How To Using Overseas ATM When Traveling

Wherever you travel in the world, cold hard cash is your most essential necessity. This is true if you’re buying a cup of coffee in Los Angeles, a silk scarf in Istanbul’s Grand Bazaar or a bracelet off a street vendor in Hong Kong. That is why the first thing many travelers look for when they step off the plane in a foreign country is an ATM machine.

ATMs usually solve the traveler’s dilemma of where to safely and quickly obtain local currency. All cash withdrawals, regardless of size, are exchanged based on the wholesale exchange rate, which is usually a few percentage points better than the rate at a local exchange counter. Plus, these machines are practically everywhere – ATM cards linked to the PLUS or Cirrus networks can be used in more than 135 countries – which makes them the convenient choice of cash-strapped travelers.

Yet some travelers are running into ATMs that, like stingy uncles, refuse to give them money, usually when they try using their debit cards. Recently, debit cards have been the targets of international frauds, prompting banks to block out entire countries where these frauds occur most often. Travelers usually don’t even know a block is currently in place until they are standing cashless in front of an ATM, mildly cursing at their debit card that no longer seems to be working.

Countries that have recently been blocked by various banks include England, Thailand, the Philippines, Romania, Greece, Turkey, Singapore and Japan, though different banks utilize different criteria when selecting countries. Also, some banks block PIN-based transactions, while others block signature-based transactions; it all depends on their risk threshold.

Unfortunately for travelers, banks are not required to inform their customers about these bans, for they do not want to tip their hand to the countermeasures they’re employing to criminals. Travel agents urge you to call your bank or check out its Web site before you leave to find out if your debit card will work at your destination.

Here are some additional tips from travel agents concerning the use of ATMs when traveling abroad:

Take a variety of payment options, such as credit cards, debit cards, traveler’s checks and currency, to be prepared for all circumstances.

Go to a bank if you have problems withdrawing cash from an ATM. Many debit cards can also function as a credit card, which will allow you to get a cash advance (though at a higher interest rate than a normal debit transaction).

Bring your bank’s contact information when you travel, just in case your card fails to work like you expect.

If your PIN number is longer than four digits, go to your bank and have it changed. Many ATM’s abroad, especially in Europe, do not accept PIN numbers longer than four digits.

If your PIN number is based on letters, translate the letters into numbers before leaving the country. Many ATMs abroad only have numbers on their keypads.

Always have your travel agent’s contact information with you. It’s good to have an ally back home you can call whenever a problem arises.

With these tips and a little TravelSense, you should be able to freely explore the world without standing in long lines at the bank trying to access your money.