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Bank won't allow ATM withdrawal in Croatia

I checked with my credit union a few months ago regarding travel to Croatia and was told it would be fine, no foreign fee's etc.. Today I contacted them to notify them that I would be traveling and using my debit card. They informed me that they don't allow ATM withdrawals in Croatia - very annoyed.
My question is, what is the best way to exchange money in Croatia without using an ATM... we will be in Budapest before Croatia. Does anyone know if I'm able to withdraw Croatian Kuna from an ATM in Budapest? Or should I withdraw Euro or Hungarian Forint from an ATM and exchange for Kuna in Croatia? As I'm traveling to Budapest tomorrow (!!) it's too late to open a different account with another bank that may do business in Croatia. I'm too far gone on this to really worry about exchange rates at this point, I'm more concerned with something being simple. Thanks in advance!

Posted by Jazz+Travels
Chicago
3764 posts

Nope you will not be able to withdraw Croatian currency from an ATM in Hungary. Take USDollars and exhange them when you get to Croatia since your bank's ATM debit card will not let you.

Posted by Andrew H.
Portland, Oregon
3211 posts

First of all, try to use your credit cards everywhere.

Second, you might check with your credit cards to find out what it costs to get a cash advance with their card from the ATM. Probably not cheap. I've never done it, but I believe you pay interest on the money from day one. If you can do online banking, you might be able to transfer funds from your credit union to the credit card company ASAP to cover the money taken out, so you won't pay interest very long. This might not cost less (or much less) than taking out Forint in Hungary - but it removes the uncertainty ("How much Forint should I take out???") And who wants to be stuck with extra Forint at the end?

Third, you might try using your debit card in Croatia anyway, just to see what happens. It might work fine. At worst, the ATM could eat your debit card. Will you need to use it again after Croatia, or are you going home after that? If going home right after, I'd probably risk it. And if they eat your card (or just flag it as fraud) you'll have to get a new card or something - waiting for you when you get home, presumably.

Posted by David
Seattle, WA, USA
3319 posts

And having that ATM card eaten in Croatia might not be such a bad thing - you're probably going to be looking for a new credit union as soon as you get home (I certainly would). Plenty of fish in the sea...

Posted by merrytraveler OP
USA
16 posts

Thanks for the help - I'll bring US dollars and exchange, and use my credit card when I can. We're traveling to Italy after Croatia, so I'm not sure I want to take a chance having an ATM eat my debit card - but may be looking for a new bank when we return ;)

Posted by Nigel
Northamptonshire, England
19488 posts

Why would a machine retain a card? The worst that will happen is the transaction will be refused and your card will be returned. Just take it quickly after it pops out. If you don't take it after it pops out it will eventually retain it for your safety - but that would be the case everywhere wouldn't it?

The person you spoke to at the credit union may not have had a clue. Call today and speak to somebody different - tell them you are just giving them a travel notice and see what that person says. 2 out of three wins.

Posted by acraven
Washington DC
10352 posts

I've seen some exchange rates posted in former Iron Curtain countries that looked very reasonable--far better than I've seen in the west, where not many people use such services and there's little competition for customers. It may not be as costly as we are all assuming. However, I have no idea what fees those places charge (could be a flat fee or a percentage, or both), so go in knowing what your dollars are worth at the official exchange rate, ask what the fees will be and ask how many kuna you are going to receive, just to be sure you haven't chosen a bad kantor.

Please report back on how this turns out.

Posted by Mark
Highlands Ranch, CO, USA
2022 posts

Does your ATM card have a Visa or MasterCard logo on it? Then I would bet it will work in Croatia. If it is an ATM only card without those logos, then you are most likely out of luck.

Depending on when your trip is, you can possibly open a new account at Capital One 360 and get a card in time that should work there. Mine did.

Posted by Jone
Hollis, NH, USA
51 posts

We were told that our ATM cards wouldn't work in Croatia last May. We sacrificed my son's card for Science and the machine did, indeed, eat his card. We had euros and dollars and some cash from previous countries on the Eastern Europe tour and just changed it at a bank with a exchange desk.

Posted by Larry
Elkins Park, PA
1693 posts

How soon do you leave? Enough time to quickly open a Schwab or Capital One account? becasue we used BOTH of their cards in Croatia without any issues last fall. And even if there is not enough time, you need to establish one or both of these before your next trip. You want your accounts handled by a business that will work for you. Ask fir a reason why this is not allowed, and ask up the chain. Is it really not allowed or did the person you were speaking to not know the correct answer and did not want to ask for help, which would let his superiors get the idea that he cant' do his job.

Posted by Andrew H.
Portland, Oregon
3211 posts

I've used my credit union ATM cards in Croatia on several trips (last in 2015, different credit union in 2009). It's clearly an issue only for some credit unions and banks.

Posted by Brad
Belmont Bay, VA
10357 posts

If your ATM card won't work, will your debit and credit cards work for purchases? I hope so.

