7 Steps To Using An ATM Abroad

7 steps to using an atm abroad

Every day, someone asks how they should go about getting local currency while traveling. Most people think the best way is to exchange money at the bank before leaving home. Others think they should exchange it at the airport in their home country. And the last group thinks they should exchange it at the airport when they arrive at their destination.  Well, I’m here to tell you that all of those choices are WRONG!!! So, how do you get local currency? Using an ATM abroad will give you the best rates and fewer fees! 

7 Steps To Using An ATM Abroad

ATM machines are your #1 source for obtaining local currency at your destination 99% of the time. Of course, there are always exceptions to this rule. You should do a little research (as always) before you leave home to be 100% sure. However, in my travels, I’ve yet to come across a country that I’ve not been able to use this method. I imagine, if you’re reading my blog, that you’re in the same boat. You probably won’t be heading to Outer Mongolia or Everest Base Camp anytime soon but even if you are you may be surprised by the places that have ATMs.  So, here are 7 Steps to using an ATM Abroad.

Step 1: 

Alert your bank of your travel plans. The worst thing in the world is having your card frozen because they think you’re a victim of fraud. It happened to me in Canada as I was trying to buy some Lay’s Ketchup Chips and various other Canadian delicacies, lol! I had to stand to the side and call my bank over $6 worth of junk food. So, do yourself a favor – alert your bank online or by calling customer service.

Step 2: 

If you’re worried about theft, open a travel checking account that has a separate ATM card from your normal accounts. This way, you can move over small amounts of money as you need it. Then, if your card is compromised, the jerks won’t get all of your money and you have something to live off until you return home. While this is a real concern, if you use a reputable ATM, the chances of this happening are slim to none.

Step 3:

Now that your bank knows you’re traveling and your accounts are sorted, it’s time to use the ATM! But… which ATM should you use? I always use the ATM at the airport in high-traffic areas. While using any ATM, lookout for loose or ill-fitting parts that might not be part of the machine – these could be ATM skimming devices. Also, don’t EVER let anyone assist you – they’re probably picking your pocket. Anyway, if you’re worried about using the airport machines then go to a local bank (during banking hours) where the ATMs are inside. If you don’t have any cash for transportation upon arrival, buy your train/bus/shuttle tickets online before you leave home.

Step 4: 

Be prepared with currency conversions BEFORE you even step up to the ATM. You don’t want to be “THAT” person fumbling around while the line grows behind you. If you want to take out the equivalent of $100 in Croatia, know how much $100 USD is in (HRK) Croatian Kuna. It’s best to have a currency converter on your phone for quick, easy access. My favorite app – for Android – is Currency Plus as it comes with the converter and a calculator so you can easily switch between the two. Also, this is a big help when you’re shopping and you want to add up your items and calculate the total.

7 steps to using an atm abroad convert

Step 5: 

Know the daily (24-hour) withdrawal limits for your bank and the specific country. Some banks allow a $300 – $500 limit but that may only be at your bank at home. Look up the country you’re visiting to find out their daily withdrawal limits in advance to avoid any mishaps. 

Step 6:

Know your bank’s international transaction and service fees. Remember these fees as they’re important if you want to withdraw the full daily limit so calculate accordingly. Luckily, most places in the world take credit cards so there’s no need to walk around with wads of cash. But, you should plan your cash spend to reduce the need for multiple transactions. A little money for snacks, transportation, and souvenirs is pretty much all you’ll need. 

Step 7:

So, you’ve got your card, your conversions, and you know your limit but is there something you’re forgetting? What’s your PIN number? Is it a series of numbers or is it a word? Some ATMs don’t have letters on the keypad. So now what? Figure out the corresponding numbers before you start your transaction or have a picture of a keypad with letters on your phone. This is, yet another, know before you go tip. Not all ATMs are alike so it’s best to be prepared just in case.

7 steps to using an atm abroad

Final Steps:

It seems like you’re ready to, finally, withdraw some cash! With these 7 steps, you’re now prepared to use the ATM abroad! After you get your money, don’t forget to grab your card, your receipt, and make sure your transaction is complete. Now, go enjoy your trip! If you need tips on what to pack, check out these 5 Travel Essentials You Can’t Live Without.


Do you use ATMs abroad? What are your experiences good or bad? Tell me about it in the comments and don’t forget to pin this post for later!







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    • Vian
    • August 20, 2017

    I arrived Buenos Aries on sunday and many atms were out of money. So I was unable to shop at the Sunday flea market. They also accepted euros but not coins so the $2 coins were worthless, and I happen to have very few euros. The other confusion was the atms showed Argentine pesos with $ so I thought maybe it was trying to convert my transaction to USD due to the US card. I learned later $ is used for their peso.

    1. Reply

      Hi Vian, ATMs being out of cash is a real thing in many parts of the world. It’s best to do your research (as I’m sure you did because I KNOW you know your stuff) before you go. However, you just never know what you’re going to get when you arrive even with research. I love your story about the $ pesos! I probably would have thought the same thing, lol! Thanks for stopping by!

  1. Reply

    There’s nothing wrong with being prepared before you get there! We haven’t had any issues with ATM machines not working, thankfully. We’ve used credit cards for train/bus/shuttle tickets upon arrival but I know in some places, that’s not an option. So, we try to use Uber or other ride sharing apps because we avoid taxis like the plague!

  2. Reply

    I only just thought to use an ATM during my last trip. It saved me so much time and money! I love that you’ve thought to share some tips on this.
    And I agree with another comment on here – uber And other rideshare apps are extremely helpful as well.

    1. Reply

      Thank you, Bethanee. My first big trip abroad with my husband we lost about $200 in exchange fees. So, we quickly figured out a different way to get money. Uber and other rideshare apps are definitely helpful as they save time and money.

    • jin
    • August 26, 2017

    These are all great tips and advice! I’m an avid ATM user when traveling, and it’s always important to make sure you take the right steps for protecting yourself. Thank you for sharing this post!

    1. Reply

      Thanks, Jin. Yes, it is very important to protect yourself and your money while you’re on the road. Thanks for stopping by!

  3. Reply

    Good tips. I called each of my banks a while ago and found out what their international ATM fees were and currency conversion fees because I found that there was a BIG difference between what the individual banks charge like you mentioned. So now I use my PayPal Debit card as much as possible because it has the lowest fees, but still notify all my banks. I had an idea a while back – and I re think about it each time I have to call all 3 banks and stay on hold with customer service to alert them of my travel plans. I have apps for each bank on my phone. Can’t I just “check in” on each app when I arrive in a country and then they’ll know? I’m asking for too much from our antiquated banking system. Maybe down the road. πŸ™‚

    1. Reply

      Haha, calling the bank is the worst! I don’t know what banks you have but I’m able to enter my travel info online with dates and locations for multiple trips. It’s so much easier than being on hold with customer service. You, definitely, have to make sure your bank doesn’t charge insane fees for using the ATM in other countries. Most banks fees are pretty nominal depending on the card, location, and what ATM you use. Good for you for taking the time to make sure you were getting the best deal. No one likes to lose money, especially while traveling. πŸ˜‰

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