Card at the ATMs Abroad


What do I need to know about using my Card at the ATMs abroad?

If you’re going to use your ATM card abroad, keep in mind the following:

  • Many ATM’s abroad (especially in European countries) do not accept ATM PINs that are longer than four digits. Before leaving, get in touch with your bank and make changes in your PIN, if needed.
  • Some ATM’s outside the US have only numbers on the keypad, so if your PIN is either alpha-numeric or has only letters, make sure you change the letters in your PIN into numbers before leaving the US.
  • Another important thing while traveling abroad is to know that most ATM’s will allow you to access only your primary account.
  • Always call up your bank (either the branch or customer service) and inform them about your travel. Often uninformed “foreign” purchases or repeated cash withdrawals in a foreign country through an ATM card can cause your bank to freeze your account on account of suspected fraud.
  • If you’re going to make several withdrawals using your ATM card, the fees can add up to an exorbitant amount, so our advice is- withdraw larger chunks of cash and keep it in a safe place. Also, don’t stock the entire cash in one place-it is always good to split it between your wallet, your suitcase or any other well-concealed location you can think of.
  • Also, withdraw uneven amount (90 pounds instead of 100) so you don’t have trouble breaking big bills.


Credit Cards:

Can Be Used For: Substantial payments like airline tickets, hotel bookings, meals etc.

Advantages: Credit cards generally ensure the best rates for currency exchange. Also, the currency conversion rate charged on foreign transactions made with a credit card is generally lower than that levied on purchases made through traveler’s checks.


  • Most credit card companies and banks charge currency conversion fees every time a traveler in a foreign country uses the card. VISA and MasterCards generally charge 1% on the amount spent on purchases made abroad. The credit card issuer or bank charges an additional amount as ‘foreign transactions fees’.
  • Credit cards may not be accepted everywhere.
  • If an international traveler uses his credit card to withdraw cash from ATMs, he will be charged a fee by his credit card issuer.
  • If you’re abroad for a long time and do not have anyone back home to pay your credit card bills, the charges might skyrocket!

Things to keep in mind:

  • It’s important to gain a clear idea about the charges applicable on credit card transactions in foreign lands, prior to traveling.
  • Always keep your bank informed about your visit abroad beforehand, because sudden international transactions might sound off a fraud alert system causing them to block your card.
  • Carry more than one credit card to be on the safer side, in case you lose one of them or in case one does not work abroad.
  • Travelers should attempt to find out if merchants in the country they’re traveling to offer dynamic currency conversion, and how it works.
  • As incidents of travelers being charged wrongly aren’t uncommon, it is wise to keep your eyes open while making transactions and save receipts to verify with your credit card bills later.


Debit and ATM Cards:

Can Be Used For:

Withdrawing cash in local currency


  • The convenient interbank exchange rate enjoyed by credit card users will also be enjoyed by those using Debit and ATM Cards.
  • ATMs are easy to locate in almost every country as well as at the airports.


  • You will be charged each time you withdraw cash from an ATM in a foreign country.
  • In case of fraud, Debit and ATM cards will offer lesser protection than credit cards.

Things to keep in mind:

  • As with credit cards, it is a good idea to notify the card issuer to prevent the card from being blocked due to suspected fraud.
  • It’s better to travel with Visa or Master Debit cards as they are connected with the worldwide Cirrus or PLUS networks.



Can Be Used For:

Making payments during the first few hours/ days of your travel abroad before heading for an ATM or exchange bureau or using credit cards.


Cash is perfectly handy to make small payments immediately after you land and help you in cases of emergencies.


Conversion rates are may not be good. They are also liable to fees, charges and commissions.

Things to keep in mind: It is always wise to carry some cash in the local currency. Home banks can offer better currency exchange rates than airports or exchange bureaus.


Traveler’s Checks and Check Cards


Can Be Used For: Emergencies, in cases of unavailability of cash or ATMs.


  • Perfect for use during emergencies, if ATMs are inaccessible.
  • They offer much better protection and security than cards, as they are easily replacable in cases of loss and theft.
  • Visa also offers pre-paid travel cards.


  • Travelers usually wouldn’t get the best deals in currency conversion.
  • They are not very widely accepted.
  • Commissions, shipping charges and/or conversion fees apply.

Things to keep in mind:

It’s always more advantageous to cash traveler’s checks at branches of the issuing banks abroad.


Sending Money Abroad:


Can Be Used For: Emergencies

Advantages: Money can be easily wired within minutes.

Disadvantages: Charges are applicable, depending on the amount of money wired and the time within which it is needed. Bank wire transfers or international postal money orders from the post office are less expensive options, but useful only if money isn’t required quickly.

General tips:

  • To avoid paying conversion fees several times, it is better to exchange enough money at one time to make it last at least a couple of days.
  • Some merchants abroad would prefer to be paid in dollars. You can always clarify such things before making a purchase.