I’m pretty ashamed that this happened to me, especially after I’ve read a few travel forum warnings about it already.
There’s something about the ATMs in Southeast Asia that make it very easy for you to leave your bank card behind.
While ATMs in North America spit out your bank card immediately after you have completed the transaction, Southeast Asian machines tend to require additional steps to get your card back after shooting out your cash and receipt. They also don’t beep at you.
When I first read the warning, I thought, “man people are idiots”. Then of course… it happened to me…
Fortunately however, I managed to get my bank card back!
If you ever suspect you’ve left your card behind at the ATM, one of the first things I would suggest is check the bank of the ATM you’ve used, and visit their nearest branch.
It took me 2 days to realize my access card was not in my wallet when we were in Luang Prabang, Laos. I turned our room upside down, but I had a sneaking suspicion that I never took it out of the ATM the last time I withdrew money. Adam and I were also pretty confident it wasn’t stolen because we never gave others the opportunity to do so.
Adam suggested that we check all the stores around the ATM and see if a kind soul had turned it in. So I checked with a newsstand, a travel agency, the tourist police, and the tourist information centre. Most of them were unhelpful. They don’t make much of an effort to look around their desk or counters or ask their colleagues. Plus there’s the whole language barrier thing.
The one piece of useful advice I did get was from the tourist information centre. The lady there suggested I check with the bank, and that maybe a bank employee picked it up (she sent me to the wrong bank however, but it was a good idea!). Luckily we had a motorbike rental that day, so we could get around quickly and found the bank branch.
I had already resigned myself to expect nothing and that I’m SOL. I didn’t feel any better when the bank employee gave me a blank stare as I explained my situation. Then finally another employee translated the issue, and the non-English speaking staff proceeded to produce a stack of bank cards. He very quickly found mine as he tried to match the one Adam had!
It’s a minor consolation that I was not the only one who was dumb enough to do this, as evidenced by the stack of cards we saw. It also did not occur to me at all that maybe the ATM had sucked in my bank card when I left it in there, but I’m very glad it did!
So the morale of the story is:
Don’t leave your bank card in the ATM :p