EPISODE NINE – HOW DO YOU GET CASH FROM AN ATM?
‘Why can’t I draw cash from an ATM on my Diners card?’ A good question to which the answer given by Diners was ‘Your card is not activated for international use’. You’ve gotta be kidding me!!
I find it very strange that Diners did and still do not consider South Africa to be ‘International’ whereas any other cards like VISA do. A PIN is a bloody PIN as an ATM is an ATM. They are all international in the banking world. I can take a South African ABSA or FNB bank (not credit) card to any ATM in the world and use it to draw cash so why not Diners which is an International credit card? It’s not a store card, is it? And, they charge a fee for having it!
When I travelled to the Vicenza Fair in Italy three years ago I used my Diners at ATM’s all the time. I didn’t have to have TWO PIN’s. One for SA and one for the rest of the world!
‘Sir, you must go to Citibank and they will sort it out’, say Diners. It was fortunate for me that I was in Bangkok because there is only one Citibank in Thailand which is in Bangkok which is a !>#$&()^ huge city. Ten million or so inhabitants plus a few visitors! If a person is not in Bangkok but in another part of Thailand what are they supposed to do? ‘Have you tried the ‘bureau de change’ sir?’ ‘Of course I have, I’m not completely senile yet, but they do not deal with Diners so that is out the window.’
So, following instructions, after my only meeting of the day, I set off in the sweltering heat for Citibank. I was directed to a consultant who could, supposedly, help me. Never fall for that one in a bank these days. After relaying my story the young lady politely informed me that they do not deal with Diners. ‘But Diners have told me to come to Citibank to get my Diners card activated.’ Armed with that information she started dialling a number which, as it turned out, was Diners in South Africa. As the phone was answered she passed it to me. ‘Who am I speaking to?’ ‘My name is Chris, how can I help.’ I explained my story to him and he couldn’t understand why Citibank weren’t able to help. So I passed him over to the consultant. I obviously only heard her side of the conversation which was simply, ‘I am not authorised to do that’ repeated several times. I then spoke to Chris again who said ‘I’m sorry sir but you must deal with the card issuing bank in South Africa.’ In the meantime the consultant said, ‘You can draw cash from the teller upstairs sir until you have sorted your problem out.’
By now, I was not just a teensy weeny bit unhappy. I took the escalator to the first floor and stood in a queue, as you usually do in banks. Eventually I got to a teller and requested a cash withdrawal from my Diners card. After a few minutes she informed me that the transaction had been rejected and that she would have to make a phone call that would take approximately ten minutes. Twenty minutes later she informed me that she could not process my request. No reason was given!
Keeping your cool in a situation like this, knowing you have to face Bangkok’s heat and traffic shortly, is not easy but I returned to my hotel and contacted my office in Cape Town and begged them to sort it out with Diners or even God if needs be. Later that day I got this email from my office:
What we’ve managed to resolve is that your card was never activated for international cash withdrawals, which explains why you were able to make a cash withdrawal at Cape Town airport, but not in Thailand.
We put through a written request on Tuesday to have this activated and were informed it would it take 24 hours and that you had to go into a Citibank branch to have your card coded with a pin. On further investigation today due the difficulties you’ve been having they told us it takes 10 days, but that you can make cash withdrawals at any bureau de change by swiping the card.
We also requested that the head of Diners card division send us a fax that we can give you to assist you with cash withdrawals at Citi Bank. We have also requested that they send this to the Bank as well. Please find the document attached. We’ve also faxed this to Citi Bank ourselves just to be certain it has gone through.
You can try Citi Bank again tomorrow, 82 North Sathorn Road, Silom, Bangrak, Bangkok. Present this letter to the Branch Manager. If they give you any hassles they must contact Diners directly, the number is on the letter, a lady by the name of Shaheeda is assisting us this side.
If all goes well, please draw enough cash to accommodate you for the next week as activation takes 10 days.
If not, make use of any bureau de change by swiping the card in the meantime.
Well let’s see what Monday brings when I re-visit Citibank. All you international travellers with Diners cards; don’t hold your breath.
I didn’t even have time for a rest before Mr.Tee arrived in the lobby to collect me. Tee is an old friend I met on my first trip to Bangkok three years ago. Actually he’s not old but a very lively young businessman in his early thirties. As usual we had a lot to catch up on so headed off for dinner in a Thai/Chinese restaurant frequented by locals; nothing swish but good interesting local food; the way I like it. After dinner we went to one of Tee’s upmarket member night clubs called ‘The Pent’. I had been there on a few occasions before with Tee and really enjoyed the fun and friendly atmosphere but not the smoke. There are always two excellent bands that play alternately throughout the evening and you are attentively looked after by your own personal hostess. There must be thirty or forty maybe even fifty on duty at any one time. Most of them don’t speak much, if any, English but they seem to enjoy drinking the patrons wine and anything else you may care to buy them. We were invited to play three handed Liar Dice. I had never played before but soon cottoned on because if you don’t you get ‘pissed’ very quickly. Every time you lose you have to drink. My hostess played this game regularly but seemed to lose a lot more than me. Wonder why? Tee and I managed to help each other out of the club at closing time while she was hanging on the bar. It was fun but I won’t do it again until the next time!