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The Ins and Outs of ATMs

062706_Jacqueline Abromeit_ATMF.jpgEven in today’s global market, cash remains king. Whether you’re picking up coffee on the streets of New York or haggling with one of the vendors in Istanbul’s Grand Bazaar, you don’t want to be caught without it. Using your debit card to withdraw local currency from a cash machine is easy. Here are answers to commonly asked questions related to withdrawing money on the go:

Where can I withdraw money with my debit card?
You will need to make sure you debit card is a member of the major networks that operate where you are headed—look on the back of your card for participating networks. It is best to bring a debit card, as opposed to a card designated for ATM withdrawals only. Check your individual networks ATM locator to be sure that there are ATMs available where you are headed. Both Visa and MasterCard networks feature ATM locators on their websites.

How much cash can I withdraw in a day?
This varies by bank and machine. To reduce the fees associated with withdrawing you might want to take out larger amounts than you would normally. You’ll also save valuable sightseeing time by not having to hunt another machine down. If you do withdraw a large amount, choose an amount that can only be fulfilled with a variety of bills to avoid being given solely large bills. Chances are you’ll want a drink or coffee soon after landing and some vendors may refuse to make change for larger bills.

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Which cash machines can I use without being charged?
There are two possible charges—one from the ATM side and one from your bank back home. If you’re using an ATM which is within a network alliance that your card is a member of, it is less likely that the foreign bank will levy a fee. One caveat—many convenience store-type ATMs (machines not connected to a formal bank) will probably charge you. Check with your bank to see what sort of fees they charge—some charge a flat charge of $1-10 for every withdrawal.

Will my PIN number work?
PIN numbers with more than four digits are not recognized at ATMs in many countries. If yours has five or more, remember to change it before you leave. Also, if your PIN number is a word, you should learn the numeric equivalents of the letters on the keypad, because the keypads on some foreign bank machines have numbers only.

What if the machine eats my card?
While the chance of this occuring is small, you can best abate this fear by only withdrawing money from machines located in or just outside of actual banks. If your card disappears, you’ll be able to retrieve it with the bank’s help.

For more tips on managing your money while traveling, see our Money Matters feature.

Photo Credit: Jacqueline Abromeit

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