Can you access a savings account from an ATM?

It would be easier for me to withdraw money from my savings account instead of my checking account. Do ATMs in Germany and Italy give you the option to choose which account to withdraw from?

Posted by Ken
Vernon, Canada
24145 posts


ATM withdrawals normally access your primary account, which is typically a chequing account. You'll have to check with your financial institution to determine which account will be accessed from foreign ATM's. You may also want to review your daily limit when you speak with them.

In my experience, most ATM's in Europe DO NOT provide a choice of savings or chequing accounts, although I've noticed on the last few trips that a choice is offered in rare cases.

Posted by Zoe
Toledo, Ohio, US
7334 posts

You might do an online or telephone transfer of funds from savings into checking before you withdraw at an ATM. If you are concerned about fraud, check your bank's protection policy. This happened to me once and Bank of America replaced the funds within 24 hours.

Posted by Ed
9110 posts

I've never seen a choice option. However, if your bank can tie the card to the savings account, you've got it made. Optionally, you could have a separate savings account with its own card.

Posted by Frank
Tresana, Highlands Ranch, CO, USA
14087 posts

If the saving is the primarily withdraw for the card then it will work but just to be safe I would just use the checking account. I have seen a couple of time when giving a choice in Italy but it is not common.

Posted by Robert
Happy Valley, PA
313 posts

I think the only time you would start drawing down from your savings is if you ran out of checking funds and your bank or credit union automatically transferred funds from savings to checking to replenish the account. This actually happened recently to my daughter while in Italy; she overdrew her checking account while making an ATM withdrawal and our local Credit Union automatically transferred funds from her savings account to make up for the deficit. She also was assessed a $2 charge for the transfer. I am not sure if you could continue to withdraw funds in this manner once you emptied your checking account. Suggest you either move $$ into checking before departing for Europe or ask your bank if it is even possible to set up your debit card to withdraw funds from savings directly (but I doubt it) . Also, based on my experiences with ATMs in Austria and Germany, you do not have a choice as to what account the funds come from when you use your debit card, only how much you wish to withdraw and in what denominations you want the bills.

Posted by Laura
Rick Steves' Europe
9896 posts

I believe that I have seen the choice of checking and savings on some European ATMs, but would not want to count on it. I always make sure to have enough money in the primary account that's attached to the card.

Posted by Miranda
Central Indiana, USA
152 posts

It's always been posted that the primary account is the one that money is drawn from, but that wasn't the case for me in Paris last year. I made 3 withdrawals from three separate ATMs, and they all pulled the money from my checking account, which was definitely the secondary account at the credit union, and not the primary account which was the savings account.

Posted by Karen
Santa Rosa, CA
829 posts

We only use ATM's for travel, so a week or so in advance of any trip, I'll "test" all of our cards to make sure they at least work at home and we remember our passwords. A month ago, the attempt to use our Capital One cards resulted in the cards being declined. So I called Capital One to see what the problem was. C.O said the ATM I used defaulted to withdraw from a savings account instead of a checking account (we don't have a savings C.O. account). I was also asked if the ATM gave me an option to choose which account, which I didn't think so. So they suggested I try a different ATM. While using the second ATM, I realized that on the first ATM I chose a fast cash amount of $20. So this time I chose the option to select my own amount, and then the ATM gave me a choice of Savings or Checking, then I entered the amount to withdraw and it worked.

Last month when we used ATM's in Costa Rica, following the same process and skipping fast cash amounts we were given the savings vs. checking option on every withdrawal. In Europe I know we didn't use fast cash since we entered a non even number to get smaller bills. (€380 instead of €400)

Thought this would good info to share.

Posted by Nancy
Bloomington, IL, USA
8729 posts

On my most recent trip I used ATMs in the UK and Spain. Not once did I get a choice of account type. My credit union does as a previous poster described - if my checking overdraws, they automatically do a transfer from my savings to cover it. But it does not allow me to continue to take money directly out of the savings. It would still show the checking as overdrawn and do another automatic deposit.

My daughter only has a savings account, and she has an ATM card. I would suggest you talk to your bank and arrange for the funds to come from savings as a "primary" account, or get a card specific to that account.

Posted by Nicole P
Truro, NS, Canada
1750 posts

Our account at our main banking institution here in Canada was for some reason set up as savings instead of chequing...and I'm really sure we couldn't use it in the ATM's in Europe (I know we couldn't in the States - let's just say - we've gone into the bank and had that rectified!). We do have another bank account with a different bank and used that for our money needs, thank goodness.

Posted by Kim
1605 posts

I've never had an ATM here offer me an option to choose which account I wanted it to pull the money from.

Posted by Brad
Gainesville, VA
8186 posts

Expect checking to be your only choice.

You can always transfer by phone or online from your saving into checking. If you do so, however, make sure to ask your bank how soon that deposit will be available for an ATM withdrawal - it may be overnight before the deposit is available.

Posted by Roy
East Alabama
1062 posts

It is best to keep things simple. On at least two occasions, using my credit union accounts, before leaving, I transferred funds from savings to the checking account, where I could be sure it would be available with the debit card in an emergency. Another time, I borrowed $1,000 from my line of credit as a cushion; I paid it back a month later.