Do You Take American Dollars?

As an Alaskan I have been asked that question by visitors from cruise ships more times than I can remember.  I tried hard not to eye roll, and at one point carried novelty 22-dollar bills printed by an Alaska character “Alaska Jack.”  They had his picture on them.  I had it as the outside bill on my money clip, pulled it out and said “Yes we do, but because prices in Alaska are so high the government issues special bills for Alaskans that are 10% higher in value.  Most tourists laughed, recognizing an Alaskan tall tale. I sent some of them over to my banker across the street to collect one.  He caught on and got a supply.

But in Hawaii when you ask if they accept American Dollars the answer may be no.

In Honolulu we hired a cab, the driver is Vietnamese named Tran.  He was born in 1968 during the war and his dad worked for the Americans.  After the war the family became refugees, resettled in California and then Hawaii.  Tran’s dad died at age 90 last year and Tran has been driving cab in Honolulu for 28 years.  He was a good guide.  He took us on a tour of the east shore of Oahu, Diamond Head and to a spot where you could watch whales, if the whales had not already decamped for Alaska.

Hey Alaskans, do you recognize this whale?

We negotiated a price.  He agreed to accept a credit card. We got a great tour of the East shore of Oahu.

When it came time to pay his phone app rejected my card.  I did not have enough cash to pay him, and that may not have worked anyway (see below.)  So, I used a debit card.  When I’m ashore on a cruise I only carry one credit card and a debit card from a different bank.  If my pocket is picked, I have spare credit and debit cards locked in the room safe along with my driver’s license. (For ID I carry a passport card.)

When I got back to the ship, I checked my email.  Chase Bank sent me an email saying they had declined a charge because they suspected fraud.  I called them to ask why?

“Because you used your credit card outside the U.S. and our fraud unit was suspicious.”

“I was in Hawaii.”

“As I said you used your credit card outside the US and didn’t tell us in advance.”  I appreciate the fraud unit protecting my account bur I did tell them I would be our of the US, in Mexico.  I didn’t mention Hawaii because, you know… “Are you aware that Hawaii has been a US State since 1959?”

As an Alaskan this is a sensitive point for me.  I can’t tell you how many times a vender has refused to run a credit card or honor a travelers’ check because they had “Alaska Pacific Bank” printed on them, even though they were branded Visa or, in the case of the traveler’s checks “Bank of America.”

On my pop’s 70th birthday we held a party at a Ramada Inn in New Jersey.  When, on Sunday, we went to check out and pay for the event the kid on the desk refused both my Alaska Pacific Bank card and traveler’s checks.  I asked him to call his boss.  It was Sunday and he refused.  So, I stiffed him and drove away for a few days on the Jersey Shore.  I half expected to be stopped at one of the Parkway toll booths or have a trooper run me down.  That didn’t happen.  When we got back to North Jersey on Friday I went back to the hotel, found the manager, who accepted Alaska Pacific branded money but did not apologize for his employee.

So, I am sensitive.  The guy from the fraud unit asked me how I paid and I said “With a debit card from another bank.”   He scolded me for using a debit card in a foreign country. 

“It isn’t safe, someone could use it to steal your identity.”

“Why was I forced to use the debit card?  And by the way Hawaii is still in America.”

Even if I had the cash to pay many places in Hawaii will not accept cash.  Since the pandemic you must use a credit card.  If the bank declines my credit card and I am not supposed to use my debit card what do I do? 

At two national parks in Hawaii, they refused to take cash for purchases.  The United States Government refused to accept a United States bank note that reads “This note is legal tender for all debts public or private.”  In some places in Hawaii they do not take American dollars.

2 thoughts on “Do You Take American Dollars?

  1. Too many Americans are ignorant about US geography.

    I live in the US state of Rhode Island. You would not believe the number of people, people who should know better, who don’t know it’s a state! All by itself! They think it is part of New York; second guess is part of Massachusetts.
    No, folks, it is one of the original 13. First state to declare independence from England. (May 4, 1776)

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