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ATM more risk than Credit Card?

RS recmoments using ATM to get local currencies for small purchases. My bank tells me that it us risky to use my ATM card. If there is fraud, it would be my money at stake. If I were to use credit card, the the bank would be at stake for fraud. Any thoughts? Thanks.

Posted by
6412 posts

As long as you sign up so the bank can alert you of suspected fraud and pay attention and be very careful to hide and don't disclose your pin number you are good to go. I have used ATM/Debit card since 2002 overseas with no problems. The only time I've had problem is in the USA and then I was not liable and protected by what the above poster mentioned.

If you do not feel safe then just pay the extra it will cost you to get local currency before you go.
But then you are still susceptible to being pick pocketed or victim of a strong arm robbery carrying large amount of cash around.

Posted by
852 posts

Possibly.
I have an account with a credit union that I use just for travel--my main accounts are with another credit union. Before a trip I transfer just the amount I think I will need on my trip to that account, so if that card is stolen/comprised, I won't lose much.

Posted by
2766 posts

Did they also tell you it is risky to fly to Europe? I have used debit cards in ATMs in Europe yearly since 2001 and have never had a problem.

Posted by
20632 posts

......My bank tells me that it us risky to use my ATM card....... That is the first time I have ever heard that. Did the bank explain the risk? There is a risk when using any credit or debit card of compromise. However, that risk is very low and close to zero if you use your debit card properly. I used a debit card all over Europe for 20 years with no problem. Just might be a bank employee with min knowledge -- not uncommon. My personal assessment is that a credit card carries more risk than a debit card.

Posted by
4690 posts

Karen, is it possible they were referring to your possible use of the ATM card as a Debit Card for retail purchases? My Bank of America ATM card is really, a Debit Card connected to my bank account. That perhaps makes it more dangerous, but I believe that B of A actually promises not to hold me liable (because they WANT me to use it for retail purchases) if I report suspicious activity promptly. I mean, they are COMPETING with the statutory protection for credit card transactions.

I'm not telling you to forget about worrying, but both what the bank told you and what you posted here are kind of ... imprecise.

Next question is whether ATM machinies in Europe are more likely to have a "skimmer" attached to the slot than in the U.S.A.? No one has posted even Fake News statistics here on that. Do you know how to look for a skimmer or video camera? Have they warned you not to use ATM machines in the U.S.? (!!) Do you know why the ATM slots are so oddly constructed? It's to make it hard to attach a skimmer without it being obvious. Do you know to cover your hand while you enter your PIN?

Posted by
3313 posts

What did your bank want you to do in place of using the ATM in Europe to get cash? Buy currency from them directly to take with you at their inflated price?

There is always a risk using any credit or debit card. You are protected from loss if you report any fraudulent transactions immediately. Yes, if your debit card is compromised someone could empty your checking account before you are aware and it takes a while for your bank to replace the funds, but that's why you don't use it except to get cash from an ATM and not for purchases. Limiting use limits exposure to possible fraud.

Posted by
3141 posts

RS recmoments using ATM to get local currencies for small purchases.
My bank tells me that it us risky to use my ATM card. If there is
fraud, it would be my money at stake. If I were to use credit card,
the the bank would be at stake for fraud. Any thoughts? Thanks.

Who at your bank, Karen, gave you that information? Some agent on a toll-free number or an employee at a branch?

Whoever it is, exactly what does that person recommend you do in order to get cash? Do it through your bank in which they can OVERCHARGE YOU OBSCENELY? Is it the bank's practice to scare customers into getting foreign currency through them so they can make a huge profit?

My advice? Change banks as you are dealing with people completely CLUELESS toward foreign travel or hoping YOU are clueless so they can rob you blindly. Seriously.

Posted by
5026 posts

My bank tells me that it us risky to use my ATM card. If there is fraud, it would be my money at stake.

Well, that statement could be just as true here at home as it is abroad.

Posted by
5019 posts

My bank tells me that it us risky to use my ATM card

Then I'd question anything else that bank said.

Posted by
945 posts

My bank tells me that it us risky to use my ATM card.

Your bank is telling you that ATMs have more risk because they want you to use your credit card. They make more money on credit card transactions than on ATM transactions. I work for a small specialty retailer two days a week. She is charged 3% (or more if it's a cash back or miles) per CC transaction but only 25 cents per ATM transaction. Protect your pin and you'll be fine with the ATM transaction.

