What to do if your debit card expires while abroad

What should you do if your debit card expires while abroad?

Fortunately, you can call your bank and have them mail a replacement to where you’re staying. You can also wire yourself some money or transfer funds to a friend’s digital wallet. 

There are also ways to make yourself less dependent on a single card.

You’re having the time of your life on an overseas trip. It’s the vacation you’ve dreamed about, and everything is going perfectly. Until you pay for your dinner and notice your debit card’s expired.

Luckily for you, I’ll show you what to do if your debit card expires while traveling. I’ll show you some things to do before you travel and if you need a debit card for traveling. You’ll be able to make another purchase in no time!

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What To Do If Your Debit Card Expires While Abroad

If your debit card is expired, don’t try to use it. This won’t do you any good, and you’ll continue to get declined or error messages. Hopefully, you have another way to pay for goods and services.

In the meantime, here are the steps you should take to fix your expired debit card when abroad.

1. Ask Your Bank for a Replacement Card

But if you’ve gotten yourself into a pickle, the first thing you should do is call your bank. Ask if they can send a replacement card to your hotel. You may need to pay extra fees or charges for international shipping.

Additional costs might also apply if the bank needs to expedite your request. They may also have to cancel or cut off other replacement cards. These may be waiting in your mailbox at home.

Before you have your bank mail you a replacement, confirm turnaround and shipping times. The last thing you want is a card sitting at a hotel while you’re boarding a plane home. If you don’t have time to wait, there are other things you can do.

2. Wire Yourself Some Money

Let’s say you only have a few days left on your trip. It won’t make sense to have your bank mail you a replacement card. But you can wire yourself money from your account to a local Western Union.

If you need to do this, be prepared to pay fees and find a way to get there. Some hotels have Western Union locations in or near them. Hopefully, this applies to you, so you won’t have to figure out transportation.

However, it would be best if you also prepared for losses through currency conversions and exchange rates. Look these up before you wire money from your checking account. A little research will help you come out ahead and have all the funds you need.

3. Transfer Money to Friends or Fellow Travelers

If you’re traveling with others, you can transfer money to them. Digital wallet accounts and peer-to-peer payment services are easy ways to do this. Once the money’s in their account, they can withdraw it from an ATM.

Alternatively, they can cover your expenses with their debit or credit card. You can send what you owe via PayPal, Venmo, or Zelle. You won’t have to worry about paying them back when you get home.

But what if you’re traveling solo? You might approach people you’ve talked to at your hotel or the hotel’s concierge desk. See if they’re willing to pay on your behalf or lend you money.

You can send them the necessary funds using Zelle, Western Union, or peer-to-peer payment services. Be sure to add on any fees, interest charges, or tips. And make sure that you feel comfortable with the people you ask.

Things to Do Before You Travel

Now that you know how to handle an expired debit card while abroad, here’s how to prevent the problem. 

1. Take a Backup Card (Or Two)

If you have more than one debit card, take another one. If you have a credit card, take it on your trip. Relying on one debit card is often setting yourself up for failure. 

When you take more than one card, you have a backup if there’s a problem. Since cards have different expiration dates, it’s unlikely you’ll have two expired cards. And you won’t get stuck relying on wire transfers and the kindness of others.

2. Check Your Card(s)

Two or more weeks before you travel, check your debit card. Make sure it’s not expired or going to expire while you’re gone. If so, contact your bank immediately to order a replacement.

Banks typically send out replacement cards a month or two before the expiration date. However, things happen. Sometimes cards get lost in the mail, or the issuer doesn’t send a replacement because you barely use the card. 

But taking the time to check your accounts and cards prevents problems on your trip. Be sure there’s enough money in your accounts. Activate any replacement cards and inform your card issuer of your travel plans.

3. Take Out Cash

Besides having backup cards, you should also set aside some cash. Withdraw a small amount of money from your account and place it aside. Put it in a different area of your wallet or carry-on bag.

This way, you’ll have something in case of an emergency. You won’t have to depend on plastic to pay for immediate needs. And you’ll have access to something to tide you over until you can wire or transfer additional funds.

If you don’t want to carry cash, you can buy traveler’s checks. They’re easier to replace if they get lost or stolen. Some people also find them easier to itemize and keep track of.

4. Prepay Expenses

You can often prepay for your hotel and transportation before you go. You’ll save yourself the hassle of discovering your card’s expired after you’ve landed. And the major expenses of your vacation will be out of the way.

This is also an excellent way to discover whether your card’s about to expire. Typing in the expiration date can trigger an alert in your mind. You’ll know to order a replacement right away and perhaps expedite it to your home address.

Can I Travel Without a Debit Card?

You forget to check your debit card until the day before you leave. You discover it’s expired, but you don’t have time for the bank to mail you a replacement. It might be worth it to travel without a debit card.

But is it possible? The answer is yes, especially if you have a credit card with an available limit. You can also withdraw cash from your checking account or purchase traveler’s checks.

If you’re traveling with family or friends, see if you can pay them back once you get home. Ask if they’re willing and able to pay for your meals and other incidentals. Hopefully, they’ll oblige and have room on their debit or credit cards.

What If I Know My Debit Card’s New Expiration Date?

Even if you know your replacement debit card’s new expiration date, you may not be able to use it. Many merchants want or need a physical card to process transactions. Plus, the CCV number also changes on replacement debit cards.

All your account information, including the expiration date and CCV number, is stored in the chip. Without that, you can’t use ATMs or POS machines overseas. Although you might find a retailer willing to make an exception, you also need the CCV number.

Bank reps probably won’t have or disclose this information, even if you verify your account. Too many instances of fraud make merchants and banks hesitant to make exceptions. It’s probably better not to approach retailers or banks with these requests.

You could end up arousing suspicion and causing more problems for yourself. Wire yourself some money, rely on fellow travelers, or use a backup card. Plus, your new card may not be activated yet and you need to know the CCV to do that. 

Should I Dispose of My Expired Card Overseas?

Technically, you could. However, it’s not recommended. You may need to verify that card’s information with your bank when you get home.

It will help if you plan on keeping your expired card in a safe place until you get home. Once you have your replacement in hand and activated, you can dispose of the old one. Be sure to shred it or cut it up into separate pieces.

Use sealed trash bags to dispose of the shredded card. Some people even put different pieces into separate bags to prevent ID theft.

Final Thoughts

Hopefully, you have a better idea of what to do if your debit card expires while abroad. The most obvious thing to do is have your bank expedite a replacement to your hotel if there’s time. But if you can’t wait, you’ll need to find another way to access your money.

Typical solutions include using Western Union to wire yourself cash or relying on friends. You can always pay them back or send them money via services like PayPal.

However, prevention is the best approach. Check your card’s expiration date before you leave!  


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John is the founder of TightFist Finance and an expert in the field of personal finance. John has studied personal finance for over 10 years and has used his knowledge to pay down debt, grow his investment portfolio, and launch a financial based business. He is committed to sharing content related to personal finance based on his experience in his career, investing, and path towards reaching financial independence.