3 mins

The rules of using ATMs abroad

Perpetual traveller Andy Graham reveals everything you need to know about using ATMs safely and smartly on your travels

ATM (Andy Graham)

Experienced travellers stopped carrying traveller cheques over 10 years ago. The ATM card is the standard way world travellers get cash from banks. Having said that, there are ‘rules’ you should follow when using an ATM on your international travels.

1. Experienced travellers know that ATMs ‘eat’ bank cards. Never make more than two attempts to receive cash. This is when the machine will eat the card, and it is possible that your bank at home will deactivate the card. These are protections implemented by banks, but they can also work against you if you are not careful.

2. Never guess your PIN (personal identification number). You either know it, or you do not. And if you are going to guess, only try two times in one session, and only one time per day per machine. It is debatable how many times you can try per day, but the solution is to never guess. Know your PIN.

3. Do not walk back to your hotel after withdrawing money from an ATM. If you can, take a taxi. Remember: criminals want an easy mark. They need a window of time when you are alone to mug you. Another option is to walk home with friends.

4. Do not use an ATM machine after sunset.

5. Guard your PIN number as carefully as you would back home. Point your back directly at the person behind you so he or she cannot do "shoulder surfing" and see your PIN or bank information, such as your balance.

6. Carry two ATM cards from separate banks.

7. Store your two ATM cards in separate locations in your room.  And do not carry both of them with you when you are out walking around.

8. Do not use third-party, non-bank machines, such as the stand-alone machines they are putting in gas stations and convenience stores. If this type of machine does eat your card, it will be almost impossible for you retrieve it quickly.

9. Take out the maximum amount of money. The international fees are very high, and you do not want to risk using the ATM too often. You need to know the limit at your home bank and the limit locally.

10. Use only machines in front of an actual bank during business hours. If, for any reason, the machine does eat the card, you can retrieve it with the help of the bank staff. 

11. Do not use an ATM that feels or looks a bit strange. If it is broken, damaged, too rough, or the doors are broken, do not use it.

12. Do not count your money at the machine. What are you going to do if it is wrong? If you want to count it, count it inside the bank or at home. Thieves love it when they, too, can count your money, or maybe even grab it from your hand.

13. Once you've been to the bank, return directly to your hotel.

14. The best time to use the ATM is 10-11am. The machine has been serviced by the bank, and (hopefully) the criminals have not yet arrived.

15. Watch a person in front of you use the ATM. That way you can guarantee the machine is tested and working properly.

The Rules of TravelVeteran world traveller, Andy Lee Graham, has travelled non-stop for 16 years. in his book, The Rules of Travel he gives his simple, hard-learned rules for getting your needs met in any country in the world. It is available on Amazon now.

For more information about Andy and his travels, visit hobotraveler.com.

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