Posted by
6543 posts

ATM cards are to use--not to look at. I travel with two ATM cards, however I just use them for walking around town cash. I also travel with two credit cards, and use one for just about everything. The second card is a backup in case there is a computer problem, etc.
Credit cards are less risk to the user because of governmental regulations and rights to chargebacks that ATM cards may not have. Some banks do offer better terms and conditions than required by the government, however. They're all different.
I admit that I do watch all my accounts day by day when I'm traveling to see if there are any unauthorized transactions. Credit cards are actually used more in Europe than in the U.S., and some countries have even discussed doing away with currency.

Posted by
5316 posts

Sounds like the bank employee thought you were talking about using your ATM card as a debit card for small purchases -- and wasn't someone who deals with foreign transactions and foreign currency very often. Unless you were talking to the branch manager or someone in the bank's international department, I would not switch banks simply because of miscommunication between yourself and a bank employee.
(I actually used my ATM card for an overseas retail purchase by mistake once -- no disasters ensued. However, a gasoline purchase at an ARCO station 50 miles away from home ...)

Posted by
4822 posts

First, both cards are protected against fraud, if I recall, maybe on an ATM/Debit card you might be on the hook for $50, even though I have had one or two instances of fraud over the decades on my ATM Debit card, I have never paid anything.

Second, it may certainly vary by Bank/Credit union, but I think the statement: My bank tells me that it us risky to use my ATM card. If there is fraud, it would be my money at stake. If I were to use credit card, the the bank would be at stake for fraud. is maybe better stated:

My bank tells me that it is risky to use my ATM card. If there is fraud, it would be the banks money at stake. If I were to use credit card, the card issuer (Visa or MC) would be at stake for fraud.

So Yes, they would encourage you to use the Credit Card. A small modification to this would be that any monies in your account that were pilfered would not be available until the bank resolves the issue. This could take at least Days, maybe a week or more, a bummer if that was your sole source of cash.

I only use my ATM/Debit card in Europe for cash at an ATM, not for Debit purchases for this reason. If I can use a debit card for a sales transaction, I can use a Credit card just as easily.

Posted by
2347 posts

It's crazy, but it's not always a good idea to get banking information from bank employees. Just ask Wells Fargo customers. But aren't those "we're sorry we scammed you and lost your trust" ads from WF nice. What pretty horses.

Posted by
7686 posts

I've learned to ask bank employees who are giving me advice if they have ever traveled internationally. If yes, I'll ask how things worked for them and mostly believe them. If no, I'll ask for clarification from a manager.

My experience with my small town local credit union is that information is learned by rote and parroted back without many of the folks having any real understanding of travel/foreign currency etc.

Posted by
3379 posts

Karen, you’ve received a lot of reassuring info. I’ll also share that my bank (Key Bank) issued a separate ATM card that is tied to an account where we placed about $3000. The ATM card for this account has no credit card logos or links, and the card doesn’t even have our name imprinted in it. So if we lost it, it would be worthless to anyone, and our normal savings account would not be compromised.

Posted by
2961 posts

I think what the bank may have meant is that with an ATM card that has fraudulent use on it, the funds are taken directly from your account until the fraud is discovered and the account frozen. You should have the funds returned to your account within a day or two, but there could be a period where the funds that you thought would be available are not.

With a credit card, you haven't paid out any of your own funds when the fraud is discovered and it is dealt with prior to you making any payments.

Either way, you are protected against fraud. You will get your money back into your ATM card account. I had my card skimmed once at the ATM machine outside the Victoria, BC visitors bureau. The next day the number (and pin) were used to take 3,000 out of my account in NYC through several ATMs. Charles Schwab Bank froze the card and notified me of suspected fraud. I had the $3000 returned to my account within 24 hours. I learned a bit from this. Only use bank ATMs and I watched a few videos on what to look for on skimmers. I also put a $500 daily limit on ATM withdrawals for my account. I don't ever need more than that a day when traveling. This way, that is the max a fraudster will get away with before being flagged by the bank.

It was somewhat reassuring how quickly Charles Schwab not only determined that fraud was occurring, but also how quickly they resolved the issue and placed the money into my account.

Posted by
485 posts

As Carol said above put a daily max on the amount of cash you can withdraw on a daily basis. Use it withdraw cash only, I would not use it for credit card type of transactions.

Posted by
5504 posts

Since you are an American, be greatful that government FTC regulations provide you with some debit card protection. The level of protection is dependent on following the rules.

The starting point is to report loss/theft immediately. Once you report loss/theft of you debit card, FTC says you are no longer liable. If you report before unauthorized charges you are not liable for fraudulent charges on your debit card. If you report within 2 days, your loss is is limited to $50. Reporting later than 2 days, your loss is limited to $500. If you report loss more than 60 days after your statement is sent, your loss can be your entire account balance.

