I am aware that some have taken offense of the comments about Finland posted by my wife Lynda. Please be aware that we had traveled to quite a few countries prior to visiting Helsinki. And we had taken travelers checks with us as recently as two years ago on a trip to Sweden and had no trouble using them. Just to let you know I did have a problem using an ATM card on a previous trip.We were in Vienna and my ATM card was eaten at a bank machine. Upon entering the bank, the Austrians told us that every week their machine takes ATM cards from visitors if there is any glitch in the system between their bank and America. We have heard of this problem from other frquent travelers. It is unwise to rely on an ATM solely because it too presents problems. If you can go to a travelers check center which are in many big cities in Europe then you get a fair exchange in your money. We were ripped off, since there was no center in Helsinki. We do not like to pay the 3% added on fee for credit card use on small purchases. We had quite a bit of currency in our money belts of the countries that we were traveling through. The high prices in Finland were more than we had figured on when we did our planning. The Austrians were very apologetic, but the people we met in Finland could care less and gave the impression that they really weren't thrilled with having a lot of tourists in their country. We were told that their country is very clean, pristine and that they like it without all the tourist buses that come poouring into visit. Believe it or not you can lose your card very quickly and the bank will not give it back to you. When you return to your bank in America then you can retrieve it. It is a HUGE inconvenience and makes you aware that nothing is foolproof. I know many of you will think we were a very small minority who lost an ATM that has a healthy supply of money in the account but we are part of a growing part of travelers that know an ATM is not without problems.
Linda, I am sorry you and your husband had such problems. I've not been to Finland but I have been to almost every other country in Europe, and have used ATM cards for as long as it has been possible to do so. Never had a problem. If this is a growing problem, as you state, this is the first I have heard of it. Is this a fact or just anecdotal? I always take ATM cards for 2 different accounts with me, so if I lose one to a hungry bank machine it is not fatal.
We haven't used Travellers cheques for at least 10 years. If you were able to use them in Sweden 2 years ago (surprisingly) I wonder what you were charged for that convenience.
We know that ATMs are not without problems, but I'd like to know how you know that this problem is "growing". You're right that nothing is foolproof, which is why we recommend taking cards from more than one source, and having some cash in reserve as backup. But many times ATM problems happen because the customer didn't inform their bank that they would be traveling. Then when they see charges from a foreign country, they lock the account (that's the "glitch in the system"). This system can be annoying and inconvenient but is there for your protection.
Personally, I'd rather take the 3% hit on a credit card purchase than take less than 50 cents on the dollar for a travelers check. A little homework could have saved you some big problems.
Even allowing for problems with an ATM card, a little independent research would have showed that travelers checks are virtually worthless in Europe nowadays. I'd much rather take a 3% premium on a credit card than sink money into a now almost obsolete form of currency.
Or take a Capital One credit card with No foreign transaction fee.
No one is saying an ATM is without problems. But there are precautions you can take in advance of your trip to ensure you continue to have access to your cash so you can avoid the hassle of travelers checks.
For instance, prior to leaving for my trip I obtained a second ATM card linked to my accounts in the United States. I brought both ATM cards with me (keeping them in separate locations) on the off chance one ATM card was damaged, lost or stolen.
I also notified my bank and credit card companies of my travel plans by telling them what countries I would be visiting and the approximate dates of travel in those countries. This way, they had advance warning that any ATM withdrawals in the countries I listed were likely made by me, and were not a result of fraud or theft, so the machines would not arbitrarily eat my ATM card.
I went online in advance of my trip and jotted down the names of European banks that are part of the same Plus or Cirrus system as my U.S. Bank for each city I was planning to visit. These were the ATMs that I would use.
If you have a pin number that you memorize because it spells out a word, memorize the numeric equivalent. Not all European cash machines have both numbers and letters on the keypads. This can help avoid having your card eaten by a machine.
I go to Europe every summer and travel around different countries. I spent time in Helsinki in 2006 and found the people very friendly and the prices lower than in most of the rest of the Scandinavian countries having been in all of them in the last three years. I always take at least 2 ATM debit cards from different financial institutions just in case. I do not take travelers checks, and do not know anyone personally who does as they have really fallen out of acceptance in so much of Europe. I also do not take any European money with me from the US and use ATMs exclusively. Maybe I am just lucky to have found the friendly folks in Finland and accepting ATMs. Better luck next time. Happy travels-
Having been to Helsinki and other parts of Finland three times in the last few years ,I can say I have had no problems with ATMs or with the Finns .They are lovely people . To make broad generalizations about the people of this strong, great country is absolutely unfair.
I have used ATMs in 7 other European cities in the past 10 years without issues . No one uses travellers cheques anymore . I travel with an additional credit card for emergencies . This said ,when leaving your own country it is always good to be aware of policies of other countries ,particularly about financial issues, so as to be better prepared.
Sari, It might be because you are posting about a thread that is 7 years old?
Boy, do we need a thread 'lock' on here!