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The 10 Best ATM Safety Tips for Travel

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ATM safety isn’t something that travelers generally think about until the moment they need it. But do you really want to be caught in a bad situation where you don’t feel comfortable taking out cash? Of course, we want to talk about something more sexy, but these ATM safety tips are extremely important. While it might not be the most glamorous topic, it’s crucial to make sure your travels are smooth and stress-free. Let’s look at some quick ATM safety tips when withdrawing cash abroad.

Tip 1: Research the Banking Landscape

The first ATM safety tip seems self-explanatory, but you should research the banking landscape! Before you even board that plane, do some quick research on the most popular banks in your destination. Using reputable and widely known banks for withdrawals is smart, as they often have better security measures than smaller banks. You should also know how much you’ll need for the trip. For extra financial security, you may want to put an emergency fund that you can hide in a locked bag, separate from your wallet, just in case something happens to your wallet. Portable travel safes are easy to find and don’t take up too much space in your bag.

TIP 2: Limit Those Withdrawals

Let’s try for one to two withdrawals for the entire trip (if it’s less than seven days). While airport ATMs might hit you with a larger fee, it’s a worthy tradeoff for some people. Airports are well-lit, on camera, and usually have security guards in sight. Opt for an ATM right by the information or exchange kiosk—it’s like having extra pairs of eyes to watch your back. Of course, you should practice good cash-carrying tips and disperse your money so it’s not all in one place, keep it in secure travel safes, and break the largest bills as soon as possible so you’re not flashing someone with a big bill every time you open your wallet.

Tip 3: Trust Your Lodging’s Wisdom

Concierge-approved ATM? Yes, please. It’s usually a good sign if your trustworthy accommodation recommends an ATM. The lodging staff usually know the local scene and have some reason to be invested in your safety. It would reflect poorly on them if they told you about an unsafe ATM. However, our policy is always to stay ready, so you don’t have to get ready. If you have a gut feeling not to trust your accommodation’s recommendation don’t!

TIP 4: The More Light, the Better

When it comes to ATM locations, lighting is key. If the selfie doesn’t look good in that light, you can’t be doing that. So, stick to well-lit and visible areas. If an ATM is hiding in a dark corner or an obscured area, steer clear. Avoid hours before dawn and after dusk. Opt to withdraw from an ATM during well-lit business hours when the sun’s on your side.

Woman using an Automated Teller Machine
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TIP 5: Pin Code Safety

Your PIN is sacred—memorize it like that one song you learned every word to in middle school. And when it’s time to punch it in, keep those numbers covered. With your hand over the keypad, your secret will stay more hidden than Gossip Girl’s identity (low bar, we know).

TIP 6: Card Stickiness Alert

Do you have a huge fear of your card getting stuck in the slot? We do, too! Try using an ATM someone else just used. If they got their card back without a hitch, the chances of you getting your card back are better.

TIP 7: Beware of “Helpers”

You know those overly helpful strangers? The ones that appear out of thin air next to the ATM? Red flag! Politely decline their services and keep your transaction to yourself. If you don’t feel comfortable, you can always cancel the transaction and go to another ATM.

TIP 8: Keeping Your Space

Personal space applies to ATMs, too. Make sure the people behind you aren’t crowding you, and if something feels off, trust your gut and find another ATM.

TIP 9: Quick Cash, Quick Move

Once you get your cash, resist the urge to count it right there. Put it away ASAP. Get that bread, put it in your bag, then leave. Just leave.

Tip 9.1: Try withdrawing cash using the visiting country’s local currency, not my currency of origin. Sometimes, if you’re billed in your home country’s currency, the exchange rate can be higher than if you just accepted the local currency. There could also be additional foreign transaction admin fees. So, opt for the local currency and let your bank handle the exchange fairly to make the most of your money.

TIP 10: Know Your Bank’s Rules

Before you fly, get cozy with your bank’s ATM fees. Knowing what you’re dealing with financially can save you from unpleasant surprises. Tip 10.1: Remember to inform your bank about your travel plans to avoid any unexpected issues that might require you to be without funds.

Bonus tip for Seasoned Travelers

If you travel frequently, consider creating a separate bank account with a limited amount for withdrawals while traveling. This can help protect your finances if your card is stolen, as someone can only access the limited amount you keep in the account.

ATM Safety Tips

So, whether you’re strolling through dimly lit cobblestone paths or savoring the last bit of your street food, following these ATM safety tips can help you in a bind.

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