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Dumb ATM Question.....

Believe it or not, I've never used an ATM in Europe. I feel reasonably safe using a money belt, therefore, I usually withdraw ALL the cash I think I'll need before I leave for Europe, stuff it all in the money belt and never have (or have had) any need to use the ATM's.

I'm starting to think however that this is perhaps not the best route to take. Even though money belts are quite safe (IMHO) there is always that chance I could do something dumb and misplace it and then ALL my trip money would be gone (along with everything else unfortunately). I'm thinking two or three trips to the ATM might be better.

So my question is, when using an ATM in Europe, since I'm accessing my bank here in the States, does it simply show my available balance in US Dollars? Or does it show the equivalent of my balance in Euros (or whatever the local currency is). Or does it show both?

If I want to withdraw, say, 500 Euros, am I essentially going to need to convert that into US dollars in my head to determine how much I am actually withdrawing (to be sre I'm not overdrawing etc.)

Posted by
932 posts

That's not a dumb question. I'd like to know the answer, too!

Posted by
21733 posts

No question is dumb but some answers are. Using an ATM in Europe is no different than in the US. Put in your card, put in your pin number and get your money. But many are a little simplier than what you may be used to in US. You will always have a choice of language either before the card is inserted or just after the card is inserted. Run your fingure across the card slot to be sure you cannot feel anything. Better yet use the machine just after someone else has used it successfully. There is a scam when a plastic sleeve is inserted in the card slot which will capture your card and prevent it from being used or returned. However, the sleeve is obvious if you look or feel for it.

You ATM card should access your checking account.

You withdraw you money in the local currency. If dual currency is being used in the country you will have a choice. General you can request a specific amount or select one of the predetermined amounts by touching the screen -- 100, 200, 250.

Posted by
21733 posts

continued .......

I have not seen an ATM in Europe which will indicated you available balance in your account. Nor have I see a receipt that gives your balance which is fairly common in the US. You will need to do the mental conversion if you are tracking your US balance. You may encountered limits on how much you can withdraw at one time. You bank may set a daily limit and the ATM may have a single withdraw limit. Sometimes I ask for 400E and the machine says not available so I drop it to 300 and money comes out. It helps to have someone cover you back side while you are focused on the machine. However, we have traveled about 300 days and dozens of withdrawals with no problem. Sometimes I will find a machine that will not take my card (about 1 in 10 or so) and just go to the next machine. The first time it happend to me, I was paniced but now it is no big deal. I have a tendency to use the same machines (Bankomat) because I am familar with how they work. Goodluck

Posted by
12 posts

My experience has been that European ATMs don't show any balance on the receipt or on the screen, so it's important for you to keep track of what's in your account.

Posted by
683 posts

We have used ATMs thruout Europe and have never encountered one which gave your available balance. This is a computer interface problem which likely has something to do with privacy laws or somesuch.
The money withdrawn is in local currency, so be sure to have your bank raise your daily and weekend w/d amounts as Euros are worth 7/5 of dollars ( $70 is only 50€)

Posted by
9363 posts

I have used ATMs in several countries, but have never seen one on which you can check your balance. You can withdraw set amounts (20, 30, 50, 80 euros, for example), but the maximum you can withdraw per day will be whatever your bank's limit is, converted to euros.

Posted by
31473 posts


To add to what the others have posted, a quick summary on ATM use in Europe:

Your funds MUST be in a Chequing account

You must use a four number PIN

You will likely NOT be able to see your balance. The amount of information exchange between N.A. and Euro banks is somewhat minimal.

If you attempt to withdraw cash and the machine refuses and provides a strange message (ie: "account access suspended"), do a quick time calculation to determine what time it is back home. If it's the wee hours, your Bank might be doing data "housekeeping", which means it can't communicate with the Euro bank. Wait an hour or two and try again!

Consider getting an increase in your daily ATM limit (at least for your trip), to compensate for exchange rates. If your normal limit is $200, you might only be able to get €150 at a time.

ALWAYS have a backup! Take at least two ATM cards and at least one credit card!

Hope this helps. Happy travels!!!

Posted by
3313 posts

And to add to these standard pieces of advice, call your bank's customer service number to let them know you'll be making withdrawals in Europe. They'll want to know when you'll be there and where you expect to be. That way, they don't close access to your account because of suspected fraudulent use.

I wouldn't worry about carrying a large amount of Euros in my money belt, but by no means my entire trip's budget.

Posted by
389 posts

Also the limit might be based on which machine you choose to use. We found lots of ATMs not attached to banks that limited the withdrawl to a smaller amount (€200 or less) which of course cost you more since you will have make more withdrawls to equal the full amount allowed. At least one time we had to use the machine that gave less and then we couldn't access the account again until the next day.

