CIBC Is a Great Bank for International Travellers

When I read about picking a bank for international travel, all I ever see is discussions about their rates and fees. If I was to judge CIBC, with whom I’ve been banking for more than 20 years, by only that standard, they would fail. But in terms of things that really matter, CIBC has been a winner across the board. I’ve now that three events while overseas that could have been stressful or embarrassing that CIBC took care of without my having to do much.

First of all, there was the time in Mazatlán that an ATM debited my account, but did not give me my money. While it was stressful to be out that money for the time that I was, but CIBC went to bat for me on this issue and got my money back and they credited me for some overdraft fees and the ATM withdrawal fees. I was so stressed during the initial call to report this and the person I spoke to made it seem like such a not big deal for them that it made me confident that there was actually hope of seeing my money again.

Then, there was the time in Bulgaria where I found out my credit card had been compromised. CIBC promptly rejected the charges that weren’t mine and I did not have to fight to not be held accountable for them. They then sent me a new card to Bulgaria. I’ve read accounts recently of this happening to folks with other banks that wouldn’t send them their new cards while they were abroad!

What happened today was more embarrassing than anything else. I got a call from a guy at Tesco letting me know my payment was declined despite being preauthorised last night. It was 5AM on the East Coast, so CIBC’s call centre was closed. I did a quick search for the emergency 24-hour number to report a card stolen and called that. I explained the situation and apologised if it was inappropriate to use the number to have a security card hold lifted. The man I spoke to put me at ease and said it was absolutely fine and they get calls like that from Europe and Asia all the time. He then quickly lifted the hold. When I called the Tesco man back a few minutes later, the payment went through. He was standing there with all my shopping ready to go, including cold goods. Had I not been able to reach CIBC, they would have had to start all over. I doubt I would have had a penalty for that, but, really, not good form!

I can also add to this list that I got an email from Caroline back home letting me know that she’d received a new debit card for me. My current one expires at the end of March, so I suggested that it be dropped off at the CIBC in Assiniboia to be sent through interoffice courier to the one in Chambly for my stepmother to pick up. I expected to be told that would not be possible for confidentiality reasons, but it wasn’t a problem. So my new debit card will be waiting for me when I arrive in Quebec and no one had to make a special trip or pay for postage to get it to me.

My only complaint about using CIBC overseas is that they charge me $5 for withdrawals, which is why I now have a Scotiabank account from which to withdraw money in countries that are part of the Global ATM Alliance.

CIBC has proven to me time and time again that they have my back. I feel like a valued customer and that I get something for my monthly account fees (which, by the way, have dropped significantly!). My life has oftentimes felt chaotic since it took a peripatetic turn and CIBC has really helped me to greatly simplify one part of my life. It will be interesting to see how our relationship goes when I’m in Mexico full-time and having to rely more on Scotiabank. But with the few times I’ve had to call Scotiabank for trivial matters and it being a huge production, I really doubt that they’ll ever get more business from me than the basic chequing account I use for international withdrawals.

8 thoughts on “CIBC Is a Great Bank for International Travellers

  1. These issues always seem to arise. It was very embarrassing at the dentist’s office in Mexico when my Credit Union failed to raise my ATM limit as they promised and I could not raise the money to pay for my dental treatment. Scotiabank came to my rescue when they preauthorized a huge cash advance from my credit card. I was a little disappointed when they charged a $15 CA service charge ($7.50 per advance and a $3,000 limit per advance) for this but considering how desperate I was at the moment, I would have paid more.

    • I am confident that I wouldn’t have had any issues with CIBC in that situation, as long as I had the funds available, because I had a similar problem when I went to buy my property. We closed a lot more quickly than I expected and the money I’d transferred from my investments hadn’t landed. I had the money on my credit card, but could not withdraw the full amount from it as there are limits on cash advances. I provided CIBC with proof that the money to pay them back was incoming and with that, they increased my Visa just enough that I could withdraw the full amount I wanted as transfer to my chequing account and then cut me a cashier’s cheque. The teller I initially spoke to couldn’t help, but she got the manager to sort me out, which included her calling her superiors. So it was a lot of work for them, but I just had to sit back and watch the magic happen.

    • The problem with my CU was the person I talked to told me she had released the limits as I requested but for some reason did not actually do it. There was more than enough money in the accounts to cover what I needed. I complained to the CU and they are now trying to get me to help identify the representative who messed up. My object is not to get someone in trouble or fired but to make sure this never, ever happens again to any customer!

      • It seems like the front line staff at CIBC is better trained and empowered than front line staff at other institutions. I’ve called Scotiabank for something simple that I could get done in a minute with CIBC, but which required being transferred several times with SB.

    • The dental work was half finished before I could pay the whole of the $1,000 deposit that was expected before any work was done. They were good about the delay but it was very embarrassing to not be able to come up with the cash. I am sure the thought of, “If he can’t come up with the deposit, how can he come up with the total bill?” Anyway, it all worked out and we are all the best of friends now. We should not be exposed to this because of bank incompetency, computer error or whatever it was.

      • It’s the same embarrassment when your credit card is declined because of a security hold, especially if you don’t have an alternate method of payment. I couldn’t pay the driver cash today. The only other thing I could have tried is to use my debit card as the new ones apparently work like a credit card and can be used anywhere Visa is accepted, but I haven’t tried that yet.

        • My advice to prospective travellers has always been, have at least three independent sources of cash. I actually have more than that but my CU has always been my first choice. The high limit Scotiabank Line Of Credit card is one of my backups but because there are no banks in Los Algodones, converting the card to cash required a (short) trip back to the USA.

          And, as my CU told me later, a call back to them could have straightened everything out with them. I had a very sore mouth and I simply did not want to bother with them. I was in a bad mood.

  2. Looks like you have the best combination of financial institutions workingfor you. We have been with CIBC for ever, and now we would consider adding a Scotia Bank account.

    Good advise!

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