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ATM/Debit Cards - Mastercard

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Apr 3rd, 2000, 10:31 AM
  #1
Wendy
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ATM/Debit Cards - Mastercard

My husband and I are going to Switzerland (Les Diablerets) and Paris this summer. Many travel sources recommend using our ATM/debit card instead of traveler's checks. However, ours is with Wells Fargo and is linked through Mastercard. Most of the postings I've seen talk about Visa cards. Has anyone used their Mastercard-linked debit/ATM card? Were there enough ATM sites? Any suggestions/comments will be much appreciated as the bank has not been much help.
 
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Apr 3rd, 2000, 10:36 AM
  #2
elaine
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I can answer for Paris. I used a mastercard-linked debit card last fall with no problem and ATM sites were numerous.
For debit use, as long as your card is part of an international system like
NYCE or Cirrus or Plus, etc, you should have no problem using it. It is only sometimes establishments like restaurants or stores that choose to accept one card over another.
 
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Apr 3rd, 2000, 11:14 AM
  #3
Brian in Atlanta
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Wendy, check out http://www.mastercard.com/atm/

It's an Mastercard ATM locator.
 
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Apr 3rd, 2000, 11:30 AM
  #4
Bob Brown
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Last summer we were in France and Switzerland for two weeks; in the summer of '98 we were in Switzerland for 15 days. I had a debit card, a standard ATM card (non debit) and a Visa card. No problem in finding an ATM. The only minor snag I hit was in Lauterbrunnen in '98. There were two banks. One took Master Card debit cards in the ATM and the other took Visa debit cards. The Raiffeisen Bank accepted Visa debit cards, so I used that bank for my cash withdrawals in Lauterbrunnen, Lausanne, and Saas Grund. Last year, I don't know if the situation had changed because I simply went back to the Raiffeisen Bank.
At a major bank in Luzern, I had no trouble with the standard ATM card. (Not a debit card.)
In Paris, we had no trouble at all.
I don't recall the name of the bank now.
But I used the ATM 3 times.
I carry American Express checks as a security blanket. We came home with what we left with last year -- cashed none of them.
So we will take the same packet this year. In fact, I think some of them are from '98. (There is no truth to the superstition that tc's multiply for you if you keep them warm and in a dark place. The only beneficiary of that practice is the issuing agency. It has an interest free loan on which it is making a killing.)
 
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Apr 3rd, 2000, 11:59 AM
  #5
ron
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Every time I read these discussions, I end up more confused than when I started. So this is a question for Mr. Brown. I have debit cards which I use at ATMs to take money out of my accounts. I have credit cards, which I could use at ATMs to borrow money from my banks (I don't because it is a bad idea and I have never bothered to memorise their PINs). But what is a "standard ATM card (non debit)", that apparently is neither one of these?
 
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Apr 3rd, 2000, 03:30 PM
  #6
alan
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Hi! I usually use our VISA debit. But I am actually writing to let you know that you will need a 4 digit PIN number. My experience has been that the European ATM's will only accept it.
alan
 
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Apr 3rd, 2000, 04:43 PM
  #7
Donna
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An ATM only card is just that - a card that can be used at ATM's to withdraw money from your primary account. It cannot be used for purchases (although here in the states you can at many places such as gas stations, convenience stores, grocery stores, etc.). Back in the olden days, when ATM cards were first issued, they were useful for withdrawing money or making deposits (in the really olden days before direct deposit) at the ATM when the bank lobby was closed. I always bring an ATM only card along, just in case.
 
