For so long a country under a dark cloud of crime and corruption, Colombia bounds proudly into the 21st Century full of optimism and undoubtedly with a bright future. This isn’t a new revelation, and people like us at See Colombia Travel have been saying it for years now. Tourist boards seem to recognise it, newspapers are recognising it and, most importantly, the general public is recognising it, too. Travelling to Colombia is no longer off-limits, it is in fact rapidly gaining popularity.
Unfortunately, no-one told the banks this. One of the only complaints I hear from people when they come to Colombia is that their bank card isn’t working in any of the machines. Please note, more often than not this isn’t Colombia or the bank in Colombia’s fault! Rather, it’s the fault of your bank back home. So how can you prevent it?
The first, most important thing to do is to tell your bank you’re coming to Colombia. This cannot be stressed enough. To be honest, I wouldn’t rest at just casually telling them, I would tell them clearly that it is Colombia you’re going to, and that you don’t want them to cancel your card. Get assurances, because I’ve had many friends tell me they warned their bank and still had it blocked, merely because they were in Colombia, not Italy or somewhere more touristy. Even after getting it unblocked, it’s been re-blocked and sometimes even cancelled. Be clear with your bank, because these processes are often so automated that they’re easily overridden.
If you do this, you’ve contacted your bank from here to see what the problem is and still your credit card isn’t working in Colombia, you might want to try a different bank here. Sometimes a little change can help. Here’s a list of banks here in Colombia and how troublesome they can be. We can’t be more specific because, frankly, it’s often luck of the draw.
Davivienda: Works for about half of foreign cards
Bancolombia: Works for very few foreign cards
Servibanca: Works for almost all cards (but high charges)
BBVA: Works for European cards, most others too
Santander: Works for European cards (and with very low charges), most others too
Banco Bogotá: Works for about a quarter of cards
Helm: Works for almost all cards (and is a little like a spa when you go inside…)
We hope this helps you figure things out. It can be frustrating and scary when your card stops working in a foreign country, but remember the problem is usually solved quite simply with a phonecall to your bank. Just be firm and make it clear you’re here in Colombia using your card.