September 28, 2014

credit cards in SE Asia

i need to book the reservation to the Elephant Nature Park but online it says the week is full so i can't get the reservation to go through. i get the girl at the hotel desk to call them and it is just a disaster because no one at the ENP office speaks english well.  i understand them to say give my card and the phone to the hotel staff and i do.  the next thing i know they are taking pictures of my card, front and back, and texting to the ENP office.  but apparently that wasn't enough and i watch the staff swiping my card through the machine.  not once or twice but like fifteen times.  i'm sitting calmly but freaking out on the inside as red flags are wagging in my head.  i do trust both the ENP and the hotel staff but i make them delete the pictures off their phone.... it's not like texts last forever and can be forwarded around, right?  i have a chase explorer card which has really good protections against illegal activity so i relax a little knowing the worst that could happen is that i would need to arrange to get a replacement card.

that night i checked my account and had only been charged once so it all worked out in the end although this is the perfect example of why using a credit card in Asia is never an easy transaction.  something that would have taken me two minutes online was a tense, twenty minute transaction when a Thai is presented with a credit card.  to be fair, i did see someone use a credit card in a store yesterday and it went through really easily so some merchants have it figured out.  i mostly use cash because there is usually a 3 percent charge by the merchants for using cards.

i make a mental note that this could have been avoided by better planning and i vow to myself that i will plan better in the future.

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