Quote of the moment

"I have to tell it again and again: I have no doctrine. I only point out something. I point out reality, I point out something in reality which has not or too little been seen. I take him who listens to me at his hand and lead him to the window. I push open the window and point outside. I have no doctrine, I carry on a dialogue." Martin Buber

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Your Credit Card, "Don't Leave Home Without It," Or Maybe Not

As the summer travel season comes to a close in the northern hemisphere many American travelers who didn't forget to pack their credit cards are returning home with accounts of credit nightmares. Chile along with at least 22 other countries including many in Western Europe, China, India, Japan, Mexico, Canada and Brazil have made the switch to chip and PIN credit card technology.  Noticeably missing in this list is the United States of America. Complaints of costs of new card readers, liability for fraud loss, and criminals already working around the system are causing the banks to drag their feet.

However, all is well the credit cards and banks assure us. In theory our  Visa, MasterCard and American Express  credit cards will continue to be welcomed world wide by merchants who are supposed to let customers pay with either type of card. Unfortunately many reports by world travelers indicate some retailers outside the United States are befuddled with our "antiquated" magnetic strip system and merchants refuse the USA-magnetic strip cards. Worse are the automated ticket kiosks at train stations, gas pumps, parking garages and other places where there are no cashiers and the card holder is wondering why he bothered to leave home with it in the first place.

The banks and merchants assure that chip-and-PIN will make it more difficult for the bad-guys to benefit from credit card fraud. The magnetic strip system used in the United States only requires a signature to authenticate a purchase. Criminals are able to start making purchases immediately once they have their hands on victims' magnetic strip credit cards, potentially charging up before the card is canceled. Clever thieves can also use information gained by Internet hacking or skimming -- secretly swiping a victim's card on a card reader -- to "clone" copies of victims' cards. Chip and PIN aims to make it more difficult for wannabe criminals to make fraudulent purchases by either of these methods. In an article by Bankrate.com, Andi Coleman, a member of the Accredited Standards Committee X9, which determines standards for the financial industry in the U.S states,  "It's very difficult if not impossible to clone the (chip and PIN) card. If you steal the card out of someone's wallet, you have to know the PIN in order to be able to use the card in a transaction."

However, ZDNet reports that researchers are finding the chip-and PIN technology broken:

"Chip-and-PIN readers can be tricked into accepting transactions without a valid personal identification number, opening the door to fraud, researchers have found. Researchers at Cambridge University have found a fundamental flaw in the EMV — Europay, MasterCard, Visa — protocol that underlies chip-and-PIN validation for debit and credit cards. As a consequence, a device can be created to modify and intercept communications between a card and a point-of-sale terminal, and fool the terminal into accepting that a PIN verification has succeeded."

Using our magnetic strip cards have not been an issue for us. In Santiago, Chile  and while in Spain during our vacation, paying with our magnetic strip cards within the chip-and-pin technology was only a matter of swiping our card and then offering the card to the clerk to verify the last four digits of the credit card number (perhaps as a default pin?). What has been a tremendous cause of extreme frustration, annoyance, embarrassment and anger is the bank consistently requiring us or the merchant to phone and verify that a purchase we just made was actually made by us. Or the card issuer simply blocks our card.

The New York Times article, Advice on Using Credit Cards While Traveling Abroad provides practical tips on credit cards. Not much was offered by way of surviving the issues of magnetic strip cards in the chip and PIN world. Rule of thumb bring cash and lots of it. Until the USA catches up with the rest of the globe we are pretty much out of luck. We can report problems after the fact but that really doesn't help when  you are stuck in a toll both with cars staking up behind you or at a hotel that refuses to use the card you offered as assurances of payment.

Other basic tips remain helpful while on the road near or far from your bank:
  1. Avoid your bank freezing your account by notifying them of your travel plans, whether it's across the globe or in a neighboring ZIP code area.
  2. Check your credit limit before a trip, since banks have reduced credit limits for some cardholders; travel expenses can push up against those maximums. 
  3. And for when all else fails, carry plenty of cash is a good backup, especially in rural areas and developing countries.
Other tips I have discovered in our travels as an expat:
  1.  Call your bank and have it WRITTEN in your records that you will be on an extended trip. Then ask how long that advisory in your account will be valid  (for Bank of America it is 6 months) and be sure to mark it on your calendar to call the bank again-before they freeze your card. Of course that assumes the bank security agent will actually go into the records and read that announcement. We had assumed incorrectly with our bank.
  2. If you are out of the country for an extended period of time change your address and phone number to your foreign address (the alerts systems are less likely to be triggered over and over)
  3. Open up a bank account in the country you are staying. In Chile that takes some doing.
  4. Don't forget to budget for those annoying foreign transaction fees in your expenses (as much as 3%). Capital One credit card does not have foreign fees. In Chile we have found that Santender Bank is the only local bank that does not charge fees when drawing money from their ATMs.
  5. Write the phone number of the bank  to call to verify purchases on the back of your card.
  6. It has been wonderful having our voice over internet phone system to make all those phone calls to the bank. Emails, unless made through the bank's secured internet system do not work. 

There is a burgeoning movement to spur more rapid action on the part of USA banks and credit card companies. The United Nations Federal Credit Union is the first and Wal-Mart reported that the company will move to this technology as well. “Get Fluent-C,”  is a leader in this effort to bring industry leaders and consumers together to ensure that the technology that debit and credit card uses are “fluent” – understood and processed in every country around the world, across boundaries and cultures.

To learn more about traveling and using credit cards, chip and PIN issues:

What has your experiences been while using your credit card abroad? What tips do you recommend?

Monday, August 16, 2010

2010 Global Education Conference

An interesting announcement came my way. I'm exploring it further:


Bienvenue! Welcome! 歡迎! Willkommen! Benvenuto! 반갑습니다!
Seja bem-vindo(a)! Bienvenido!

The 2010 Global Education Conference will be held November 15 - 19, 2010, online and free.  Sessions will be held in multiple time zones and multiple languages over the five days.  We are now accepting proposals for presentations.

The conference is a collaborative effort to significantly increase opportunities for globally-connecting education activities and initiatives. All sessions will be held in the Elluminate platform, will be broadcast live, and will be available in recorded formats afterwards.

Learn more about the Conference and Globabl Education:

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Could you wait as long as Andy did?

For many years prior to my arrival to Chile I worked as a board member for The Arc of Virginia to promote the rights of people with intellectual disabilities to live in the community. We have in the USA just celebrated the 20th Anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act- which includes the right of people with disabilities to live a life like yours! Many countries have signed the U.N. Convention on Rights for People with Disabilities, including Chile.   I continue to work for access and self-determination for people with intellectual disabilities here in Chile as well.

Noewait, the National Organization to End the Waitlists recently published a wonderful video on YouTube:

Could you wait as long as Andy did?

Learn more about NOEWAIT by visiting their website: http://www.noewait.net/
From their homepage:

NOEWAIT is a grass-roots, national, social justice movement organized to ensure full opportunity, choices, freedom, and self-determination for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities in every community by eliminating waitlists for services in every state.  This will be accomplished through public education, mobilizing people into action, and changing public policy.

Across the nation, people with intellectual and developmental disabilities wait years for services and supports and can not move freely from state to state or community to community.

There must be adequate funding for lifetime services and supports needed by our most vulnerable family members, without gaps or delays.

Funding must be available in all states, portable across and within states and promote self-determination for the individual with the disability, their families and legal guardians.

To unite the efforts of families, providers, government agencies, advocacy groups and citizens to change laws and policies across the country and eliminate waitlists for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.