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ATM rip off

Beware of Banco Santander in Sevilla. What should have been a charge of ~ $156.85 for a purchase of 140 Euros was exactly $70 more than that. This ATM was on the main street that has the street car across from the Cathedral. Constitucion Ave. I had been warned about the Euro named ATM so I tried this one. If anyone has had better luck with fairer ATMs please post.

Here is a link to the picture of the ATM on Constitucion Ave in Sevilla

https://www.google.com/maps/place/Av.+de+la+Constitución,+Sevilla,+Spain/@37.386845,-5.9941847,3a,15y,232.78h,86.55t/data=!3m6!1e1!3m4!1s8fNqIhwC3ezQG31zQjmGGQ!2e0!7i16384!8i8192!4m5!3m4!1s0xd126c17566c287d:0xaaa3e2da037bcd7c!8m2!3d37.3853638!4d-5.9939945

Posted by
4521 posts

Nearly all ATMs in Spain will offer DCC. Plus there is a flat fee charge for most of them as well. Minimise use of cash.

Posted by
8889 posts

Did you say yes to "Do you want to be charged in dollars?" (or similar question).

If you said "yes", that is the dreaded DCC, you are giving the ATM owner permission to do the conversion to USD at whatever rate they choose.
The normal way, if you decline DCC, is for the ATM to charge the exact amount you withdrew, in the same currency (EUR). It is then your card issuer (Vias, Mastercard) which does the conversion at a much better rate, the ATM owner has no possibility to rip you off.

Posted by
1239 posts

Even if you used DCC at the cash machine, an extra $70 or €70 seems unlikely. I suspect you took out more money than you thought.

Posted by
2598 posts

I had been warned about the Euro named ATM so I tried this one.

What as the warning? What is a “Euro named ATM”? if you were warned about them, why did you try it?

If you opted for DCC, you started in the hole. First, there’s an unfavorable exchange rate and possibly a convenience fee to use DCC - a double whammy! Add to this a a possible ATM usage charge by the bank, another possible charge by your home bank. And lastly, a foreign currency transaction fee of 3-5% by your home bank.

For a discussion about ATM fees in Spain, check these postings

https://community.ricksteves.com/travel-forum/spain/atm-bank-charges

Posted by
6699 posts

Even if you used DCC at the cash machine, an extra $70 or €70 seems
unlikely

I agree that this does not seem possible. DCC would not account for that large of a profit margin, which amounts to ~ 45% (profit) over the interbank exchange rate using your figures.

Could you recheck your numbers and report back? It would be most helpful to break down 1) DCC and 2) your own bank's separate charges and fees.

Posted by
3460 posts

It sure does look like you got hit by DCC. But the amount makes no sense even for the greediest DCC application.

How is the total for this broken out in your bank statement? How much of this was charged by your bank? Many US banks charge fees of up to 5% and $5 for ATM withdrawals outside the US. And you get hit with a double wammy with DCC because your bank can still charge their 5% on the USD amount after the DCC markup was added. Was there an actual ATM fee charged by the ATM? The machine should have had a note on it saying how much the fee was, if any.

Posted by
18746 posts

To summarize, there are three ways to lose money unnecessarily at an ATM in Europe, and unfortunately all of these extra charges are becoming more frequent--and larger--every year. Do not do these things:

  • Use an ATM card from a financial institution that charges fees for use of an ATM belonging to a different bank. Those fees will not be mentioned on the ATM (except perhaps via a vague warning that they may apply), and there's nothing you can do about them once you're in Europe, other than minimizing ATM withdrawals by using a credit card as much as possible. Once you return home, try to find a local credit union with no foreign-ATM fees or much lower fees. There are also some internet banks that don't charge such fees.

  • Use an ATM that charges a usage fee. This type of fee will be disclosed on the ATM during the transaction. You can then cancel the transaction and walk away to try a different bank's ATM.

  • Accept the ATM's offer to "lock in" the withdrawal amount in US dollars. This will always involve an exchange rate that is very, very poor. Do not ever accept this. You always want to conduct the transaction in the local currency. (Note: Something similar can happen when you use your credit card; always pay in the local currency.)

Every one of the above things can happen even if you use a bank ATM in most countries in Europe. Just avoiding Euronet ATMs is not enough.

In 2016, Santander Bank ATMs didn't charge usage fees, but more and more bank ATMs are doing that now, and I wouldn't be at all surprised if Santander Bank does so. The ATM-fee situation can change from month to month.

I agree that the math here is surprising. Even running into all three problems detailed above, I'd have expected something more like this:

  • Withdrawal: 140 euros
  • Official exchange rate: about $155 today (varies)
  • ATM-usage fee: 5 euros (converted to about $5.60; if percentage based, could be higher)
  • Home-bank fee: probably no more than $5 + 5% (about $12.80)
  • DCC impact from poor conversion rate: not sure, but I'd guess probably not more than 7% (about $11.55)

So I'd have expected the total cost of that withdrawal to be about $185. However, if there are no laws to prevent it, the swing on the conversion rate used when you accept DCC could be worse than the 7% I estimated above.

Posted by
1933 posts

What as the warning? What is a “Euro named ATM”? if you were warned about them, why did you try it?

I interpreted the phrase "Euro named ATM" to refer to Euronet ATMs and having "been warned" to avoid them due to bad rates and fees. I understand the OP is saying that, having read those warnings about Euronet ATMs, the OP elected to use the Banco Santander ATM instead.

