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ATM card just for trip??

Ok, we haven't ever used an ATM card and only own one credit card. (We have absolutely no debt and pay cash and/or pay off the one credit card in full each month...gets airmiles so we will be flying all 5 of us for free!!) As I am reading, it sounds like ATM's are best over in Europe? So should I just call around to my local banks (live in rural East Texas) and see what their foreign fees are and then just open a "Europe" account and get an ATM card and use that to get cash as well as our credit card for bigger purchases?

Chritine

Posted by
7205 posts

Yes. Check with your local Credit Union(s) as they usually have lower fees. Just verify they they actually DO allow their members to withdraw from foreign ATMs. On of our local Credit Unions is so small they don't even offer that service.

Posted by
9363 posts

I would also highly suggest a credit union. Mine charges nothing for foreign ATM withdrawals, unlike many banks that are reported to have per-use fees and conversion charges. The European ATM won't charge you - just make sure of what your own account will charge, if anything.

You might also inquire about having your daily withdrawal limit raised for the duration of your trip if you think you will need more than the limit at any point. And make sure they know when you are traveling so that they expect withdrawals from outside the country.

Posted by
11 posts

Christine, I would also advise you to get an ATM card prior to your trip. I actually did just that before a recent trip to Paris, and I'm very happy I did. In fact, my flight home was canceled due to the ash cloud so I needed to get some money for the extra day there. It's worth it even if you only use it once. That being said, I opened a checking/ATM account with Bank of America. They don't charge withdrawal fees if you use the ATMs of their European partner: BNP Paribas. They were all over Paris; you can check their website to see if they have them where you're going. Enjoy your trip!

Posted by
11996 posts

Yes,

Except you really don't want an ATM card, you want a debit card.

An ATM card is designed for using at ATM machines. Each card belongs to different syndicates indicated by logos on your card. You can use the card at machines that subscribe to the same syndicates/have at least one logo in common with your card.

A debit card can either be used at an ATM or used to purchase goods like a credit card (payment comes out of your checking account though) because they also have a Visa or MasterCard logo on them.

I don't recommend using your debit card for anything other than cash at ATMs but having the Visa or Mastercard logo allows you to use virtually any ATM in Europe rather than hunting for a machine that will take your card.

I'd recommend USAA Federal Savings Bank (open to anyone) if you are just going to open an account for the trip but there are probably other good options too (military credit unions usually have friendly rules for foreign transactions).

Hope this helps. Have a great trip.

Posted by
107 posts

I'll check into credit unions and we are members of USAA, so I'll check into that as well. Thanks everyone.

Christine

Posted by
143 posts

I have an HSBC debit card (Mastercard) and have had no problem getting cash from ATMs in Europe. I understand that many German businesses do not take US credit cards so it looks like I will need to use that Debit card frequently and get cash next month. My wife carries one as well just in case the card gets defective.

Posted by
1064 posts

Don't sweat the difference between an ATM card and a debit card. I am sure Brad is correct that there is a difference, but the limited use cards must be very rare or more common in some regions than others. All the cards I have ever seen carry a Visa logo. Everyone I know, even those who work at banks and credit unions, uses the terms interchangeably, and I have never seen an ATM/debit card that could not be used to withdraw cash from an ATM and pay directly for purchases. The only difference is that the deduction comes out of my checking account the same day instead of being billed to me later. In any case, like most people when traveling, I use a credit card mainly for hotel bills and other large purchases, and use the debit card only at ATMs to withdraw cash for daily expenses.

I second the suggestion that you get a second ATM card, preferably from a different bank or credit union in case the bank's computer is down when you need to withdraw cash. (It has happened to me.) If you don't mind carrying the extra plastic, you might also get a second credit and store both it and the second debit card in a separate location, just in case the first is lost or stolen.

Posted by
20 posts

I suggest ensuring your card has a chip. Many ATMs and pay-by-card machines (POS and at train stations in Italy and France we've experienced) don't accept foreign cards without a chip.

Posted by
9363 posts

Sarah, chipped cards are generally not available in the US. American Express offers chipped credit cards (but AE is not accepted in as many places as Visa or Mastercard). It's true that gas pumps and such might not take a non-chip card, but you can pay inside (or at a ticket counter) with a magnetic strip card just fine. And I have never seen an ATM that required a chipped debit card.

Posted by
9107 posts

I would suggest two debit cards - one for you and one for your travel partner. That way, if something happens to one card you still have the other for back up.

I will repeat that it is VERY important to let your financial institution (I use a credit union) know where and when you will be traveling. Also inform your credit card company. I suggest getting the phone number for their fraud departments. If they freeze your account for suspicious use you will be able to contact them. It happened to me. I had notified my credit union that I would be traveling, but for some reason the information did not get passed on to the fraud department. They called my house. That doesn't do much good when you aren't there! My brother who was housesitting told them I was in Europe. He gave me the number to call so I could get it straightened out. In the meantime I didn't have access to my money.

Posted by
2876 posts

Just to elaborate on what Andrea says, be sure to tell your CC companies each country you'll be in, including countries you'll just be in just briefly such as for changing planes. Anywhere you might concievably use your card.

Posted by
1131 posts

Because credit card companies will call the main number connected to your account, and because for most older (. . . sigh) folks that is your home telephone number, you might want to sign up for call forwarding on your home phone and forward those calls to a cell you'll have with you. Or, if you get a lot of calls on your home phone that you'd just as soon not get at expensive rates while out of the country, you can forward your home phone to a voicemail only service. For example, I have a google voice account and can forward my home number to that number. Google voice can be set to send me: 1) a text message with google's attempt to transcribe the voicemail message left, and/or 2) an email with the same thing. Because I keep my cell on while traveling, that ensures I get an almost instantaneous notification of the call, but without disturbing me at the wrong time of day and at much lower cost.

Posted by
6 posts

AAA has a Visa Travelmoney card which does not charge an International Fee. It is a reloadable card, and you can set up a pin to withdraw cash. If you go to your local AAA you can get more information, or go on their website.

Posted by
2876 posts

Roy, there is a significant difference between an ATM card and a debit card. Each requires a PIN to withdraw cash, but a debit card does not require a PIN to make purchases.

Therefore a thief could clean out your debit card account without having to know your PIN.

Posted by
1568 posts

Be sure to notify your bank (call the number on back of ATM/Debit Card not your local bank) of you departure date and your return date. Also advise them the countries you will be visiting.

Posted by
97 posts

I work retail and have only once seen an ATM card without a Visa or Mastercard logo on it. If it has the logo, our system will take it. Obviously this is just in the states, but I'm sure that the cards with the logos will work as everyone else has said to make purchases at stores in Europe as well. Nearly all banks and credit unions issue cards with either a Mastercard or Visa logo.

Posted by
1064 posts

I did a Google search on "ATM vs Debit Card" and found an interesting, current discussion of this topic on the Fodor's Forum at
http://www.fodors.com/community/europe/up-to-date-atm-vs-debit-card-info-please.cfm

Several people in that discussion had not been able to get their ATM-only cards to work at ATM machines in Europe. I don't like the idea of using one forum to recommend a posting on another, but these two do seem to tie together.

Posted by
2876 posts

Even though ATM-only cards are inherently more secure than debit cards, they're difficult to find anymore. Banks have pretty much phased them out in favor of debit cards because debit cards make more money for the bank.

At least this is what I've found.