Scuba Diving in Indonesia and Credit Cards

It may seem odd for these two topics to be combined, but they are actually in some instances related. During a recent scuba diving trip to Indonesia, I was required to pay extra for luggage on the domestic Indonesia airlines. Naturally, I took out my credit card and expected to pay. However, upon my presentation of my credit card, the clerk gave me a funny look. With a language barrier evidently present, I could not clearly communicate in the local language of Indonesia, Bahasa. Doing my best, I asked the clerk several times what the issue was.

It seems as though the computerized chips, which will be present in all credit cards within the next year, are already mandatory by many companies and airlines in Indonesia. Luckily for my wife and I, we typically carry plenty of cash as a backup plan in case any issues with credit cards occur while traveling. Therefore, I could handle the situation and pay for our luggage.

Upon my return home, I called American Express and Master Card to find a solution to this issue. Both companies informed me the computer chips would soon be implemented. However, merchants are supposed to accept cards without them for up to one year.

I was not concerned about when the implementation would take place, but rather the issue was occurring now throughout Southeast Asia. I explained to both creditcard companies the issues we encountered while using our cards. The companies agreed to overnight updated credit cards with the computer chip in place.

Unfortunately, I also have a United Explorer card. This company was unable to send me an updated credit card with the chip, as they would not be ready for use yet and said to check back later in the year. My main question for them, “How is an airline travel card not yet ready?”

My suggestion for anyone traveling to Southeast Asia soon is to call your creditcard companies and request updated cards with the chip technology. From my experience, there should not be any fee for a brand new card. Nevertheless, if you are unable to request new credit cards before your departure, be sure to take plenty of cash with you so surprise does not catch you.

One last suggestion is to exchange a small amount of U.S. dollars for local currency, as many establishments will not accept U.S. dollars. For example, during local scuba trips in Indonesia, I usually arrive via Jakarta or Bali airports. Upon exiting customs, there are typically two or more currency exchanges. Take the time to check with each exchange as I have often seen three or four currency exchanges all with various exchange rates. If you find that you do not spend the local currency, you are always able to exchange it back to U.S. dollars upon your exit of the country.

Simply remember before departing for your next scuba diving trip, take the time to prepare and gather the proper credit cards so you will be able to make the most out of your experience.

* I am adding a picture of the Computer Chip so you can see what it looks like. Some people have confused this computer chip with the hologram found on many cards, but they are very different.