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American Debit Cards in Europe

Looking for some advice about using American Debit Cards in Germany, Switzerland and Austria. Has anyone had any trouble getting cash this way from an ATM? I am Canadian and have not had a problem, our debit cards have symbols on the back that match certain banks that allow transactions this way--of course, for a fee. I do not know if American Debit Cards have symbols and if they do, will they match banks in these 3 countries. Now we are taking some US family with us and we are wondering if they will have a problem using their debit cards. Thanks. Jean

Posted by
5780 posts

My prefered ATM debit card for Europe is a credit union card that displays a Cirrus logo. My back up bank cards display Plus logos. I've only needed to use the credit union Cirrus card.

PS My American cards work in Canada.

Posted by
1421 posts

Make sure you inform your bank about your travel plans, otherwise they may view a European withdrawal as a security risk and suspend it.

Posted by
3491 posts

If your card has a Visa or MasterCard symbol on it, it should work at any ATM in Europe. The other emblems on the card used to mean something but no so much any more. Why I say "should" work is because it is completely dependent on the issuer of the card if they choose to let you use it outside the US. So check with your card issuer to see if it is allowed and also what type of fees they may charge so there won't be any surprises. You should also inform your issuer about travel plans, when and where you will be in Europe, so they don't freeze the accounts for suspicious activity.

Posted by
21026 posts

Over the last two years I've traveled in 9 countries in Europe. Other than a temporary block by my credit union (which hadn't correctly noted my travel plans), I've run into ATM-card refusal issues in only one country: Germany. There's at least one bank (sorry, don't remember which one) whose machines did not like my card. At all. I stopped in and talked to an employee at one of the branches, and she acknowledged that it was an issue with some foreign cards. She assured me I'd have better luck at other banks. I believe she also suggested the post office as an option, but I'm not certain about that.

The main thing is: Do not panic! There are all sorts of reasons why a card might not work at a particular time at a particular ATM (including: the ATM may be out of money!). Just go to a different ATM. If you have problems at two ATMs belonging to the same bank, that may be a sign that you need to seek out a different bank.

I spend zero time looking for ATMs with specific logos. Perhaps I'm really lucky with my two ATM cards, but with the single exception of Germany, I've never run into an ATM that didn't want to give me money. Now, some of them want to charge me a fee, but I just cancel the transaction, make a mental note of the name of the bank, and avoid its ATMs for the rest of the trip.

Yes, stuff sometimes happens; it's often on your bank's end. Always travel with contact phone numbers and/or emails for your card issuers. It's usually fixable, but it'll be fixed faster if you don't have to spend a bunch of time Googling for contact information.

Posted by
10 posts

Thanks everyone for your quick responses. The answers are about what I expected, but just wanted to have some input. Thanks again. Jean