ATMs in Spain

In September/October 2012 I had trouble for the first time getting money from a Spanish ATM mschine. We have travelled a lot in Spain and this was a disturbing first time problem. It occurred in various cities in Northern Spain, but not everywhere. About half the time I was able to get money. European friends said it was because the European Union has ordered countries to use "Chip and Pin" cards, and it seemed like other Europeans had no trouble getting money using their ATM cards in the same machine that gave me problems. Any others having this issue? What can we do because my bank will not get these chip cards until 2014????? Glenn

Posted by H J
LaGrange, Ga, USA
916 posts

My expericence has been that some bank's atms do not take my card, while others to. In Madrid, I have learned which Bank will accept it and go to it about once per day and make a withdrawal. This has been my system for several trips now and seems to work fine. I try to find the same bank atm in other cities and they also work.

Posted by Douglas
Oak Park, Illinois
2375 posts

I agree with HJ - most-times my card works, sometimes it doesn't. Never sure why and some banks seem to be the culprit. I just move along if it doesn't work. The idea of a chip & pin ATM card comes up often here, no one has ever shown evidence that it is real. Your friends likely had no issue at the same ATM because they had European banks. I'd guess that all European banks "talk" to each other nicely, whereas that might not be the case with US-Europe banks.

Posted by Nancy
Bloomington, IL, USA
7675 posts

I only had a problem with my card one time in Spain in May. That particular ATM did not take either of my ATM cards (different financial institutions). I just went next door to another machine, and it worked fine.

Posted by Brad
Gainesville, VA
7188 posts

Typically there is a series of logos on any ATM. The logos represent the different syndicates the ATM is a part of. If one of the logos on your card matches one of the logos on the ATM, you should be able to use it. A Visa or Mastercard logo on your card should work in almost every ATM. Sometimes, you may have issues that aren't related to the syndicate. You may be above your daily limit (remember it refreshes about midnight at home, not local in Europe), your bank may have put a fraud hold on your account (because they didn't expect overseas transactions - even though you called and told them), or the ATM itself could be hung up for other reasons - including being tampered with or a teller pulling transaction records, balancing the cash in the machine, and adding fresh money. I've had rare issues with ATM machines. Anytime it has happened, however, I just canceled my transaction and found the next ATM I tried worked fine.

Posted by Glenn
Frankfort, Kentucky, USA
2 posts

Douglas mentioned my real concern...the Chip and Pin card. According to what I have read, and to some European relatives, the chip and pin cards are supposed to be used all over Europe by the end of 2012. This transition has been taking place for a few years now but should be complete now. All Europeans have chip and pin cards, and when we experienced problems (for the first time after several European trips), we were told by some Europeans that it could be the chip situation. I do not know, but there seem to be only a handful of banks and credit unions in the US that now offer these cards and they are only the credit card not the debit (ATM) cards as of yet. I know some Australians that also have the chip and pin cards. It seems like we are dragging our feet on this like we have with the metric system, only this has greater potential to cause real inconvenience for travelers...if it was indeed the cause of our troubles. We have never had any problems with our ATM cards before this past trip, so everything seems to be the same except the introduction of the new type of card. Where I agree with Douglas is that you would think that someone somewhere would have warned US travelers of potential problems with their cards. I hope that it was just some fluke we experienced, but it was a bit unnerving to be running out of cash hoping to find a machine that worked for us.

Posted by T.
Seattle, WA, US
154 posts

As stated earlier, the chip-and-PIN problem is with automated machines such as ticket vending machines or gas pumpsnot with ATMs. Your mag stripe card will work in European ATMs. If an ATM rejects your card, just look for an ATM from a different bank.

Posted by Gregory
Spokane, WA, USA
105 posts

I had ATM and bank card issues the first time I traveled to Europe, but it was my fault. I neglected to notify the card companies and my bank that I would be out of the country for a specific timeframe. That seems to automatically halt any and all activity on the cards. From that point on I've let them all know the countries I was traveling to plus the dates. I haven't had a single issue since.

Posted by Nancy
Bloomington, IL, USA
7675 posts

"you would think that someone somewhere would have warned US travelers of potential problems with their cards" The reason that you don't hear warnings about this is that it is not a problem. Random problems, sure, but not related to lack of a chip.

Posted by Douglas
Oak Park, Illinois
2375 posts

To my understanding, the chip & PIN issue is for credit cards only. What you described in your second post is the use of chip & PIN for all credit cards, though in most cases one can still use a magnetic strip card. The problems are in automated machines. Your issue was with ATM machines, which use debit cards, not credit. None of us is aware of any verifiable claim that ATMs now only accept chip & PIN. It is possible of course, but given all the hysterical, inaccurate warnings by traveler bloggers about chip & PIN credit cards, I'd think we'd have heard something about ATM cards too. My guess is that you hit a bad stretch of machines that just didn't want to play nice with your bank or card. I had issues at times in Spain, but always found a machine eventually willing to give me cash.