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Friday, July 25, 2008

Tren Italia Website – The Gift that Keeps on Giving

I am still feeling some pains from my failed attempt to purchase Italian Rail tickets from the national Tren Italia website that I wrote about a few weeks ago. Having tried four different credit cards – getting them all denied – then calling the card issuers and being told they did not seen any attempted transactions – I could not by any train tickets. Given the card issuers response, I figured that none of the cards ended up with any unexpected charges on them.

That was true with all except one card.

A couple of weeks ago, I received my new Bank of America ATM card. I tried to activate the card via the phone number on the card, but the automated system failed to activate it and stated I needed to proceed to an ATM to activate to the card.

Today on my way home, I dropped by the ATM not only to activate my card but to also pull out some cash to take on our trip to Italy tomorrow. I walked up to the ATM, put in my card, my PIN number and attempted to make a withdrawal. Transaction denied. Ok. Let’s try that again. Transaction denied.

Great. What was going on here? Apparently the card could not be activated at the ATM either. Now it was time to call Bank of America.

I dialed the Bank of America customer service number and after confirming my home phone and card number was immediately transferred to the fraud and security center.

(On a side note, the frequency at which Bank of America flags our account for suspicious activity has gotten out of control. Literally every single time we take out $300 from an ATM we have to call to verify the activity. It has gotten crazy to the point where after being told by a fraud specialist that it cannot be changed – that I am starting to consider finding another primary financial institution.)

The fraud specialist came on the phone and stated that they wanted to verify a few charges. Par for the course based on our previous $300 ATM withdrawals. Then the agent starts off with “it looks like have an international charge with a company called Tren Italia for approximately $130, can you verify this activity?” I mentioned that I tried to charge some train tickets but it was denied.

The specialist then verified that the transaction had been denied. And that because the way the card information was coming across – the card appeared to be counterfeited and was subsequently locked. I basically confirmed that I tried to make the charge, meaning it was valid. The specialist removed the lock from my account meaning I could return to the ATM to activate the card.

On my return to the ATM that evening I was able to make a withdrawal without issue.

Once again, the Tren Italia website is an absolute fiasco for anyone living or trying to make a charge from the United States. My advice would be for anyone in the United States would be to completely avoid the Tren Italia website for making ticket purchases on the Italian Rail. At least you can use it for timetables...


Anonymous said...

Same experience with bank shutting off transaction, as I tried to pre-pay deposit on our Tuscan villa. Call from bank card fraud unit. Later, an email from the Villa proprietor, saying the transaction did not go through. Arrgh! Very embarrassing. And I hope I don't lose my spot in the Villa that I worked so hard to find!
Lesson: Call card company prior to transacting any business overseas.