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Apr 3rd, 2000, 04:50 PM
  #8
Donna
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Forgot to mention - one of the advantages of an ATM card only is that no one can use it without your PIN. Therefore, it's the least dangerous card to lose (unless you've gotten yourself into a situation where someone has seen you tap in your PIN then steals it from you). If your ATM/debit card gets into the wrong hands, the thief can wipe you out in short order by making purchases with your card. It's important to get the phamphlet from your bank regarding your debit card - your rights are not nearly as substantial as with a lost or stolen credit card or other "unauthorized use". If I'm going out for the day with just one card (once I've tested in and made sure it works), it's my ATM card. I would note to Wendy, however, that we ALWAYS take American Express travelers checks in the foreign denomination. I like to be prepared for all contingencies. In the event of one disaster or another, these are the easiest to replace. We sure were glad to have them when our newly issued debit cards (Mastercard/Cirrus) did not work at all on a trip to Paris (which the bank has to this day been unable to explain). If all goes well and you don't need to use them, just use them toward your hotel bill to avoid changing them back.
 
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Apr 3rd, 2000, 05:35 PM
  #9
tom
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I just looked at the Mastercard/ Cirrus web site, and they say:

"Travel Tip: Selecting a four-digit numeric PIN will prevent you from having problems when traveling abroad. International ATMs do not always have the same alpha keypads as domestic ATMs. "

Yet, when I last set my Wells Fargo ATM cards PIN (a few years ago) they WOULD NOT allow me a 4 digit PIN, it had to be 5 or more!

So does this mean I can't use my Wells Fargo ATM/Debit card in Europe !?

>> Alan, how recent is your experience that only 4 digit PINs are allowed?

Anyone else have specific info on this seeming contradiction between Wells Fargo & Mastercard??
 
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Apr 3rd, 2000, 07:58 PM
  #10
howard
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From my experience and everything that I've ever seen on the Fodor forum, you must have a four-digit pin number. Five digits won't work.
 
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Apr 3rd, 2000, 08:20 PM
  #11
Wendy
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Tom:

I have a Wells Fargo ATM/debit card linked through Mastercard. They allowed both me and my husband to choose a four-digit PIN when we originally got the cards ('97). We live in Sacramento, CA - I don't know if location matters.

Thanks to everyone for their quick replies to my question that begain this thread.
 
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Apr 3rd, 2000, 09:05 PM
  #12
tom
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Wendy - now I'm beginning to think the clerk at my bank was..ahem.."misinformed".

I specifically asked about a 4 digit PIN & I was told "you can't do it". If I simply had typed in a 4 digit PIN, it apparently would have worked fine!

Think I'll go back to my local branch again & try resetting PIN with a different clerk!

Thanks for pointing this out.
 
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Apr 3rd, 2000, 09:18 PM
  #13
Lori
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We have 4 digit Wells Fargo pin numbers and have had 4 digits for many years - in fact I don't ever remember having anything but 4. We've used our cards in Europe with no problems whatsoever. We gaaveup travelers checks years ago, there really is no need for them. I would suggest each of you keeping your ATM card (don't take just one) in a safe place on you - likewise for credit cards. We always take more than one "just in case" - I keep one or two and my husband another one or two - that way if something happened with one card we still have another.
 
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Apr 4th, 2000, 08:02 AM
  #14
elvira
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My WFC ATM/debit/Mastercard has a 4-digit PIN number (I've never reset it, but I bet you can do it a WFC ATM machine).
I have another ATM/debit/VISAcard for another bank account; always have had a 4 digit PIN number (they assigned it to me).
I take both on trips, $$ split evenly between the two.
Prior to the ATM era, I would pay off a credit card and deposit additional money so that I'd have a credit balance on it; I would use it to get a 'cash advance' - I think I got charged a $1, but there were no interest charges, since I wasn't running a debit balance.

Then I got an ATM card WITHOUT a Visa/Mastercard logo from a local bank; it was good at Cirrus/Star whatever and I used it with a 4 digit PIN to withdraw money all over Europe; my local bank was bought out by WFC and that's when I got the ATM/debit/Mastercard thing.

None of my cards are signed; instead, I've written "ask for ID" in the signature area - I suppose banks hate this, and it's probably technically not the right thing to do, but as far as I know, it ain't illegal. Consequently, the clerks/waitstaff ask for my passport whenever I use any card for purchases.