Posted by
1631 posts

Steve, all of the above is great advice--just got back 5 days ago. I took 3 different bank ATM cards so that if one was rejected I could try another one. Or, if I needed more money, I used several different ATM cards. On this trip, I decided to pay cash (euros) for all my purchases to keep the fees down. Don't forget that Bank of America is affiliated with Deutches Bank which can be found in many large cities and major airports--ask the information desk when you land. Found them in Rome, Venice & Florence. Using BofA, I was able to eliminate the transaction fee. Also, one of my banks charges a 1% withdrawal fee, whereas another one charges a flat $5.00 fee for withdrawal. I also had my withdrawal limits increased since $700 is only about 500 euros. On several occasions, I would try to use the "other amount" button in order to get more euros (500 instead of their 400 euro button). It never worked. I was never able to get more than the highest amount they had on their keypad.

Posted by
342 posts

Don't count on getting an account balance, although an ATM in London and one in Munich DID print my balance on the receipt.

As a bit of reassurance - I have used ATM's in Brussels, Brugge, Trier, London, Paris, Cochem, Rothenburg, Berlin, Prague, Budapest, Munich, and Salzburg without problems. I have also used my card in the German railroad ticket machines with no problem.

ONE ATM in Munich would not accept my card, so I walked across the street to another - BINGO! Probably had to do with wrong network. By the way, I use a VISA card.

Posted by
83 posts

Thank you all for your input. It looks like I simply need to do the conversion from Euros to dollars myself (not a problem of course) to have a rough idea of how many US Dollars I'm withdrawing. I won't cut it that close (withdraw to close to my limit) so I should be ok.

Thanks again for your input.

Posted by
805 posts

I would also suggest to estimate high, i.e. 1.4 instead of 1.3 dollars to the euro. That way, you underestimate your expenses rather than the other way around.

Posted by
215 posts

Few machines in Europe show the balance except in Poland where it always appeared. I've had some in
England show balance and some not. I have no idea
while the differences. To confirm other posts often
you have to take smaller amounts than you want, but
I have always just taken the smaller amount twice.
Unfortunately, that may involve another fee. Last year I spent 52 days in Europe and only had one scam
where the card would have been lost in Rome, but luckily my son saw the sleeve before I inserted the

Posted by
313 posts

Also, Rick and others recommend using the ATMs attached to banks -- more regular security surveillance and maintenance.

Posted by
95 posts

Hi Steve, you shouldn't have any trouble accessing funds at an ATM. Plan on doing your own calculations. I agree, go to your bank before leaving to let them know you will be traveling. It would be wise to ask them to increase your daily limit. Check the back of your card to see what networks it will work in, or ask your bank. You'll probably see a NYCE logo, or one or more of several others. Match those logo's up with the ones you see on the ATM machine you'll want to use. Please, PLEASE, as a former credit card represtative, DO NOT rely solely on this one ATM card. There are situations beyond your bank's control which could render your card useless, leaving them without a way to help you. Do not place your card near anything magnetic, and be careful not to scratch the mag-stripe on the back. Regardless of what source of funds you use, even cash, alway have an alternate source to access funds. Your bank may offer suggestions. Better safe than sorry.

Posted by
34 posts

Hi Steve, I have followed many of the suggestions offered here and never had a problem at the ATMs I've used on previous trips. Having said that, I would like to add that I opened a seperate checking account specifically for the trip I am about to take. I asked the bank about their transaction fee. They said it would be $5 for each withdrawal. They pointed out that one of my other accounts was a Platinum account and that there is no charge if I were to use that card. I didn't want to use that one so, I asked them to upgrade my new account and they said "Okay". So...ask if they can upgrade your account to a Platinum card and avoid the transaction fees altogether.

Posted by
482 posts

Just a few comments: We've used both debit and credit cards in foreign ATMs. Besides whatever ATM fee you normally pay, on a few occasions we encountered an additional fee because of an obscure currency. Twice credit card companies froze accounts because of the unusual activity on the card. Both times calls to the international emergency phone number for the credit card company "unfroze" the account. Finally, we had the unfortunate experience of having a credit card stolen by a pickpocket. Because we had the emergency number and the credit card number secured elsewhere, we were able to cancel that card, and we received a new replacement card in 2 business days.

Posted by
71 posts

In July I traveled in Central Europe. There was a heat wave = 102 & 104! And, I got a heat rash from wearing the money belt!!
First, check with your bank. Bank of America does NOT charge extra for using an ATM in Europe. Next, only put as much as you will need into your checking/ATM account. Then, I only withdrew 50 euros at a time. I used a Capital One credit card that does NOT have an extra charge for overseas purchases like hotels. Don't use the credit where it will be out of your sight--like a restaurant. The most one of my travel mates could get from the ATM was 200 euros. Take a small calucalator with you. The Dollar store has them. Also, take an empty small letter envelope for receipts.