SKIP THE BANK FEES AND ATM CHARGES ABROAD

NOMADSofORIGIN l Skip the ATM Charges Abroad

If you don’t carry a suitcase full of cash, here’s how to avoid the additional charges of using your plastic payment to get a hold of the local currency

Words: Aleksandra Georgieva

Photography: Erin Hervey, Taylor Brandon

21 October 2020

 

Nowadays travelling without worrying over having enough local cash on hand has become easier than ever. Without the need to wander far and wide, travellers can easily use ATMs to get a hold of the local currency. We no longer need to stuff a backpack’s hidden pockets with cash when we travel to most countries. However, the modern method of currency exchange can add up quite a lot to your overall travel costs.

Avoid the common mistakes people make when withdrawing money from cash machines in foreign countries, which add inflated fees causing you to lose the exchange rate. Here are our secrets to saving your money to spend in the local destination rather than paying bank fees.

To start off, we are answering the ever standing question of whether or not travellers should choose the local currency – yes, you should! Unfortunately, both independent and bank-owned ATMs often use the currency exchange scam to confuse you into giving your money away to them. The simple truth is that on a long journey you will inevitably lose money on fees and bad exchange rates, but you are able to lower your losses, if you know how.

NOMADSofORIGIN l Skip the ATM Charges Abroad

 

 

To start off, we are answering the ever standing question of whether or not travellers should choose the local currency – yes, you should! Unfortunately, both independent and bank-owned ATMs often use the currency exchange scam to confuse you into giving your money away to them. The simple truth is that on a long journey you will inevitably lose money on fees and bad exchange rates, but you are able to lower your losses, if you know how.

When you pop in your pin and the amount you wish to withdraw from an ATM, the machine will ask you whether you wish to convert to your ‘home currency’ or be charged at the ‘local currency’ at the machine’s ‘lock in’ exchange rate. If you choose ‘home currency’, the machine will fit you with a fixed and false exchange rate that will make you give your money away to the bank or ATM’s owner. To avoid additional charges, always choose the local currency. That way your account will be charged for the correct exchange rate of the day of the withdraw.

That being said, we also advise travellers to only use bank-owned ATMs where possible. Even if you are using a card that doesn’t charge you withdraw fees, the ATM machine might try to scam you for money. Bank-owned cash machines might still charge you some money, but chances are they give you a better chance at avoiding the additional withdraw fee that is separate from your own bank fees. Instead of seeking a national bank, try using a local bank’s ATMs for avoiding additional fees at most times. Private company owned ‘independent ATMs’ are the ones you must avoid at all costs. These machines are usually common at train stations, airports and tourist spots – charging huge withdraw fees while adding additional terrible exchange rates, costing you plenty of money you could otherwise spend on your travel.

At last, we recommend you find a good bank card that does not charge for withdraws from a foreign ATM. Traditional cards usually charge a fixed fee or a percentage of the cash you withdraw. A popular option for saving yourself fees for accessing your own money abroad are the pre-paid cards. These offer reduced fees on withdraws but can sometimes still cost you in exchange fees. Fortunately, recent years have been kind to travellers with start-up fintech banks offering user-friendly, app-based banking technology. Our favourites include Starling, which offers great exchange rates and no withdraw fees at foreign ATMs; or Revolut with free withdraws from international ATMs under £200 per month, charging a 2% fee once you hit that allowance.

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