I have used my ATM/debit/Master/Visa cards everywhere (even Morocco) with no problems - don't panic if the machine rejects your card. Just like in the U.S., machines are broken (oh excuse me "offline") so just find another one. You can also use them for a 'cash advance' at cambions and inside banks with a teller.

Someone else noted to double check how much per day can be withdrawn from an ATM; some banks will up your limit it you ask (rarer nowadays). Also let your bank know you are traveling and ask them to note the account (I did it via the website for my banks) so that you don't get shutoff for unusual activity (it happened once to me, I had to call the bank during MY middle of the night, I learned my lesson).
 
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Apr 4th, 2000, 10:07 AM
  #15
Bob Brown
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In response to Ron's question:
I have a Visa Check Card (debit card)
Like at home, card and PIN go into the ATM machine; money comes out. It has worked so far in Western Europe.

At the time of each transaction, my checking (!) account is almost instantly reduced by the amount of the withdrawal at the "spot" rate of exchange. (spot means the rate that is in effect at the time the transaction arrives electronically at my bank)

I use my credit card only for normal credit purchases. (We try to charge every purchase if we can because it reduces the amount of currency we have to carry. But bellhops and taxi drivers don't take Visa or MC!)

My bank also issues a standard ATM card that does not function to pay for anything. I carry one of those, too.

I would not use the credit card for a cash advance unless I was in a real bind because the interest rate is so high.
At least all I am losing on my stash of American Express checks is about 6% a year. (Assuming I wasn't investing in NASDAQ stocks!!) They provide a warm fuzzy feeling -- sort of like the blanket Linus clutched for all those years. (Where is Snoopy when you need him??)
I grew up traveling before ATM's and the American Express idea is just hard to shake. But I am not joking when I say that we came back home with the same set of checks that we had when we left.
The only time we ever used one was in '98 in Zurich at the airport. The ATM was down, our train was leaving, and the teller at the bank was most happy to make the exchange. He could tell we were in a hurry and needed Swiss money.
Nice fellow.
 
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Apr 4th, 2000, 01:19 PM
  #16
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this morning I succesfully changed my Wells Fargo ATM/debit card's PIN from a 5 digit to 4 digit PIN (had to go into the bank office to do it).

Wells Fargo told me that at one point they used to require 5 digit minimum, now they accept 4 digit (probably from all the complaints from Int'l travellers !)

and, as previous poster said, it is a combined Wells Fargo ATM/ Mastercard debit card. "Cirrus" is Mastercard's name for their global network of ATM machines, the site listed above lists all ATM locations. Handy to printout & take it with you.
 
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Apr 4th, 2000, 02:25 PM
  #17
Louis
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When I studied (lived) in France I used traveler's checks, but since '97 I've used a Wells Fargo Express ATM & Check Card that's linked to MasterCard everywhere I've been in France. I've used it as a debit card, ATM card and as a credit card when charging (knowing the money was being debited from my checking) and never had any problems of any kind. In addition, the number of ATM sites in Paris or London is the same as any Ameircan city, i.e., abundant. But I do know that alphabetic and five-digit pins do not work in France, Spain or England. I learned this the hard way.
 
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Apr 4th, 2000, 05:19 PM
  #18
Tara
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Those of you who write "see ID" rather than signing your name in the signature area on the back of your cards may be interested to know that more and more places are refusing to accept them, and all new credit cards are being issued with "Not Valid Unless Signed" printed just above or below the signature space.
 
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Apr 4th, 2000, 06:03 PM
  #19
M&J
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We have used ATM cards without any problems from London to Istanbul. Well, there were two problems---once in Vienna the machine swallowed it, refused to give it back and fortunately we had another card for "backup." Another time, in Italy, after receiving the lira, the card became stuck---we used my wife's tweezers to remove it.
So, we carry back up ATM cards, some US currency for exchange and a tweezers !
 
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Apr 28th, 2000, 12:54 PM
  #20
Cheryl
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Has anyone had any experience using Canadian atm cards in France? Can you withdraw funds directly from your bank account in Canada or do you have to get a cash advance on your credit card? Thanks for your help.
 
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