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Cash & ATMs in the US: All on fees, limits, forex cards for travel

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cash currency exchange atms in united states

The United States (US), a vast country stretching across North America, offers a diverse array of geographic and urban experiences. From the skyscrapers of New York and the political heart of Washington, D.C., to the natural wonders of Yellowstone and the technological hub of Silicon Valley, each region has its own distinct cultural and historical identity. Knowing the local currency, how to access local cash, and ATMs in the US, and knowing the variety of payment options available are crucial for anyone travelling through the States. This guide offers the financial insights necessary to explore the US’s rich heritage and expansive natural beauty.

In the US, will I need cash, or can I just use my card?

The US easily accepts credit and debit cards as well as cash, though tourists and locals use cards for many transactions nationwide. Some small businesses may require cash, especially for tips. Many tourists find electronic payments more appealing due to the widespread availability of digital payment platforms. Cash has become less common in the US for point-of-sale transactions, with only 20% of them being in cash.

You’ll require cash to pay for…
Tips for service providers, such as restaurants and bars
Farmers’ markets and small local companies
Local public transportations
Admission costs to minor regional gatherings, fairs, or exhibitions
Some national parks that are yet to implement card systems

You can use cards for…
Retail chains
Restaurants
Coffee shops
Accommodations and lodging
Museums, and parks
Tours
Most taxis in cities, as well as ride-sharing services.

Which forms of payment are accepted? Is it possible to use euros and pounds in the US?

The official currency of the US is the US Dollar (USD) and it is the only accepted currency in the country. It comes in the following note denominations: $1, $2, $5, $10, $20, $50, and $100.

Establishments do not accept Pounds and Euros.

How to obtain local money in the United States?

In the US, there are three primary ways to get cash: ATMs, Currency Exchanges, and Money Transfers.

You can decide to bring money from home or purchase it once you are in the US because the US dollar is the most widely popular currency globally.

Where can I find ATMs in the United States?

In the US, there are over 450,000 ATMs, you can easily find them at:

Large airports
Big cities
Major towns’ main streets for tourists
Retail centres
Food lanes
Bank branches
A few office buildings
Freeways
Gas stations
Few large convenience stores

Difficult to find ATMs at:
Small regional airports
Local bus terminals
Inside small towns
Near national parks.

Currency exchanges in the US

You can use these places to exchange money in the US:

Authorised currency exchange centres: You will find them in all touristy spots in New York like Times Square, in Chicago, Washington, etc.
Banks: Bank branches can also easily convert your currency to US dollars, especially from currencies like Euros, Pounds, Japanese Yen, Thai Baht, and Singapore dollars. Expect to pay a commission of 0.5% to 2% per transaction.
Hotels and airports: Airports have lots of currency exchanges and so do many large and small hotels. But the exchange rates are not great.

Pro-tips:

Don’t exchange at airports – Rates are poor
Don’t exchange at the black market – It’s likely a scam
Bring new notes – Damaged, dirty notes will get you lesser rates or higher fees

Which types of cards are accepted in the US?

The majority of credit cards accepted by US ATMs are Visa, Mastercard, Discover, Amex, and Cirrus. Many of them won’t likely take JCB, UnionPay, Diners, or Rupay cards.

The cards listed above are also typically accepted for swiping.

Hard cash is preferred for exchange by currency exchanges. Visa, MasterCard and Amex are accepted. Please be aware that using your card at a currency exchange will result in fees.

Are American ATMs like those in other countries?

Yes. The majority of them are modern in design and functionality. They resemble those found in the UK, Europe, Australia, and India. Don’t forget to take your card out of these ATMs after taking out cash because some of them take it inside completely during the transaction.

Additionally, you may choose to convert currencies With Conversion Accept Conversion Without Conversion or Decline Conversion using ATMs. To avoid optional additional costs, it is generally advised to select Without Conversion or Decline Conversion.

Popular ATMs in the US

Citibank
Chase
Fargo Wells
Bank of America
SunTruist
TD Bank
Citizens Bank
PNC

What are ATMs called in the United States?

