ATM Warning: Belgium

May 30th, 2000, 05:53 AM
Brian in Atlanta
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ATM Warning: Belgium

Just returned from Belgium where we were not able to use our Plus system ATM card. Why it did not work on machines labeled a being on the Plus system is a mystery (the card later worked fine in France). This became a big problem as it seems that there is only one ATM provider in Belgium (or at least Flanders). Regardless of the bank, the ATM was the same (Mr. Cash) so we did not have the option of just finding another machine.

Of course we arrived on a Saturday (banks closed for 2 days) and didn't realize the extent of our problem until we were in Ghent (no weekend currency exchange). So we spent a couple hours going from hotel to hotel begging them to exchange $50 for us. Finally one did, saving us from having to train back to Brussels (BTW the exchange rate at the Brussels airport is horrid - we did better at the hotel).

We could have avoided this by having some Belgian Francs on us before we went, though I'm not sure where I would get them - my bank certainly didn't carry them. Or better yet, I should have known my PINs for my credit cards to get a cash advance at the ATMs. Lesson learned.

I'll post a more complete trip report later, but wanted to get this warning out.
May 30th, 2000, 06:28 AM
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Thanks for the heads up, Brian. We'll be in Belgium in about three weeks, so am waiting for your complete trip report.

May 30th, 2000, 06:50 AM
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In the US, small community banks usually cannot get foreign currency for you, so my advice is to go to your local branch of any large, national bank such as Bank of America, Wachovia, CitiCorp/CitiBank, etc. etc.

State banks should also be able to get foreign currency for you (something like Arkansas State Bank, Bank of Florida, Maryland National Bank, etc.)

Remember that when requesting foreign currency, the bank usually needs several day's notice. Ask the bank how long it will take them to get your particular currency.

I too have had trouble with the ATM's in Belgium, even though my ATM card was supposedly on the same system (Plus, Cirrus). Luckily I always had some BF with me.


ALWAYS, ALWAYS get foreign currency before you leave the US to travel abroad! BTW - traveller's checks are still accepted overseas!
Jun 2nd, 2000, 08:56 AM
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A wonderful feature that I use often when going to Europe is to get local currency before leaving the USA off my American Express card. There is NO CHARGE for this and it arrives via mail a couple of days after you order it. Order by phone American Express 1-800-451-7774
Jun 2nd, 2000, 01:20 PM
Brian in Atlanta
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Tom, I'm assuming that this is considered a cash advance? Even if it was, I sure wish I'd used it!
Jun 5th, 2000, 01:52 PM
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Just went to Leige, Belgium last week. We used the ATM - Star system. No problems.
Jun 7th, 2000, 08:53 AM
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With regards to receiving money off your Am Ex prior to leaving the USA, no this is not a cash advance. It is treated just like a purchase with no extra fees or mailing charge etc. Tom
Jun 7th, 2000, 01:11 PM
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The same thing just happened to us in Portugal! All of the ATM's are linked, even those at foreign banks such as Barclay's, to the Multibanco network. The machine said our card was out of date, although it worked a couple of days earlier in Spain. I too wished I knew my Visa PIN, just in case we ran out of cash. We spent a lot of time trying to find a machine that would take our card and when we realized that we were screwed, we starting charging everything we could.
Jul 18th, 2000, 11:48 PM
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hello, we had visitors last year from Canada, and others from the US, and they were both able to use their Plus cards up here... you ought to check !
also, take some cash, the exchange offices in brussels are open every dag... you get the best value for money in the "rue au beurre/boterstraat" off the grand place ... from grand place to bourse, the last one on your left hand side, opposite the church of st. nicolas... (exchange US$ notes against BF and other transactions as well, but cash !)
Jul 19th, 2000, 04:44 AM
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In small town Italy, friends couldn't withdraw money from the ATM on the weekend, although during the week it was fine!! We had bad luck with one card, because we had unwittingly opened a savings only accountin the States and were unable to access the money (it must be tied in to a checking account). However, our card from a different bank with a six digit pin worked fine!!! (We only needed to use the first four digits)
Jul 19th, 2000, 09:16 AM
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No, a checking account isn't required. Neither of the 2 ATM cards I used in May in Italy and Germany has a checking account attached, and both worked fine.
Jul 20th, 2000, 04:09 PM
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Had the same problem in Scotland late last fall. Ended up calling our bank to find out why the card wouldn't work. The upshot was we could use the card if we went in and got a 'cash advance' from a teller. Just couldn't use it in the ATM for some strange reason.
Aug 10th, 2000, 06:10 AM
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As a resident of Brussels, I use a card on the cirrus network all of the time and it works fine. Not sure why plus did not work.

A Brussels note to other responders. Careful using the abbreviation BTW for
'by the way'. BTW is a Dutch abbreviation for the value added tax, 21% in Belgium. Not a pleasant thought(grin).

Bon voyage.
Aug 21st, 2000, 06:25 AM
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Dear Brian
I am leaving for Brussels Belgium in a week (8-29). Thanks for your warning! I'll be sure to get some cash exchanged before I leave. What is the exchange rate. And what should I be sure to see while I'm there? Any suggestions or comments would be appreciated! Thanks Vicki.

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