Credit Card Blues

Thursday, Sept 7th - Two Days Before Departure

A hot humid day in Winnetka. My to-do list had rapidly dwindled down after months of planning. I thought I had been on top of everything: travelers checks, cash, packing boxes for trip, putting various bills on auto-payment.

And then….I go into a Radio Shack to buy some batteries; the salesman forgets to give me back my credit card. I’m too distracted and busy to notice so I leave without it. An hour later I’m in another store, look in my wallet and don’t see the credit card. I immediately call the Radio Shack, and they say, yes, indeed, they do have my card. PHEW!!!! Am I in luck!

Little did I know.

The store is open until 9 pm; I have a dinner planned with my stepmom, so I’ll get it later before they close.

After the dinner, I go to pick up the card, and there’s no problem. “Thank you very much,” and I’m outta there.

On my way home, I stop at a Shell station to fill up the gas tank; I put the card in the machine at the pump…The screen tells me “See attendant.” OK. I go in, give the card to the attendant. He punches in the number. “Your card is no good,” he tells me. “Authorization is denied.”

“Excuse me? I’ve been using this card for weeks. How could it have been denied?”

“I don’t know,” he replied, “but that’s what it says. You got another card?”

After fumbling around and finding another card to pay for the gas, I sped back to Radio Shack.

“Do you guys know anything about my credit card being no good?” I demanded.

“Oh, yes, we phoned it in to the credit card company a few hours ago, told them it was missing; this was just to protect you, mind you. They went ahead and cancelled it. That’s their policy.”

“WHAT? YOU DID WHAT?”

That was the beginning of a two-day nightmare.

The card that got cancelled was the one I intended to rely upon during European travels. Thereupon followed a journey into bureaucratic limbo….Untold calls to Visa security (“I’m sorry, we can’t just reinstate your card”) .…. to the Travelers Bank ("We can send you an emergency card, and then your bank can send you a replacement in 7 to 10 business days. Oh, you won’t be home to receive it?”

All kinds of thoughts were running through my mind? What if I had not stopped at the gas station and found out the card was bad, and not found out until I got to Europe and tried to use it? Why didn’t the Radio Shack people tell me the card had been cancelled (“Oh, I forgot” was the answer I received the next day). What about the bills that I had put on auto-pay on that card number? What would happen to them when the payment request bounced? What would happen to my credit rating when all things started bouncing?

To their credit, an emergency card DID arrive a day later.

Eric went to use it, and it was denied. WHAT? AGAIN?

Yet another call. “Didn’t we tell you? On an emergency card, the magnetic stripe doesn’t work, the merchants will have to key in the number manually.”

As I’m typing this, 39,000 feet over the Atlantic on the way from Chicago to Brussels, I’m hoping that the emergency card WILL work when the merchants key in the number. I’m more concerned right now about the two little kids in front of me who have their seats inclined all the way back, plus the little baby right behind me who was sleeping for the first three hours but now lets out little yelps of pleasure/discomfort 8 inches from my ear. He (she) also kicks my seat every 20 seconds.

You gotta have faith. If these are the worst things that happen to me on this trip, I’ll be satisfied.

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