Banking Blunders

On previous trips abroad, I always had a pretty organized method of banking and tracking transaction fees; therefore, I was flabbergasted when I friend recently alerted me to the new chip-n-pin system in Europe. As I began to peruse some of the New York Times articles covering the debacle , I quickly learned that pretty much everywhere in the developed world has transitioned to a more secure banking system that uses microchip processing rather than magnetic strips. US debit cards and credit cards are not equipped with the microchip,causing significant hassle for those trying to bank abroad.

I have thus far been disappointed in my research as I realize that there are some banks offering chip and pin cards to high end travelers, but even these cards seem to only work consistently in major global metropolises. Somehow I am not certain that Rosthwaite, Cumbria will be able to process my transactions.

Essentially I am trying to figure out the most convenient and inexpensive way to make purchases abroad. We will buy most everything we can ahead of time, from home, using our credit card. But what are we to do when we need to buy dinner?

As a loyal credit union member for almost six years, I am hoping that there might be some sort of global cooperative that might ease the transition. Aside from the United  Nations Credit Union (of which I am not a member), I haven’t yet found any connections, but I welcome input from anyone who might have some creative ideas.

Or perhaps US banking institutions will migrate toward a more compatible chip-n-pin system before my travels. Although it’s probably about as likely as the long awaited conversion to metric promised to me by my fourth grade teacher: we are learning the metric system because one day when you are an adult the whole world will be on the metric system. 

So pragmatically, any suggestions about US banking in the Lake District and across the Wainwright Coast to Coast are much appreciated.


About 30 Ways of Walking

Gina Liotta's writing has appeared in or is forthcoming in The New York Quarterly, Slate, The Paterson Literary Review, LIPS, and The Healing Muse, among others. She lives, writes and teaches in New York.
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14 Responses to Banking Blunders

  1. Here’s an idea I had: maybe you could get travelers checks. It’s old fashion, but you could exchange them at the airport when you arrive. It’s possible that many of the villages you’ll be passing won’t even have ATMs or accept credit cards. It might be the easiest way to go.

  2. Is it not possible to open a bank account in the UK? You would need a friend here whose address you could use then arrange for money to be transferred from your US account. Travellers cheques can work out more expensive because you have to pay commission on them. You also then have to carry around a lot of cash with you. It may be worth investigating opening a UK account because you’re never that far from an ATM here unless you’re going to very remote places. ATMs are certainly more plentiful than travellers cheques exchange places.

  3. seclectic says:

    I have walked this route twice so can guess where you might need to spend money and my advice would not to rely on travellers cheques because lots of places will probably not accept them. I have a chip and pin credit/debit card so I do not know how places that have this system will deal with US cards but pre my chip and pin places used to accept my card but I had to sign a slip and maybe you will be able to do that. You will go through places with banks so you will be able to get cash across the counter but really the best way is to have a cash reserve with you. I would be happy to help further if you need it. I am sure you will really enjoy the walk, it is fantastic whatever the weather but better if it is dry!

    • Thank you so much for your thoughtful insights! You are officially my first C2C reader! Yes, we are hoping for dry, but we recognize that wet is probably more likely. I’d be interested to here about more of your experiences.

  4. seclectic says:

    Further to my previous quote. Perhaps I was too hasty about travellers cheques, they are certainly accepted in all Post Offices (and banks) and there are quite a few of these on the route. You have probably seen it but gives info on several of these. Although I do not know if that website is up to date, there have been quite a few Post Office closures recently. While I was on the C2C walk one of my friends had her purse stolen in a Youth Hostel. She left it in a dorm while she had a shower, her sister was in the dorm all the time but may have nodded off! I am sure this is not common but please take care.

    • No, I hadn’t seen this site. This is a great idea! Thank you for your candor and generous insights. During my first trip to the lake country I had my camera stolen (see my post Why England?) and I know that things can sometimes go awry. But you’re right that one always needs to be mindful when traveling to keep their possessions in close sight! We’ll be in touch!

  5. gkm2011 says:

    Or another option when I travel in Asia is just converting a lot of USD at the airport or even at a bank in a large city in the US before you leave. Of course you are carrying quite a bit of cash then, but it’s remarkably convenient and also helps with budgeting.

    Cheers and good luck!

  6. A friend wanted to add this post about the status of metric system in the US:

    On Feb 24, 2012, at 6:57 PM, wrote:

    I was doing some research today and came across this in OMB Circular A-110 from 1999 and it made me think of your post:

    15 Metric system of measurement. The Metric Conversion Act, as amended by the Omnibus Trade and Competitiveness Act (15 U.S.C. 205) declares that the metric system is the preferred measurement system for U.S. trade and commerce. The Act requires each Federal agency to establish a date or dates in consultation with the Secretary of Commerce, when the metric system of measurement will be used in the agency’s procurements, grants, and other business-related activities. Metric implementation may take longer where the use of the system is initially impractical or likely to cause significant inefficiencies in the accomplishment of federally-funded activities. Federal awarding agencies shall follow the provisions of E.O. 12770, “Metric Usage in Federal Government Programs.”

    I wonder how that’s going.

  7. Pingback: REI here we come! | 30 Ways of Walking


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