traveling computer and camera and I had to use my Wells Fargo backup credit card just to finalize that purchase.
For seven days, I have been emailing various Sun Trust offices, asking them to explain the problem and to reinstate my debit card to normal status. The uniform answer has always been that I must personally telephone either of two toll-free numbers and speak to their card security department. It mattered not that I am now in a time zone 23 hours ahead of America’s East Coast and that their business day begins in the middle of my night.
It mattered not that I do not own a cell phone and have no way to make a telephone call when the hostel office is closed for the night. The only way that I could think of to make that call would be to reserve a night in a regular hotel so that I could use their bedside telephone. But that would mean spending $150-$200 just for that privilege and I was sure there was some more intermediate solution.
Fortunately, Wells Fargo Bank is keeping me in cash and I am able to eat and remain in my $26 per night hostel bed. I will soon have more air tickets to buy for my ongoing travels in the South Pacific and I would like to use my Sun Trust account for those. “We sympathize, but you must call these numbers!” is all they could advise me to do. And they never replied when I asked if they operated those phones 24/7 or only during banker’s hours. It would be nice not to have to make that call at midnight.
Okay! So maybe God is telling me that it’s dangerous to travel without a mobile phone in this day and age. I’ve never traveled with one before and have been around the world and all over the globe many times and been just fine before. I’m of the elder generation which can’t figure out how to use the doggone tiny things and frankly, I want nothing to do with them! But, I also respect Divine Clues when they show up and this sounds a bit like one. Yesterday, I saw a half-price phone and sprang for it.
It still cost $70. when you add the voucher for minutes; but hey, that’s cheaper than a hotel room! If it weren’t for the helpful young people staying with me at the hostel, I’d have really been in trouble because I couldn’t understand the instructions on how to activate my new Telstra Indy phone and load the minutes in it. The qwerty keyboard is so tiny, I can’t discern the figures and am having trouble getting them to work when I do squint well enough to identify them.
How will this cell phone help in any future emergency once I get over this immediate problem? I can only hope that a kid is around so I can turn the durned thing over to them to call for help! Anyway, tonight, a guy from Germany set things up for my midnight call and I decided to test these bank-supplied phone numbers in advance.
Things do not bode well!
I rang Sun Trust’s International toll-free number, 1-800-7887-2835, and got the recording: “This number is not set up to answer calls from mobile phones!” Then I tried the other supplied collect-call number, 1-407-762-5777, and heard the words: “This number is not in operation at this time.”
With battered faith, I await the stroke of midnight, Australia time; which will be 10:00 a.m., Monday morning, August 20, over there in Florida. I visualize telephone operators taking their places in front of switchboards, flicking levers, causing lights to generate and calls to flow into vaulted security centers where a real human being will hear my tale of woe and take pity upon my plight. Perhaps she will even tell me what I did, or didn’t do, to cause the bank to take such drastic action and shut me out of my own account for these eight days. Perhaps she’ll ask me secret security questions and record my voice pattern to protect my pennies from misrepresentation.
But there’s a bit of cynicism in me that whispers to my heart that I’ll only hear the same old recorded excuse for not letting my phone call through. What then? I’m jumping through the hoops they insisted upon though it’s taken days to do it! I’m not in Borneo, but Brisbane.
Are they now insisting that I use a wall phone? Do those things even exist anymore? Come to think of it, if all of Sun Trust’s customers call from overseas, it’s a pretty good bet that they are using mobile phones in this day and age. Why would their only international number reject those calls?
We travelers all expect a glitch or two when we roam far and wide…..but not from our friendly neighborhood bank!
Update: 1:00 a.m. my time and I have tried my calls to no avail. Sun Trust’s International phone number has again told me that this number is not available to mobile phone users and the other just repeats that it isn’t connected and to check the number before calling again. Not something I want to hear after all these heroic midnight measures. I’m too sleepy…..but now I can’t sleep. What do I do now?
It’s so ironic! In twenty days I will turn 75 years-old. All of MY systems are in great working order as I explore the Southern Hemisphere in my second solo around-the-world trip. Only my debit card is failing me.
Here’s the challenge! Can this bank rescue me with my own money before I hit that three-quarters of a century mark less than three weeks from now? Come on, Sun Trust! Can you make it all the way around the world with me? I need a good strong runner here! A bank that can take me all the way to the finish line!