¨He who loses money loses much; He who loses a friend loses much more; He who loses faith loses all.¨
How to Find an Automatic Teller Machines Abroad
Nowadays, almost every large city, or tourist site, has ATMs. So, fifty-plus nomads only need to carry a lot of cash if you will be traveling in very rural communities or off-the-beaten-path countries.
That said, it is not unusual to have to visit several machines before you find one that will dispense cash. There were only a couple of bank ATMs in some countries that I could use with my card. For example, when I was in Bolivia in 2014, I found that my card only worked on ATMs associated with the Banco de Santa Cruz through trial and error.
Also, it is fairly common to see that many machines are out of order. I advise you to double-check your account online whenever you find that an Automated Teller Machine does not dispense your cash. Once in a rare while, you will see a withdrawal from your account. I had money withdrawn from my account twice for a failed transaction in Bosnia; however, after I called the bank and reported the withdrawal, I received a refund a couple of days later.
ATM and Credit Card Travel Tips
Most Automatic Teller Machines will dispense the currency of the local country only.
- Make sure that you can use your ATM card outside of the US and Canada. Most ATMs worldwide are part of the Cirrus or the Plus Network. The majority of ATM cards can work on either network. Older cards and those issued by local banks may not work with these network machines. Generally, your ATM pin must have four numbers to work in most ATMs.
- For safety’s sake and the best exchange rates, only use ATMs at a bank. Most banks have safe cabins. (Sometimes, you will need to swipe your card before entering). Some cabins even have bodyguards. Also, if you use ATMs in a bank, you will be assured that the exchange rate is the modified interbank rate.
- In some countries, like Costa Rica, most ATMs offer an option to dispense US dollars. Often, prices for many things are quoted in US dollars in these countries, and merchants will happily take US dollars for many purchases. Fortunately, in this case, there are usually no problems associated with withdrawing US dollars from these machines and paying for services in US dollars. (Note: Many hotels in Mexican resort towns allow you to pay in US currency. Generally, pay for services in these cities in pesos. These hotels use dynamic conversion rates (8% commission).
- You can get your cash right away as soon as you receive a deposit. For years, I received my automatically deposited paycheck at 4:45 p.m. Pacific Standard Time every other Thursday and found that I could always access my money anywhere at the time. (Taking into account the difference in time between the ATMs location and my hometown).You may not be able to pay for online purchases and recurring bill charges from your destination while living abroad using a US credit card. You may need, instead, to have a credit card from a local bank. I cannot, for example, use my US credit card in Mexico to:
- Pay for my utilities on-line.
- buy products on-line from many major merchants, like Walmart.
How to Avoid Getting your Credit and ATM Cards Frozen While Traveling
Many banks will not allow you to take money out of your account or make credit charges overseas if they sense that a transaction could be fraudulent. While there is no exact way of determining when banks will cut you off, it usually occurs when you:
- Make multiple, unusually large withdrawals in a short period.
- Have not traveled much before.
- Have not traveled in a while.
It would be best to let the bank or credit card companies know your travel plans in advance to avoid these problems. (Note: Since I travel so much, my banks and credit card companies have told me that I no longer need to advise them of my travel plans. I have found, however, that I need to notify them if I will be making large withdrawals anywhere overseas except Merida, where I now live).
You can usually advise the bank via their website rather than phoning them. Unfortunately, even if you notify the bank, you may find that they will cut you off sometimes.
While getting the bank to unblock the card can be a pain in the neck, I am glad banks are diligent. Twice on the road, my bank has found fraudulent charges on my credit cards, and the bank saw the problem before the charges hit my account.
Fortunately, you can usually get the bank to unfreeze your account easily by phoning them. (Most cards have an overseas telephone number on the card itself). Keep in mind that, while many banks have 24-hour telephone lines, they may be better equipped to deal with problems like this during work hours in your home country.
