If you use ATMs in Latin America to get your money from your accounts in other countries, expect to have periodic problems. It has happens to me twice and on Friday it happened to Lilliam.
Here is the scenario.
Lilliam made an ATM request to get money from her account in Costa Rica. The ATM went through the motions to give the money – noise giving the impression it was getting ready to dispense money, but alas, no money.
In my past cases, the ATM made sounds like it counting the money too, but then stopped because of a problem. Maybe it had less money that it thought it had. Maybe it had a hardware failure. For what ever reason it didn’t give money.
The latest problem happened to Lilliam at Banco Universal in El Rey. When it didn’t give the money, it put up a strange warning message saying not to reenter the pin number. The other ATM in El Rey afterwards said the daily limit had been exceeded, indicating that the first ATM had indeed posted the transaction.
When one of the ATMs erroneously posts a withdrawal, the only way to resolve it is through your bank. Even though the bank with the failing machine has a record of the transaction not going through and the daily balance being off, you have to resolve it by calling the bank having the account.
When I have had it happen to me, I have been able to call my bank in the US and talk to a real person and handle the problem over the phone. If memory serves me, the transaction was always corrected by the end of the phone call.
Lilliam’s bank was in Costa Rica. Multiple phone calls to the bank failed to get to a real person. The only thing left to do was to drive to the Frontera and go to the bank there.
The wait in the bank was about 2 1/2 hours. Then Lilliam was told the claim would be submitted to San Jose and it would take 22 days to process and at that time the money should be place back in the account.
The bank charged her $10 for this fantastic service. When you add to that $10 for gasoline to drive to the Frontera, it was a pretty expensive hardware failure. It will be interesting to see, when the transaction is reversed, if they also reverse the ATM and Clave charges. What do you think are the odds of that happening?
If you choose to live in Panama or any Latin American country, it is the bureaucracy that is the most difficult to get used to. I thought it was an annoyance when I had to call the US when I had ATM problems here. It was nothing compared to the problems Lilliam had to go through to fix the problem today and we won’t know if it is solved for 22 days.