ATMs are branded with the term ‘ATM’ specifically or they might only have the name of the bank as signage.

PIN types

In the US, generally, 4-digit PINs are common.

Merchant Card Requirements: Chip-and-PIN cards are becoming more popular due to EMV compliance, although magnetic stripe cards are still widely accepted.

Languages at US currency exchanges and ATMs

English is the default language at US ATMs. Use Google Translate’s camera feature to translate the options on your phone in real time if you don’t understand English. Note: Please take your time and complete the transaction without hurrying as these translations are not always accurate.

You can communicate in English at currency exchange locations to obtain your money in the US.

Withdrawal limits and ATM fees

Withdrawal limit: ATMs normally cap the amount that can be taken out in a single transaction at US$ 400 to US$ 1000. Some banks have no limits for foreign cardholders.

The range of ATM fees in the US is US$ 3 to US$ 6.95.

With the ATM Fee Saver mobile app, you can find low-fee ATMs in the US currency exchange services and money transfer places. The app provides a list of these ATMs’ fees and withdrawal limits for foreign cardholders. You can also determine the exact fees for any amount of withdrawal using the app’s calculator. The navigation feature of the app will lead you to the ATM after you’ve chosen it. The app provides information for 50 countries, including the US.

Tips to avoid paying high fees at ATMs and currency exchanges in the US

Use the country’s low-fee ATMs
Find them with the ATM Fee Saver app
When making an ATM transaction, select Decline Conversion or Without Conversion.
Get fee-free cards from your home country

When exchanging money in the US, stay away from no-fee exchange offices because they include the fee in the exchange rate.
Avoid using credit and debit cards at currency exchanges

Are ATMs and currency exchanges in the US safe to use?

Yes, generally speaking. There are lots of ATMs with cameras. However, there have been instances of hidden cameras near ATM keypads to obtain your PIN. So cover the PIN pad. There have also been some instances of mugging at gunpoint at ATMs for theft. Take the following precautions:

Choose ATMs located inside bank branches over those that are standalone. These are typically less vulnerable to skimming devices and more secure.
Don’t use ATMs in empty streets.
Keep an eye on your credit card transactions. Any unauthorised transactions should be reported right away.
Don’t Use Public Wi-Fi to Conduct Sensitive Business. For extra security, make use of a virtual private network (VPN).
Maintain Your Card Visible. Do not give your card to retailers who remove it from view.
When travelling, it’s a good idea to carry two credit cards. This way, you have a fallback if something goes wrong with one of the cards.
Use only authorised and registered exchange locations when exchanging currencies.

Safe to carry cash around when travelling in the US?

Yes, carrying cash is generally safe when travelling in the US. You should always have some cash on you since you may need it for the different purposes that were previously mentioned in the article. However, avoid needlessly carrying more cash than you need. For safety, you can follow these tips:

Rather than keeping all of your cash in one location, distribute it among several pockets or wallets.
Think about putting some cash in a fanny pack or safety belt.
Don’t flaunt large sums of cash in public.
Avoid flashing all of your cash when making a payment.
Keeping your wallet in your front pockets is safer.
Carry your wallets, purses, and bags close to your body and secure in crowded places such as trains, buses, and streets.

FAQs

Is it free to withdraw cash in the United States?

No, there aren’t any fee-free ATMs for foreign cardholders in the US.

Are credit cards from the US, UK, Europe, Australia, and other countries accepted in the US?

Yes. ATMs in the US typically accept credit cards from the UK, Europe, Australia, and other countries

Do Bitcoin ATMs exist in the United States?

Indeed. In the US, there are more than 38,000 Bitcoin ATMs.

Do any Bank of America ATMs in the US?

Indeed, the US is home to several Bank of America ATMs.

Any ATMs operated by Barclays Bank in the US?

No, the US does not have Barclays bank ATMs.

Any HSBC ATMs in the US?

In the US, there are a few HSBC ATMs.

Any Standard Chartered ATMs in the US?

No, there are no Standard Chartered ATMs in the US.

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