$70 does seem excessive, even for the combination of a bad rate and excessive fees charged by both the ATM and the OPs own bank. I do hope the OP will return to comment on any further details of the breakdown of those charges.

Posted by
16852 posts

Another reminder that some ATMs now defaulting to DCC at the first step, and with an awful lot of confusing text (the way I say it presented in Italy). Customers who are nervous about standing on the street with their wallet out, etc., are likely to rush through and miss a somewhat small link that says "continue without conversion."

Posted by
4687 posts

Most Spanish banks are now charging a nominal fee to use their ATMs unless you have an account there - Santander is one of the more expensive at €5. I am currently in Spain and have been charged €2 or less per transaction, depending on which bank I have used (not Santander). I wasn’t charged when I was here in February. Sounds like you pressed the dynamic conversion button.

Posted by
18746 posts

Yes, the ATM software is getting sneakier and more aggressive year by year.

In Prague (2018) I had a couple of bank ATMs decline to complete my very modest withdrawal late in the transaction, after I had declined DCC. I wonder to this day whether the transactions would have been completed if I had accepted DCC. However, I've not seen reports about required acceptance of DCC anywhere, so I may just have been unlucky.

Posted by
4 posts

Thanks for all the replies. The maximum withdrawal at the ATM I used was 140 euros. My bank statement reads, "ATM W/D … Banco Santander Sevilla 226.85. On the next line is my bank's charge of 6.81.

Posted by
1933 posts

Here are the fees that Santander charges its own customers if they use a non-Santander ATM while traveling. Perhaps it charges (or intends to charge) those same fees to non-customers who use Santander ATMs.

But in Spain, according to this July, 2019 article there has been a problem with ATMs newly acquired by Santander, incorrectly charging their own customers the non-customer fees. Is it possible those same newly-acquired ATMs are really getting it wrong for non-Santander customers?

The article suggests that "If you have been wrongly charged, contact Santander's customer service team:" Perhaps you could contact their US Customer Service for assistance. Give them the details of what you would have estimated the Santander ATM charges to be (use their schedule of fees) and the amounts your own bank charged.

Ask Santander customer service if they can explain the difference.

Posted by
4 posts

Thanks again for all your information and about where to write about what, to me, appears to be a wildly excessive charge. I have written to their web link for messages and I will post their reply on this forum if it is still open. My ATM Euro purchase transaction occurred on Oct 16, 2019.

Posted by
2204 posts

Information I had when we were in Spain in 2017 was to use non-Spanish ATMs, in other words ATMs of foreign-owned banks,. e.g. Deutschebank.
No issues then of DCC or fees when we did this.
I do not know if this is still true.

Posted by
25587 posts

My ATM Euro purchase transaction occurred on Oct 16, 2019

That's twice you have referred to it (also in OP) as a purchase.

Does that mean that you were using a credit card instead of a debit card?

If you were using your credit card you would incur a large cash advance fee, and interest would start immediately, which you wouldn't have with a debit card. Could that be any part of the fee that is confusing?

Posted by
4 posts

I wrote to the link suggested above/below and this is their reply:

We are sorry to hear of your recent experience. Please know Santander Bank US is not integrated with Banco Santander. You may contact Santander Spain directly at https://www.bancosantander.es or at their telephone numbers in Spain: 902 24 24 24 or 91 273 70 06.

Posted by
4521 posts

Here are the fees that Santander charges its own customers if they use a non-Santander ATM while traveling. Perhaps it charges (or intends to charge) those same fees to non-customers who use Santander ATMs.

The link included for the above won't have much relevance to this issue since it goes to Santander UK, rather than Banco Santander in Spain. (As it happens it is actually totally free of fees for customers of the former to use its parent's ATMs, with a 1% forex loading).

Posted by
12 posts

The moral of the lesson: Check the banks out before using them, local and aboard, before the trip.

Not all banks are equal. For example, I found Bank of America charging way less fee with better conversion rate than PNC bank when making withdraws in Italy and Austria.

Meanwhile, Citi credit cards offer a better conversion rate but tag on more extra fee, making it less desirable than, say, Chase. Nowadays I only use no-foreign-transaction-fee credit cards such as Bank of America’s AAA credit card.

Posted by
18746 posts

You should only use an ATM card, never a credit card, in an ATM. Using a credit card in an ATM means you are taking a cash advance, which is a very expensive way to get money, just as it would be at home. I have never done that and have no idea whether a standard (close to interbank) exchange rate is used.

If you insert an ATM card in an ATM and decline Dynamic Currency Conversion (DCC)--conducting the transaction in the local currency--the conversion rate should be a non-factor.

Posted by
253 posts

Oomph! What you need is a Capital One debit card. No foreign transaction fees and foreign bank fees are refunded. I used my Capital One credit card all over Spain,including Seville, just 3 weeks ago with no issues and no extra fees. Always choose Euros not dollars and get the major bank exchange rate.

Posted by
18746 posts

Be careful about Capital One. There seem to be different types of accounts with different rules. I've had an account at Capital One for almost five years; it's my back-up ATM card. When I returned home from my trip this year, I had a notification in my mail from Capital One, stating that I would henceforth be charged substantial fees for using non-Capital One ATMs. The staff at the local Capital One office were totally clueless. I need to call and see whether there's a different type of account I can switch to.