In the series of top tips and things to avoid while travelling abroad, this article talks about using ATMs abroad – safe ways to withdraw cash overseas and dos and don’ts while using ATMs in foreign countries.
Also don’t miss: Top 8 things not to do when travelling abroad.
1. Don't forget your card at an ATM abroad
ATM machines abroad will usually first give the cash out and shortly after, allow you to take your card. They can remind you with:
- A pinging noise
- An alert on the ATM screen saying “Do not forget to take your card”
- A flashing light in the card insert area indicating the card is unlocked and ready to be taken out from the machine
- No such reminders
Most importantly, these usually come up only after you’ve taken your cash.
Wait at least 20-30 seconds after the ATM gives the cash and remember to take your card. If you forget, you’ll be stuck in a foreign country if you’re carrying only 1 or 2 cards or only 1 card works in that country. Banks don’t always deliver new cards to international addresses. Pro-tip: Start an alarm on your phone named “Take your card” for 1 min before you use an ATM abroad.
2. Don't worry if your card doesn’t work at one ATM abroad
There are many reasons a foreign card won’t work at an ATM abroad. But they don’t tell you the reasons, which could be:
- The ATM only accepts domestic cards. E.g. CIMB Bank in Indonesia only accept domestic cards but don’t say it on the ATM screen but Banco Falabella ATM in Chile mentions it.
- ATM owners have restricted certain cards. E.g., Erste Bank card from Germany works at Davivienda ATM in Colombia but an India-issued Fi Bank card doesn’t work at the same ATM.
- ATM owners allow foreign cards only at some locations. E.g., Santander Brazil allows foreign cards only at ATMs with sign “International cards accepted”.
- The ATM doesn’t have enough cash inside it at the time.
- The ATM is like a thriller movie and like to keep users in suspense
Try few other ATMs if your card doesn’t work at one. Also better to carry 2-3 cards when travelling abroad as a back-up.
Use ATM Fee Saver mobile app to find fee-free and low-fee ATMs in a foreign country so you can choose which ATMs you try first.
3. Don't assume that ATMs abroad are available 24x7
Among important things to avoid while travelling abroad, is to assume that you can get cash whenever, wherever. There are countries in the world where ATMs don’t operate 24 hours a day or on all 7 days a week. E.g.,
- In Laos, ATMs of only 1-2 banks are 24×7, others are not.
- In Chile, many ATMs are inside bank foyers even in touristic areas, which are closed after banking hours. Similar in Germany and Austria. Some bank foyers may let you swipe your card at the gate to enter, some may not.
- In Japan, some ATMs don’t operate after 11 pm as is the case with Netherlands. Also, ATM fees are based on the time of the day. Fees are lower if used in day time and weekdays; fees are higher if used between 11 pm and 8 am or on weekends.
Withdraw in advance and not worry of finding accessible ATM abroad last minute.
4. Don't use ATMs abroad with high fees for foreign card holders
In almost every country, different ATMs have different ATM usage fees and currency conversion fees for foreign card holders. Some can be completely free or some can have high fees.
So among the things to avoid while travelling abroad, you do not want to fall for those ATMs that charge foreign card holders high fees. Find ATMs that are fee-free for foreign card holders or at least which have lower fees than others. To find out, download and use the ATM Fee Saver mobile app – the first mobile that shows you all the leading ATMs abroad, their fees and withdrawal limits.
5. Don't always “Accept Conversion” offered by an ATM abroad
The thing to avoid when travelling abroad is an unnecessary expense! So why is conversion fee an unnecessary expense? When a foreign ATM gives an option to “Accept Conversion” or “Decline Conversion”, what the foreign ATM is asking you is:
- Accept Conversion: Take the cash at the foreign exchange rate that this ATM company has fixed internally
- Decline Conversion: Take the cash at a foreign exchange rate fixed by the company that has the logo on your card i.e. Visa, Mastercard, etc.
6. Don't assume you can withdraw all your cash in 1 transaction or 1 day
ATMs abroad come with withdrawal limits for foreign card holders i.e. how much money you can withdraw in 1 ATM transaction and how much total you can withdraw in a day. E.g.:
- In Sri Lanka, withdrawal limit is set to Sri Lankan rupee equivalent of USD 150 per week, but number of transactions are not limited.
- In Turkey, number of transactions are not limited but you can typically withdraw up to TRY2,000 in one transaction and total of TRY5,000 in 1 day.
- In Ireland, you can withdraw 400-600 euros per day.
So among the things to avoid when travelling abroad, you do not want to be in a situation where you need cash and can’t get it! Plan this in advance if you’re going to need more cash than what a foreign ATM will give you. Use ATM Fee Saver mobile app to find out the withdrawal limits.
7. Don't forget to take the ATM receipt
Why? The ATM receipt will help to know an entire break up of your withdrawal – how much money your withdrew, what fees were charged, what exchange rate you were given. This can help compare with how much money was taken from your account and find out if it was free, cheap, expensive, or did you pay any hidden fees.
Pro-tip: Take a picture of the receipt, keep it for few days and delete after.
Also read: ATM fees abroad: All charges to use cards at ATMs abroad detailed.
8. Don't forget to count the cash given by the ATM abroad
It usually doesn’t happen that an ATM gives you less cash than the amount you entered. Normally, if the ATM does not have the entire amount you entered, it won’t dispense any cash and reject your request altogether. But in rare cases, the ATM may give you lesser money, in which case:
- The balance amount taken from your account is credited back in few hours or days
- You’ll need to raise a dispute with your bank and they’ll connect with the ATM provider to resolve the matter for you
To be safe, count the money before you leave an ATM. Keep a copy of the receipt. Pro-tip: Send the numbers on the cash notes to your bank. ATMs have records of the notes dispensed, it’ll be easier and faster to prove the mismatch and get a refund.