The threat is real! As I blogged about in my previous article on Money - ATM, a soldier had $25,000 stolen using his debit card overseas. This is someone that my friend John knows personally. The article was written by a local news channel 2 who covered the story. If I were him I'd give Clark Howard a call. If you do not know who Clark Howard is he is the consumer warrior. My friend John has called him twice and both times he has been able to speak with him.
He has vast resources that helps protect consumers and helps keep them from getting ripped off. I am a big fan of Clark regarding helping protect Americans from these thieves. I do not agree with everything he says, but when it comes to helping people out with situations like these, or questions regarding using credit or debit cards overseas. He's the man! On top of this...I feel that he is a nice and caring person.
I cannot see any good reason why you would ever want to use a debit card overseas unless you are withdrawing money from an ATM. When I was stationed in South Korea, I would use the Korean ATM machines to withdraw Won or Korea's currency using an ATM card (not debit). The funny thing about this at the time was I'd get a better exchange rate, and I wouldn't have any ATM transaction fees. However, if I went on base and withdrew U.S. dollars form the ATM, I'd get charged $2 per transaction. Soldiers would withdraw money out of the U.S. ATM, get charged a fee, then go to an exchange place get charged another fee, plus a lower exchange rate then I was getting from the Korean ATM.
I am not sure if this still works today, but at the time it was a huge benefit, and surprisingly this convenience actually saved me money.
The article goes on saying that the bank is telling the soldier to fight the merchant in Athens, Greece. What exactly does that mean? As a soldier does this mean he should go into the merchant guns blazing? Is that what the bank is implying? After all, this warrior is stationed in Afghanistan. I do not believe this is true, but let's be honest, the bank has many more resources to fight a foreign merchant that the soldier does.
The ending of this story is unacceptable. I hope he continues to fight for his finances. This is too much money to not continue to fight. However, I still cannot imagine how a bank could accept $25,000 in charges from a bar. If you do use an debit card, make certain it can only charge up to a smaller amount like $5,000. If you need a higher limit, use a credit card.