Believe it or not this post is dated back in 2015 when I travelled to Chiba, Japan. I am only posting it now so I guess it's about time I clear my drafts instead of adding on and forgetting about the previous ones. Also this post is going to be a good reminder to people who are going to Japan or other countries for their holidays this March and April (sakura season), as I had my fair share of clumsy moments of forgetting to activate my debit card (i don't have credit card) to be used overseas to make payment and withdraw money.
The first time I encountered this problem was back in 2014 during a media trip to Thailand when I realized I underestimated the amount of cash needed for expenditure as it was my first time traveling overseas and to my horror, I couldn't withdraw at all because I did not know that I need to activate my card before leaving the country!
And what’s even worse is that I couldn't call my bank hotline since my simcard was useless without any roaming and back then we purchased local sim cards to use the data for internet. This was before portable WiFi became every traveler’s essential item. I can't believe that happened less than 3 years ago. How fast we advance these days! It is kind of scary like back in 2011 when smartphones were considered "luxury" gadgets and fast forward to the present day, everyone can afford one because it's cheap due to mass market demand.
Back to the card issue, sorry for being sidetracked as usual lol; my 2nd time traveling was to Tokyo in October 2015 but this time I at least remembered to activate my card for overseas use, so I didn't have a problem using it to make payments for omiyage on our last day there.
Those who have been to Japan would understand what I mean when I say the place is a shopping haven for girls especially for beauty and fashion products, aside from all the yummy snacks that would make a good omiyage for your friends and family! Omiyage translates to "souvenir" by the way, in case you are wondering why people always use that word whenever they give away gifts from their travels.
Just recently when I used my card in Kyoto, I was actually kind of surprised that no signature was required from me as it's always needed in Malaysia, then it struck me that I recently upgraded my old card to the new PIN-enabled card since the bank sent us notification to get it changed last December, lol and how many of you still using the old card?
Best to go get it changed soon before it becomes invalid. Save yourself the trouble of being caught by surprise (not much of a surprise since you know it already but chose to procrastinate) if you are under Maybank, you can request for your new card to be sent to your house directly like how I did, instead of going to the bank.
In other countries, everyone seems to be going cashless at this point which is rather interesting and actually it’s much more convenient compared to carrying around a lump of cash with the constant fear of losing it every single time you take something out of your pockets or handbag.
Maybe it's just me being paranoid about carrying too much cash around after the snatch theft incident I had last year and if a card gets lost or stolen, all you need to do is immediately call up the bank to cancel it before any unauthorized transactions are made.
But let me stress this again, make sure to always, ALWAYS activate your PIN-enabled cards before leaving the country, ok? You can call or visit your nearest local bank and enable your PIN anytime.
When I was in Perth, you can even pay for your McDonald's using your card and just recently McDonald's in Malaysia has also allowed us to use our cards with no minimal purchase required, was so jakun when I found out about the new payment method (hooray) because I have a tendency to use my card more since I hardly carry any cash. As we can see, payment methods are steadily transitioning, not only in Malaysia but all over the world.
Sometimes, we do tend to underestimate the amount of money required for our holidays, but when that happens, it's always good to have payment cards as backup but such cards are only useful if you know your PIN.
So, activate your PIN-enabled card now so you don’t face the problems I faced, on your travels.
*The views expressed here are my own and do not represent the views of Visa and associated companies.