Problem with AAA Travel Money Card in Turkey

We want to warn those going to Turkey who are members of AAA and plan to use the AAA Visa Travel Money Card that the card CANNOT be used there and don't depend on the AAA employee helping you to tell you this. The employee at our local AAA only asked were were we were going AFTER my husband had reloaded our Travel Cards, and, when he replied, "Greece and Turkey", the employee said nothing. We have used these cards on many other international trips, and it never occurred to us that there would be a problem in a high tourist country such as Turkey, a fellow member of NATO and a strong ally of the US. To sum up, after we flew to Denizli (Pamukkale) May 14, '12, we called MetaBank (the issuing bank) in the US about the problem. The bank employee sympathized but couldn't help us because "Turkey is like Cuba" on a Dept of the Treasury list (inaccurate). She suggested going to another country to use the Travel Card (Syria is one of the closest!). Meanwhile, MetaBank would "reeducate our local AAA about Turkey. The result was that we were stranded in Turkey without cash. Pamukkale (the 1st stop of our 2 weeks in Turkey) didn't even have a bank. We called the American Embassy in Ankara who couldn't understand the reason for the card's being blocked saying that they use Chase-Manhattan Bank for debit cards distributed to retired Americans living in Turkey. Between suggestions from the Embassy and the wonderful help of Mr Hasan Guzel, his family, and friends at Dort Mevsim Hotel and Tours4Turkey in Pamukkale, our trip was salvaged. However, we later learned of a couple from Ohio who had also gone to their local AAA for the Travel Card and were not alerted about the block on Turkey. W did meet another American who was using a Chase debit card without any problem.

Posted by Nigel
East Midlands, England
11963 posts

Single letter person l what does a fellow member of NATO and a strong ally of the US have to do with the price of eggs? What does the AAA have to do with either NATO or US international affairs? I thought it was a car club not a political organization.

Posted by Rosalyn
1444 posts

The subject of getting money in foreign countries has been discussed endlessly on this site, but bears repeating for newbies. It's unfortunate that you didn't do your homework before going to AAA. One thing that has been noted many times is that the AAA card gives you a bad exchange rate. Now we know there's another problem. The advice given here has always been to use your atm card. We did that all over Turkey and never had a problem.

Posted by Nancy
Bloomington, IL, USA
8404 posts

I'm unclear why you are comparing AAA with Chase bank. AAA card is a prepaid card. A bank debit card is probably attached to a checking account, the way that we always recommend people have their accounts set up. I carry a debit card from my local credit union, and one from an online bank. If need be, I can transfer from one to the other online, and if I were to lose a card (or it was blocked) I could use the other. It's unfortunate that AAA did not give you good information. Just another reason, in my mind, not to use a prepaid card.

Posted by Ed
9110 posts

it sounds like you were sold a bill of goods a long time ago and it finally caught up with you. Paying a fee for a card, paying a rotten exchange rate, and letting somebody use your money in the interim is what my Pappy would call the Triple Whammy. Never having heard of MetaBank, googling showed this from Wiki: ' In 2010, MetaBank was ordered by the federal government to stop use of their pre-paid debit cards, as they had been engaging in deceptive trade practices.'

Posted by Aileen
Lynn Haven, FL, USA
1 posts

Here's my advice to anyone who is traveling in Turkey as I have family there. Carry cash. Travelers checks are much too costly to cash and use there, and you will incur problems. Make sure you have notified your banks that you are traveling abroad and which countries you are visiting before going overseas. This includes the ones you are passing through as you make your plane changes. Visa, Mastercard, and Cash are acceptable methods of payment in Turkey. Always carry a mixture of cash and credit cards so you have options. People have become anti-cash when traveling, but in Turkey, the banks have such high fee rates, that it will cost you almost 15%-20% or more to cash a traveler's check, not worth paying the bank that much. So depending on where you are traveling, you'd best have a credit card available, that you can use along with cash.

Posted by Nigel
East Midlands, England
11963 posts

Note to other readers - this thread is a year old and there is no current discussion about travellers cheques.

Posted by Michael Schneider
New Paltz, NY
7462 posts

Thanks for the update Aileen! As you discovered cash and plastic work well in Istanbul. Was even able to use my contactless paypass card a couple times.

Posted by gone
2081 posts

hi, sorry for the PIA AAA card issues. if youre going to travel anymore, i suggest reviewing this board and/or getting RS travel books. he covers alot of tips. I dont remember if there was anything about AAA prepaid cards or any prepaid cards for that matter. also, w/respect to notifying your bank/cu about traveling, i had to do that for my CU. They wanted to know dates of leaving/return to add/remove my card block. happy trails.