There's nothing like standing on a street corner in Istanbul and having the ATM screen reply repeatedly, "Your bank declines this transaction."

So much for Bank of America and the global economy. That bland statement was the only response in repeated efforts to get money, although at one point, one machine doled out a 20-note New Turkish Lira, before clamming up again.

Fortunately, my wife's Wachovia ATM card worked. Back in the states, my local BOA ATM informed me that my card was no longer valid. The next day a not-so-quick call to the BOA empire yielded someone in fraud detection who said BOA automatically puts a hold on cards when they are used abroad.

"You should have called us and told us you were going overseas," was the advice.

"You're kidding."

They weren't. I got the information I needed before voicing my opinion regarding this policy in more pungent terms.

"We want to thank you for being a valued Bank of America customer." "I don't want to be valued. I want good service" was the way this conversation ended. Something like that.

To see what policies I had missed, I visited the BOA Web site, plugging in questions like "Can I use my ATM in Turkey?" The answer was always that ATM cards can be used "at many ATM networks worldwide." Nothing there about, "You have to raise your hand for permission to use the card in Europe."

This is not just personal peeve. This is a serious issue concerning how the need for security must be balanced for the need to access information and money--especially if the person attempting the access owns the information and security.

If you can't get your own money, something is wrong.

The technology security system we have is a mess and this isn't the only example. We grapple with scores of log ons, passwords, PINs, and personal questions for email accounts, bank accounts, credit cards, health plans, college alumni organizations, membership in hobby services (like family history in my case). To remember all this, I try to use the same password as much as possible, which isn't good practice.

The credit card companies have a decent answer. They will hold the transaction and ask the consumer to call and verify that, yes, we are in Turkey and making a purchase, although that is a bit of a pain when Visa, whose card touts 24-hour toll-free service, has apparently decided that there are about 18 hours in a day.

That's still clunky.

Maybe the answer is voice recognition. How about odor recognition? Maybe it's a chip that's inserted in your wrist. I'm in the market for a better way and so, I believe, are a lot of other people.

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