Avoid Problems Making Large Withdrawals
Many Fifty-Plus Nomads will have to make a significant withdrawal from Automated Teller Machines at some point in their adventures. Credit card use is not as common in some countries as in your home country, and some vendors will only accept local currency, even for large transactions. I have needed to withdraw large sums of local money to pay for: 1) private tour guides; 2) tuition and renting a room from language schools; and 3) home repairs.
Getting large sums of money can be a pain because most machines will only allow you to withdraw a maximum amount, usually around the equivalent of US $200-500, at one time. (Note: You can generally make more than one withdrawal at an ATM if you need more than that amount. However, there is usually a maximum amount of withdrawal allowed per day. In my case, this is often around $750).
Unfortunately, you cannot easily learn the maximum withdrawal amount in advance because it varies between local banks. Sometimes your home bank will also impose a transaction amount limit.
It is usually a matter of trial and error. Still, I have occasionally found useful information by Googling something like, ¨What is the best bank in Italy to withdraw a large sum of money from a Bank of America ATM card¨? If you need a considerable amount of money, probably the easiest way is to make the maximum withdrawal every day until you have amassed enough cash to pay the bill.
Want More Information About Avoiding ATM fees?
Some Additional Posts On Money
- Lessons From An Express Kidnapping in Puebla, MexicoIn January 2020, I was a victim of an express kidnapping in Puebla, Mexico. I discuss what happened to me and what I learned about travel safety from the incident.
- How Many Taxes, Fees, and Other Charges Do Consumers Pay For Airfare, Hotels, and Other Travel Services?The amount and number of travel taxes, fees, and other charges added to your bill will probably surprise you. Many are hidden and like everything else, taxes keep going up.
- The 3 Reasons Travel Prices Are So Radically Different than Other Products: Perishability, Capital Costs, and Yield ManagementHave you ever wondered why travel products seem to be priced so crazily? Learn the three economic factors that contribute to the pricing of travel products: perishability, high capital costs, and yield management.
- Round the World Tickets 101: Are They Worth the Trouble or Not?Once in my life, I bought a round the world ticket. My experience was favorable but I think the number of times these tickets are useful for most travelers is fairly limited for the reasons outlined in this post.
- Paying More than Locals As a Foreigner: How to Deal with and Avoid ProblemsWhen I was younger being charged more for things than locals used to piss me off. Now I simply acknowledge it as part of traveling in third-world countries. I find the less it bothers me the less I attract aggressive vendors, too.
- Money Safety Tips While TravelingThis post offers a few simple tips to avoid problems with travel safety and money issues while traveling.
- Pros and Cons of Using US Dollars While Traveling AbroadOne of the most pervasive myths about traveling is that everybody wants the US dollar. The fact is most people do not want the dollar. Most of the time when they do want the dollar, you will lose money on the transaction. The few times that people do want the dollar are discussed in this post as well.
- Foreign Exchange Fees: A Guide to Help You Avoid Paying Them UnnecessarilyUnless you are careful, you will spend 7% more on foreign exchange conversion fees than you should. By making a few simple changes, I avoided these fees and saved myself $18,000 during my five-year, round-the-world journey.
- ATM and Credit Card Tips: How to Keep Money Problems from Ruining Your Fifty-Plus Nomad LifestyleHow to avoid problems finding ATMs, using ATMs and credit cards, and making large ATM withdrawals abroad.
- A Guide to Currency Exchange, ATM, and Credit Card Fees Abroad: How to Avoid Getting Ripped OffFind out several useful tips to avoid paying unnecessary foreign currency exchange, ATM, and credit card fees while traveling around the world or living abroad.
- Using Foreign Banknotes and Coins: 3 Tips to Avoid Problems3 simple tips for travelers and expats to avoid problems with foreign coins and banknotes.
- Top 7 Budget Travel Food TipsSome of my favorite food-related experiences were also very inexpensive. Sometimes, modest hole in the walls restaurants, kiosks, and street carts can feature some of the country’s best chefs.