Updating ATM and credit cards from the road

I recently got a question at the Vagabonding.net Q&A, and I’m hoping you all in the blogosphere can help me answer it.

John from New Jersey writes:

“Your book has given me that one last push to get out there and see the places I’ve always dreamed about. I read it cover to cover, only to re-read it again to keep inspired, since my trip is still a couple of years away. My question is, I am planning to be gone at least five years, and will have a small fortune to finance my expedition. I like the idea of using my ATM card for access to cash, but what if I am still overseas when it (and my credit cards) expire? My new cards will more than likely be mailed to a friend I trust here in the states, but what is the best way to get them to where I am? Is the poste restante trustworthy and does every country honor it? If I use an international bank, say Citibank, can they send it to a branch? What other options might be available?”

As for my reply to John — I’ve found that the Poste Restante system is reliable around the world, but I’d be more inclined to use the same system he plans to use at home: a trusted friend. I’d reckon after several months of traveling the world John will have plenty of friends in his host countries, and he can use their home addresses to receive new ATM and credit cards.

But perhaps there is a better way. Has anyone else dealt with this challenge overseas? What are your impressions of the Poste Restante system? If you have any ideas or suggestions regarding receiving sensitive mail abroad, please post below…

Posted by | Comments (3)  | December 14, 2004
Category: Vagabonding Advice

3 Responses to “Updating ATM and credit cards from the road”

  1. cquirk Says:

    There’s no way on god’s green earth I’d rely on developing world post restante systems for holding something valuable for me to pick up. Check with American express. If you have a card you can have stuff sent to some of their offices. I’d even use fed-ex or DHL for something like an ATM card. You might check with fed-ex/DHL/UPS to see if you can have a package sent to a local office to be picked up. They’re usually everywhere.

  2. Justin Mounts Says:


    I actually had to deal with this problem a couple of times on the LONGITUDE Expedition for Drive Around the World. What I found worked best was to have the cards sent to family who would then Fed-Ex or DHL deliver a letter to me at a hotel or local business.

    One thing that helped was the fact that prior to embarking on this 16-month journey, I set up power-of-attorney privelege for my father so there was always someone in the US who had full access to my accounts or could “act” as me legally with regard to banking, credit cards, etc. Any time I needed something renewed or replaced, he could make the calls for me.

    Now, I also debunked some of the “we deliver anywhere” myths, as many carriers won’t deliver to remote areas (Kashgar, China comes to mind), or you may run into problems with local customs (Brasil comes to mind) if you have documents combined with other items being shipped to you. I strongly recommend that if you need to send a credit card, ensure that it is the only item being shipped in the package.

    If for some reason you can’t get a hotel to accept a package for you (you do usually have to be staying there), check around with the local English schools. Most of the expats who are teaching will most likely work with you to procure a secure address for delivery.


  3. Dan Says:

    I would tend to agree with cquirk re: post restante – it isn’t that the system isn’t reliable, just that it can takes months and months for something to arrive. (Which, I guess, means that it’s not reliable.) I had a package sent to me once in Turkey via post restante, and was still waiting for it four months later. (I never got it.) DHL seems to be the answer here.