Bad news for expats buying wedding gifts from U.S. registries…

Our German credit card is generally no-muss, no-fuss. It has a nice, low balance and allows us to make big purchases (appliances, plane tickets, etc.) with little hassle. Until today, that is. My card was mysteriously declined as I tried to purchase a gift from a Bed, Bath & Beyond registry.

Whatever could be the problem? I went over the possibilities:
-I’ve purchased from them before; they had my information on file,
-I just paid off the card last month and
-the card is backed by a large, solvent German bank.

The nice customer service agent at BB&B assured me that my order number would remain in system for at least 24 hours, allowing me time to get to the bottom of this. So I called up BigBackingBank for some answers.

The man that helped me simply explained that BigBackingBank no longer clears purchases from BB&B.


This is bad. Out of the last 10 weddings with registries in the U.S. to which I’ve been invited, ALL of the brides and grooms had registered at BB&B. It’s often the registry with the widest variety of items at the most affordable prices. This is REAL bad.

Anybody have any idea what BB&B might have done to cheese off my BigBackingBank? Do they have a history of not playing nice with returns or refunds?

6 thoughts on “Bad news for expats buying wedding gifts from U.S. registries…”

  1. Carrie B

    No idea, but can you associate your “BigBackingBank” card with your Paypal account and use the Paypal debit? That might work in a round-about way.

    1. Sarah

      Hi Carrie,

      That might work – I’ve never used PayPal in that way. This was already a little more complicated than a standard online order. Because our billing address is outside of the U.S., I had to call to place my order to begin with. I’ve never spoken with anyone that’s been less than pleasant, but considering my usual call-in order experience includes a barrage of questions and a truly painful spelling of our address, I don’t want to think about the mind-blowing that explaining PayPal might entail.

      Since you brought it up, I got curious and discovered that PayPal is not a payment option on BB&B’s website. Kind of surprising – I expected it to be there.

  2. Carrie B

    Right, but Paypal has a debit card with a MasterCard logo. So it’s a straight-up debit card that’s linked to Paypal which can be linked to your other payment card. So it’s adding a go-between. Or Hm… Maybe finding a solution that lets you use your “BigBackingBank” card to prefund a prepaid CC?

  3. cliff1976

    Hmm…that sounds good, except isn’t offering any debit card options on their website. I don’t think they offer that to their German customers. And why would they? PayPal doesn’t really need to exist here in Germany at all. It’s superfluous in a country that ditched paper checks in favor of hassle-free standardized electronic transfers between consumers and businesses alike even before the internet was a thing people could conceptualize, let alone use.

    Debit cards here tend to be quite different, too. There’s a standard called the “EC- Karte” which you can use as your ATM card and debit card to make electronic payments and enter your PIN to confirm/authorize payment. But it has nothing to do with Visa/MasterCard; many, many more merchants accept the EC-Karte than credit cards.

    The real problem here is trifold:

    1. BB&B doesn’t need to accept much business from outside the U.S. via their website, so they don’t, and this annoys us.
    2. BigBackingBank doesn’t like something about BB&B, for whatever reason, so even if BB&B were to support billing addresses from outside the U.S.A., we couldn’t use that to pay them.
    3. We don’t live in the U.S.A. anymore and are still trying to maintain contact with friends and family. It’s extra stinging when something as seemingly trivial as the banking system or website design gets in our way. “We want to give you money. Why won’t you let us give you money!?”
  4. Jentry

    Maybe BB&B didn’t accept the 20% off coupon of the big bank’s CEO and so he decided to stop all business with them…Hmmm…But, if you need any help with getting something, I still have a US credit card and I can get it for you and you guys can just pay me back. :)

    1. Sarah

      Hey Jentry,

      Thanks for the offer – I very much appreciate it. We’ve got a second attempt in the works now, but if that tanks, I’ll just ask my mom or brother to handle it for me.

      It’s just frustrating because we’re really trying to handle this ourselves. Most of the expats we know have a U.S. credit card with a U.S. billing address, but we’d rather not do that. We don’t legally have a U.S. address, so we’d have to use one of our families’ addresses. I think that violates the T&C of most credit cards. Plus, we’re not necessarily over there enough to be sure that we get all of the documentation mailed to us and I don’t want to burden our families with sending us something else – they’re busy keeping us stocked with barbeque sauce.

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