5 Weeks in Asia: Costs
A Quick Trip Out of FRA
Money Problems in Beijing
72 Hour Visa Free Transit of Beijing
Scams in Beijing
The Angkor Experience
The VIP Sleeper Bus Experience in Cambodia
Sleepy Kep, Cambodia
Arranging Visas on the Move
The Adventure of A Ricetime: Mekong Delta
The Adventure of A Ricetime: Easy Riders Tour
The Adventure of A Ricetime: Tailored Hoi An
The Adventure of A Ricetime: Solo Motorbiking
The Adventure of A Ricetime: Halong Bay
The Adventure of A Ricetime: Sapa
Scams in Vietnam
6 Hours in Bangkok
Scams in Bangkok
A First-Timer First Class Experience
A few months ago I wrote my praises for the Charles Schwab High Yield Investor Checking Account because of the feature of having all ATM fees, even abroad, reimbursed. Don’t get me wrong, I still think it’s a great account and will continue to use it! However, I do have a word of caution stemming from my money problems in Beijing. I was getting ready to leave for my 6-week trip to (mostly) Asia, and I used Charles Schwab’s money transfer service, MoneyLink, to transfer money from my primary checking account into my Charles Schwab Brokerage Account (I then was planning to transfer it to checking, it can’t be done directly for some reason). This was about 3 days before I was set to leave.
After flying half-way around the world and almost missing my flight in Germany, I wasn’t really feeling like messing around with public transportation in Beijing, which was how I had originally been planning to get to my hotel. Most of the money I had transferred was still sitting in my brokerage account, but I had some in checking from a previous transfer which I pulled out at the airport so I could take a taxi to my hostel and pay for my room when I got there. Fast forward about 90 minutes and I had spent the money I had pulled out (it was only about $60). Before I headed out to walk around the city, I hopped on my computer so I could transfer money from my brokerage account to my checking account. Low and behold… funds were not available for transfer! Uh oh. I then started chatting with a Charles Schwab Representative online and found out that all MoneyLink transfers are put on a 3 business day hold. I had transferred the money on a Friday, it was then Memorial Day weekend, and here it was on Tuesday… and I had no money available for 3 more days still! I was in Beijing with only the $27 USD I had left.
At this point my plan was just to do a cash advance on my credit card, which obviously was not ideal, but a better option than being broke in a foreign country. I wandered over toward the nearest bank (which was a. still about 2.5 miles away, and b. extremely difficult to find because no one I talked to spoke enough English to give directions). Once I got there I went straight up to the ATM thinking I could just do it from there, but when it asked for my PIN number I realized that wasn’t going to work and got in line to talk to a teller. I was eventually told that their bank was unable to do cash advances, and the only one in the city that could was another 2 miles further from my hostel.
At that point it was getting kind of late, and I was tired, so I just changed my $27 to Yuan, and headed back to my hostel with the intent of watching my cash very closely and figuring it out if I had to. Later that night at the hostel I met a few people traveling from Israel, and we ended up spending the following day together. We went to both a sporting good store and a Starbucks that accepted credit card, and they graciously let me pay with my card and gave me cash. The last day in Beijing I was going on a tour to the Great Wall that had already been paid for by credit card, and all I had to do was tip, which I had enough cash leftover to do. … or so I thought. I had forgotten about the $20 Cambodian visa fee, so I ended up in Cambodia with $0 (still couldn’t access my Charles Schwab money until the following day).
Once again I lucked out; there was an older American fellow that lent me the $20 (which I promptly returned to him as soon as I could withdraw money). I really don’t know what would have happened if luck hadn’t been on my side in both of these cases, though especially the second one. One thing I know for sure is being somewhere unfamiliar and without very much money is very uncomfortable, and I hope to not repeat that experience again.