The 28 Degrees Mastercard from GE Finance Australia is marketed as being a great card for travelers. There are no ATM fees (unless the bank of the ATM you are at chooses to charge you, but I didn’t have this problem) and no currency conversion fees. The interest rate is ridiculously high but if you pay it off in a timely manner then it’s fine. There is easy online access to your account, electronic statements and you can Bpay payments onto the card.
Unfortunately, I had some problems from the start as GE issued a card that didn’t work with a PIN in stores, so I was always signing for it. It wasn’t a big deal, it just delayed the time I was in shops because it took ages to connect. I got an email from GE saying there was a bad batch of cards that had gone out and they were sending out new ones. I rang to check that they were sending it to Budapest and the girl assured me they were. I had updated my address online to Budapest within 2 days of arriving here, and received the email about the dodgy cards about 2 weeks after that.
Unfortunately, GE sent my replacement card to Melbourne, which got ‘returned’ (I have a mail redirection though…?), which in turn was cancelled for security reasons, and subsequently the current card here with me was cancelled too. No one could explain this except to say it was a ‘computer glitch’.
When I rang GE to ask why my card had been declined in a store (and security were called! I had to try to explain to someone who doesn’t speak English that I’d had some problems with it, and pay for it with another card… but they kept looking at me like a criminal!) GE were somewhat apologetic and recorded a complaint on my behalf, but that complaint has not been dealt with and it was not recorded accurately. Apologetic, yes. Actively seeking a solution to their own problem, no.
Fast forward many late night calls later, and I was advised to get a Mastercard emergency replacement card from Mastercard Global Services, which happened just fine (the people on that line are very nice, especially the all-American guy called Chip), but the GE Fraud Department, for some reason (they still cannot explain this to me) put a block on the emergency replacement card. The block “cannot be lifted” because it was created by a computer and not by a human. Hmm. I didn’t appreciate the tone used by the young woman in the Fraud Department either. When I asked politely if she could please make sure that Fraud has a note on my file saying I am living in Europe and could she list my European phone number, she cut me off mid-sentence and raised her voice, saying, “there IS a note on your FILE…” It took all of my teacher-patience not to rip into her. Keep in mind this was 2am and I had been shipped from pillar to post and kept on hold for AGES. Repeatedly. For the third night in a row.
Meanwhile my third ACTUAL card is in the post from Australia to Budapest which could take 3 weeks (no offer to send it via express post, despite my polite request). Meanwhile the emergency Mastercard doesn’t work here. No one has an answer. I have been told one thing by one employee at GE and something else by another. No one can help. No one can talk to a supervisor on a public holiday because there is only one in the call centre and they are dealing with ‘an escalation’. Let me tell you, I was *this close* to giving them another escalation to manage.
In the meantime, I’ve been using my ANZ card, which charges $5 per ATM withdrawal and 3% of the amount in fees, plus their no-doubt-utterly-shitty exchange rate. I wrote a very long letter and emailed it to the Customer Resolutions Team of GE Finance in Australia but due to the public holidays, of course no one is around as yet to reply. Happy Easter.
That letter doesn’t detail the last few days of difficulties where I have been trying to ascertain why the Fraud Department of GE won’t allow my emergency replacement card to work. I will sit down and add to this complaint when I am feeling less snarky and more balanced. (ie, after a few shots of the Hungarian fire-water called pálinka)
I will also be sending the full account to the Banking and Finance Ombudsman in Australia and expect a refund on all fees incurred since the GE card stopped working, and a refund on all calls made to Australia. I can’t apply for any other card from Australia (the NAB Gold Visa Debit Card is a similar product, alas, I am not a NAB customer, so I can’t do the ID checks from here, now, can I?!) so I am hoping I can open a local account and use that here. I just have to work out a way of transferring AUD to it without incurring stacks of fees.
The saga continues…