Note to self: double check exchange rates before withdrawing money from an ATM
Until this point I’ve managed to do pretty well with foreign currency. There have been no massive faux pas and even a crash course in turning Euros into Krónur and Krónur into Euros for slightly inebriated Icelandic passengers came off relatively hitchless.
Alas, my days of not making massive money mistakes are over.
My first mistake was forgetting that Japan is somewhat ethnocentric and it’s rather difficult to find an ATM machine that works with VISA. Almost all ATM machines are Japanese and Japanese bank machines only. My card was practically worthless and the cash I had on me: Ghanaian Cedis, Kuwaiti Dinars, Bahraini Dinars, Icelandic Krónur, Kyrzgstani Som, Pounds and Euro’s weren’t doing me a lick of good.
We had a big plan to do a half day in Tokyo. In order to go to Tokyo though money was required and the only place with an ATM machine that worshiped the VISA gods was in the airport. So off we went, two blatantly lost American’s stumbling about Tokyo Narita Terminal 2 in search of the much vaunted ATM. Thankfully the people at information speak English.
Sadly, our brains apparently weren’t working on all thrusters.
In went my ATM card. Courtesy of my mother I had two hundred dollars waiting, only 100 of which I wanted to withdraw. The little animated characters smiled happily at me from the screen as I typed in the amount for 100,000 Yen. I pressed “confirm” and the little people frowned unhappily and I was informed that the transaction could not go through. I tried again: same thing.
My companion tried his card and got the same message. We assumed there was something wrong with the machine. It never crossed our minds that maybe the problem might lay with our lack of math skills and a tad (a whole hell of a lot) of blatant stupidity.
For those of you frowning and wondering why I consider myself so damn stupid I’d like to inform you that 1 U.S dollar equals around 100 Yen. I was typing in the amount for 1,000 U.S. dollars. That was the reason my card kept declining. But like an idiot I didn’t realize it until it was far too late.
I stuck the card in again, determined to succeed (God I wish I hadn’t). Instead I typed in the amount for 10,000 yen – roughly 93 U.S. Dollars, absolutely and completely convinced that it was actually the amount for 10 Dollars. My friend and I – throughout this entire process kept lambasting the machine and the Japanese for the stupidity of the programming.
“We can only withdraw 10 dollars at a time?! Ugh! How Stupid!”
In retrospect I can’t believe how stupid I was. Because, thinking, 10,000 Yen in hand, that I only had 10 bucks I stuck my card in again and withdrew another 10,000 Yen. Then I stuck it in one more time and withdrew 10,000 more. The fourth time it came back as “funds unavailable”
This should have been the first indication that maybe I should STOP AND THINK. Sadly, that didn’t happen. Because the only thought that crossed my mind was “hunh, they must have a cap on how much you can withdraw with a single card.”
No. They didn’t. I was just out of freaking money!
So I pulled out my second credit card. The one with all the funds for my rent on it and went to town. Six times I stuck that card in and withdrew 10,000 Yen.
Six. Freaking. Times.
Finally it came back as funds unavailable. I pocketed what I thought to be my 100 bucks and moved aside so my friend could repeat the process I had just finished.
He withdrew $300 worth before the machine refused and then it was off to the currency exchange to change 150 worth in Euro’s.
Walking back to purchase our train tickets we started comparing the money received from the currency exchange to that of the money received from the ATM. There was a big discrepancy.
Then it hit us: just how much money we had withdrawn.
I had withdrawn 1,000 Dollars.
I was carting around my rent money in Yen!
That was a big kick in the pants. I do believe I had a mini panic attack in the arrivals area of the Tokyo International Airport.
Because sometimes: I am an Idiot.