To fly, or not to fly….

To fly…

After 4 weeks in Kefalonia it was time to leave – the season was ending, restaurants and shops were closing for winter, and the storms were coming in.  Amazing electrical storms were thundering across the island, laying waste to tents that weren’t secured properly with the wind and rain lashing down for short but intense periods of time.  Fantastic to watch, not so great to be camping in, even though our tent withstood everything thrown at it because it is amazing. (The Cave by Heimplanet, thank you God!…and no, we don’t get commission for endorsement but maybe we should?!) lol

Or not to fly…

We tried unsuccessfully 3 times online to book a flight out from Athens – 3 times our debit card had been approved and the booking showed as successful with confirmation emails arriving, yet several hours later would then be declined for ‘security’ reasons by the online companies.  3 times, or maybe more than that, we would argue profusely about whose fault it was that we had chosen that particular online company, that the booking had failed and we couldn’t get out of here!  It’s a good job we can argue constructively and find peace again when the stress has alleviated a little.

The money would sit in limbo for 10 days after the declined action, still showing as a pending transaction, until the bank deigned to give us access to our funds once more.

It seems that companies advertise that debit cards are accepted on their system, but then mysteriously decline them.  We tested this out by accident, and the debit card was always accepted but then refused hours later for our flights, but the credit card was always approved for our accommodation.  Go figure!

Imagine the frustration when calling our bank (and all credit goes to one of the major High Street banks here because they were brilliant, calling us abroad, checking in with us to see if we were ok, calling the online company to try and find out why they wouldn’t claim the funds etc) only to be told that the online companies hadn’t gone through the proper stages and done a security check with their merchant bank and had instead just failed the transaction, using ‘security issues’ as a reason for not accepting the debit card.  We were actually told by our bank that this would be because the company wanted more commission from credit card usage instead, so they would fail a debit card to try and get customers to use credit instead.  It’s all down to their agreements with the major credit companies, and sod what the consumer would prefer to use!

At this point following the very expensive phone call to our bank, we would quite cheerfully have sharpened the edge of our debit card and decapitated the people from the online companies who messed everything up for us!  May their armpits be infested by camel fleas 😉

Now, we don’t usually use credit cards as we prefer to know the money is paid up front with actual money.  The only reason we have one is because we were advised to get one for travelling.  We don’t like them, pure and simple.  And it would be nice to know why UK credit cards are not good for Avios air miles if you are not a millionaire.  Anyone who applies for a credit card with a sensible income but not a huge one seems unable to get one which utilises Avios, yet they seem to be of abundance in the USA.

In this day and age, debit cards should mean more than credit cards because the money is already there – it’s sitting in the bank saying ‘here I am – use me!’ and if it isn’t there, you can’t use the card – yet credit cards are more readily accepted even though the money isn’t really there, and isn’t really yours.

If a company doesn’t want to accept a debit card, they should not list it as a feasible means of payment – it only ends up with the customer getting stuck funds which they cannot use for up to 14 working days (depending on the bank they use) because it gets put in a ‘pending’ account, and if it’s not claimed after that time by the company it is refunded to the customers account.  This means you can’t use that cash for that amount of time, and if you have limited resources it’s a right pain in the backside.

It seems very wrong that your own money can be taken out of circulation for such a long period of time (working days don’t include the weekends) just because a belligerent company doesn’t claim it for whatever reason, within a reasonable amount of time.  This time limit should be 24 hours for claiming it from the bank account following a transaction, and the unclaimed cash should then go back to the customer within 24 hours to be able to be drawn against as normal.

It’s all diabolical red tape which means that the bank can withhold your cash (and can probably claim interest on it), whilst we sit in a foreign country with no access to our own money, trying desperately to find somewhere that takes a debit card without any hassle so that we know where we can utilise it once the funds come back.

In the end, we used a travel company in Argostoli where we could pay in person with the card, in a chip and pin machine – which was quite funny because they were fine with us flying from Athens but had no idea where our destination Cambodia was 🙂 – I am guessing nobody from Kefalonia has ever wanted to visit that country – but they sorted it out for us with the minimum of hassle and, with great relief, we took possession of our flight tickets within a short time.  Our clammy, nervous little mitts couldn’t grasp them quickly or tightly enough whilst effusively voicing our thanks to the staff and grinning rather a lot with relief.

It cost us more than doing it online, but we actually had the flight tickets in our hands and could finally plan the next leg, which was booking the bus/ferry from Kefalonia to Athens.

The moral of the story is also to use a credit card if you can, or you may end up with frozen funds because the companies are too crap to decline the use of debit cards up front and like to make you think you can use your own money rather than make-believe Monopoly money on a credit card.

Luckily the price for the bus/ferry was fixed and we could also book that in person and get the tickets in our hand there and then.  Cash only – how refreshing!

It is cheaper to go into the bus station and make the booking for the bus, rather than buying the bus and the ferry separately, as the price of 40 euros each includes the price of the ferry crossing to mainland Greece.  The bus took us from Argostoli to Athens, leaving at 1430 and getting in at about 2100 at the KTEL bus station in Athens.

On the ferry you have access to toilets, and food/drink, and on the bus through the mainland you get to stop a couple of times along the way.  The bus trip is relatively pleasant, to be fair, and the bus was clean as was the ferry.

There are lots of taxis available from the KTEL bus station to wherever you are staying.  Make sure you agree a price to your destination before you get in though, or else you will run on a meter.

Athens…finally…Phew.  (Athens update coming soon)

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