If your card is not loss, but a fraudlent transaction is made, you have no liability if reported within 60 days of your statement.

In contrast you credit card liability is limited to $50 in the case of a loss/stolen card but $0 if reported before transactions.

Posted by
597 posts

Change your bank. There is very little risk in using your debit card as an ATM card. Just use caution like you would in the US. Use only a bank ATM in Europe if possible for a better exchange rate. Look for scanners. Give the card insert device a tug to be sure a scanner isn't attached. Getting cash on your credit card is expensive. I have never had a problem. Make sure your bank knows you are in Europe so it will work.

Posted by
607 posts

The one risk I can think of is if you were to withdraw a large sum at an ATM and then the cash is lost or stolen.

Posted by
2814 posts

Who at your bank, Karen, gave you that information? Some agent on a toll-free number or an employee at a branch?

It's just as likely to have been one of them or the other. Clueless bank employees exist at branches as well as at their toll-free numbers. And any advice given about changing your bank is nonsense. If you switched banks because they had unknowledgeable employees, you'd never have a bank.

Posted by
4690 posts

Karen, you haven't posted on this board for six years.

But I'm going to add two small additional thoughts, without all the details you can find on Rick's free travel hints, https://www.ricksteves.com/travel-tips , or by using the Search Box top center of this forum.

1) You should NEVER get cash with your credit card. (This sentence refers to your OP.) You will pay the bank massive interest and convenience fees.

2) We have not discussed Foreign Transaction Fees, which can be different for each type and brand of card you own. Bank of America currently charges me 3% to withdraw my OWN MONEY in foreign currency. So I opened an account at a Credit Union.

Posted by
3313 posts

I just received a mailing from my bank about Debit Card fraud (one of the biggest US banks, not some fly by night operation).

If you just read it, several statements on the form could be taken out of context: "Debit card fraud occurs every day!" "Use caution when using your Debit card, fraud is possible." "When fraud occurs on your Debit card, your account balance could be stolen before you know it." Just reading these, I would never want to ever use my debit card anywhere! But reading the smaller print, this is just a notice that the bank has you protected through multiple new automatic processes they want you to activate (transaction notices, and such) and all funds stolen through fraud will be returned within 48 hours of reporting, including the $50 you would be out if they only followed federal regulations.

Posted by
3320 posts

Read the fine print!! We recently opened a new checking account and there is an interesting item in the disclosures about the Visa Debit Card. It states "Unless you have been negligent or have engaged in fraud, you will not be liable for any unauthorized transactions using your lost of stolen Visa card. This additional limit on liability does not apply to ATM transactions outside the U.S. .......". When questioned, the bank stated they would not be liable for any unauthorized transactions, but that Visa would be, and we would be indemnified and not suffer any loss. But the bank then further stated that Visa would not let the bank put that in writing for some legal reason they either could or would not specify. Needless to say, we are having an ongoing discussion with the bank about this as we have never encountered anything like it with any other bank. It's not a big problem for us as we can always open an account with another bank that does not have that restriction. It's just another of life's little pains in the anatomy.

Posted by
407 posts

As someone else here said, I too control the amount of money in the checking account associated with my ATM card. I prearrange money transfers with my bank from a different, non-atm card account into the checking account for the ATM card. Actually I do this for two different accounts in case there is a problem with one of them, but I've never had an issue. I only use my ATM card for withdrawals, not for purchases of any kind. I use a credit card only for hotels; everything else is a cash transaction. I've done this for five trips and, thus far, have had no problems whatsoever. But we each have our own methods, what works for me might not work for you and vice versa.

Posted by
78 posts

If you only use the ATM card for withdrawals it should be okay. I made 2 withdrawals in Rome for 500 Euros , my bank waved the fee, however the bank in Rome charged about 5 Euros and there was an international banking fee of 15 Euros each time. I'm not sure who gets the international banking fee. I used a Atm on an American base in Germany and there where no extra charges.

Posted by
46 posts

I agree with Pam and Karen, that unless the person giving advice has travelled internationally, they may not know correct information.
I once was given totally wrong travel information by someone in the travel department at AAA. They believed heartily that what they told me was right. People can be sincerely wrong. Always make sure you read the small print in the contract with your bank. It should be readily available online. And somewhere (maybe from a Rick Steves travel guide), I read you should only use the atm inside the bank to avoid skimmers. I've never had a problem with my atm card. Happy travels to you.