All over the world cash machines — ATMs — have become more and more common. You should check the tourist information website for the country you’re going to visit to make sure you can use one there, but most often these cash machines will be the best way to change money.

Make sure to check with your bank before you go. Most foreign cash machines use 4 digit pins and use numbers not letters.  You want to make sure your card will work abroad, and you want to alert the bank as to where you will be using it.  If they suspect an unusual transaction, they may freeze your card. They do this to protect you against fraud, not to make things hard on you…so give them a call, and let them in on your travel plans.

It’s a good idea to take two cards from different banks. This gives you a backup in case a machine can’t read one of your cards or if one gets demagnetized. If you run into one cash machine that won’t recognize your card, try another down the street, and you’ll probably get your money unless there’s a real problem with your card.

ATMs around the world work pretty much like the ones you’re used to at home, but there may be some extra steps….like choosing the language you want to deal in. You put your card and pin in…choose your language, then follow the prompts.

Money is usually only available in the local currency, so figure out the exchange rate ahead of time… and calculate how much you want to get. You can get the exchange rate before you leave by checking online at a currency converter like In the airport Arrivals Hall, there will almost always be a bank as well as a cash machine. The bank will have conversion rates posted so you can check before you use the machine.

ATMs in some countries give you high denomination bills. You’re going to need “little money” sooner or later, so it’s a good idea to go to a bank as soon as you can and get smaller change. If the banks are closed, ask your hotel to change at least one note into smaller ones.

Your ATM card has a cash limit per day, and you can’t exceed that. Some foreign banks may have a maximum withdrawal that is smaller than you want. You will be charged a fee, so it pays to take out $200-300 at a time instead of $20 each time you need a little.  Tell the machine how much you want… if it won’t or can’t give it to you, you might want to find another ATM so you can save on those fees.

It’s better to use your ATM card or Debit Card rather than a credit card. If you do use a credit card, it is considered a cash advance, and you will be charged even higher fees.

If at all possible, try to find ATMs that are in an enclosed area instead of just open on the street. If you must use one on the street, make sure it appears safe. Be alert and aware of your surroundings just as you would use ATMs at home. Once you get that money…protect it.  Put it away as soon as you can… preferably in a money belt. Once you have money in your pocket and more in a safe place….enjoy your trip!


Leave a Reply