Posted by tgreen
midwest- Michigan
469 posts

Credit unions may be a great thing here in the USA, but they really don't want you to travel. I hope you have a credit card with another bank and I would suggest you set up another account with a major bank NOW. Put what you may need into that account and get your ATM card. Then let them know you are traveling to Croatia. The company might still not recommend you use your card in Croatia. We had that same thing on our best of Adriatic tour, yet Bosnia-H was okay. Go figure???? We had NO trouble with our cards either country.
Our friends have a credit union ATM and credit card and are traveling with us to Ireland and Scotland and are tired of the credit union putting a hold on the card even if they tell them they are traveling (even in the USA) So they have set up another account with City Bank for their traveling purposes.

Posted by Andrew H.
Portland, Oregon
3211 posts

Credit unions may be a great thing here in the USA, but they really don't want you to travel.

Maybe not yours. I've never had trouble with a credit union ATM card or credit card in numerous European countries over the last eighteen years of traveling. And I've belonged to a few credit unions. Unfortunately, not all credit unions are equal. Sounds like yours isn't so great. Time to find a new one! I have no interest at all in doing business with some big bank with crappy customer service just because of some unfounded fear that credit unions may not be good for traveling. Credit unions have always served me well, with better customer service, fewer and lower fees, higher rates (when CDs still returned decent interest), and excellent support for international travel.

Posted by Douglas
Oak Park, Illinois
4301 posts

Why does everytime someone has an issue with their bank or CU over one particular issue, there is lots of advice to change banks. Everyone has different needs and desires in their banking and no institution will be perfect. Let people do as they wish normally and give advice on how to deal with the issue at hand.

Often, banks and CUs will put a restriction on regions or countries where fraud has been high. I can see Croatia making that list, and sometimes weird places you wouldn't expect make the list. It's more common with smaller institutions that cannot as readily absorb the costs of fraud (or pass it along in higher fees like the major banks do). If a bank rep tells you a country is on the list, it probably is and the transaction will be blocked or the account blocked.

Posted by SharYn
Berkeley CA
720 posts

For what it's worth, I used my Wells Fargo debit card to withdraw cash in Croatia last year without any problem. I did notify the bank when and where I would be traveling. And I use my non-WF credit card for most purchases because there is no foreign transaction fee and I like to accumulate the frequent flyer points.
I just noticed that your original post was from over a week ago, so please do report back and let us know how it went for you.

Posted by merrytraveler OP
USA
16 posts

Thanks for all your help! I ended up using my son in law's debit card for cash withdrawals ... I didn't want to take a chance on the machine eating my card!! We had such a great time - beautiful country, food, wine and people!

Posted by Laura B
San Francisco
3855 posts

Glad you found an easy work-around.

And you have time to check out alternatives for your NEXT trip.

Posted by Paul
Cedar, IA, USA
3819 posts

Slightly belated post, but this is a good example of when to use cash advance on a credit card at an ATM.

Before I get blasted about the costs, first look at them. Many cards will hit you with a fee, $10 or 5% of the transaction. In addition, you do pay interest from withdrawal, usually at the rate of about 24%. Sounds terrible but work the math:

  • For a $200 withdrawal, and not paying the bill until your next statement, you are hit with $10 fee, plus about $4 in interest (assuming 24% for 30 days), $14 total, making the cost of money 7%.
  • As a comparison, many still travel with big bank ATM cards (WF or Chase, etc) which hit you with a $5 fee and 3% of transaction, $11 for that same withdrawal (of your own money, not borrowed) or 5.5%
  • As was mentioned, you could also get currency ahead, or change there, but you would struggle to get better than 7%, probably more like 10%
  • Yes, Yes, Yes, my Charles Schwab or my credit union is much better, but the premise was that neither was available.

Add to this that a cash advance at an ATM is far more convenient than exchanging cash, and if you were to go online immediately and pay your CC balance, then much of the interest is avoided. The moral of the story is be aware of what your options cost, do not dismiss something you heard was "expensive" without knowing the cost. Then also, as others point out, you paid a lot for the experience, do not fret over a few bucks.

Posted by Mark
Highlands Ranch, CO, USA
2022 posts

Yes, the cash advance scenario as described is not much more expensive than the fees the big banks charge. But you left out a couple things that must be considered:

  1. The cash advance is the last thing paid off when payments are applied to a credit card balance. Even new purchases are credited with your payments before the cash advance in the following months if you have any balance left after paying each month.
  2. The cash advance continues to accrue interest until the credit card balance reaches zero.
  3. Some cards still use the trailing interest method of calculating the interest charge. This means even if you pay off the balance completely when you receive the bill, you may still see additional interest charges on the next statement.

What this means is to get a decent deal on the cash advance, you must use a card that has a zero balance to start and pay it off completely by the next statement cycle. Since many people have only one (or two) credit cards and the majority do not pay off their balance every month, this seemingly small cash advance can end up costing a lot more than expected. This is the "expensive" impact of doing the cash advance for most people.

Posted by Paul
Cedar, IA, USA
3819 posts

Mark;

Yes, I agree with all that you said. It is worth a warning to people, but how one manages their Credit Card is another issue. Even in many posts here on methods for payment, it is recommended to use a credit card as an option for cash, good advice, but rarely is it pointed out that the advice really only applies if you pay off that credit card entirely before the next cycle, otherwise those charges from travel can wind up costing you much more. I probably should have stated that my assumption was that if one travels, then you have the funds to pay cash for related expenses.