Why doesn’t my ATM card work in this country?

It’s one of a traveler’s greatest fears. They arrive at a country’s international airport and the ATM machine won’t give them cash in the local currency. What do you do? How do you get money for your trip? Let me tell you, I’ve been there and when you’re at that moment it is scary.

For starters, we all know that the Charles Schwab debit card is the best atm card tool in a traveler’s wallet, but it is only one of many cards that can be used in ATMs. We’ve given you the full breakdown of how to change your currency and what the best travel credit cards are, today we’re covering the biggest ATM issues you can come across as you travel.

2 quick personal ATM horror stories

Story 1 – The same ATM machine

My wife and I were on vacation in Argentina and we both went to a local ATM to collect some cash. I went first with my Bank of America card, which had been my travel ATM card for years, and the ATM machine accepted my passcode but refused to give me money. I did notify them before I left so I was pissed. Note that I no longer have money with Bank of America. My wife, on the other hand, stepped up with her card from a different bank, and viola! She was able to take money out! But without her, I would have had a crisis on my hands.

Story 2 – India Arrival

My India trip came up long after my first out-of-country vacation, and it’s a good thing it did. I alerted my ATM companies that I was going on vacation and they all told me the same thing. They told me that I don’t have to tell them anymore. When I arrived at Delhi airport I expected to use the ATMs at the airport immediately and successfully. They wouldn’t give me my money. I have 3 ATM cards now just for this travel purposes. 1 main card and 2 backups. My main card said that I would be limited to a $6 withdrawal, the second and third cards just showed “failure” on the machine. I tried this at multiple machines and received the same messages. Luckily I also had cash back up so I used that until I could find a better solution.

The point is that ATM cards sometimes fail on vacation and backups are important.

3 Ways to Solve the ATM not giving me money problem on vacation

Option 1: Identify the largest banks in the country that you are in and visit one of their ATMs. Yes, this can often solve your ATM problems because the smaller banks’ ATM is too basic to process your foreign transaction. The larger banks do business across the world and having those connections means that their backend and software are more prepared for your transaction. In fact, this is how I solved my issue in India. The larger banks shockingly did not have ATMs at the airport, but around the corner from my first hotel, they did. Using them resolved my issue and I got my money.

Option 2: Call your bank. They have toll-free international numbers, listed by country, that allow you to get in contact with them. This is the age of the internet, look those numbers up if they aren’t on the back of your card and dial. Unlike calling from home I find that the hold time is reasonable when in a foreign country. If you don’t have a phone, you can still dial them through an internet phone, like WhatsApp, anywhere that wifi is available. When you have them on the line get an explanation as to why it isn’t working and ask for a solution. Worst case, it just won’t work and you’ll need a new solution.

What If I can’t get money from an ATM while on vacation?

Option 3+: Go another way. Phone home. Yes, get the ultimate bailout. Or wire yourself cash then convert the cash over to local currency through a local bank. You can instead do activities and eat places where your credit cards are welcome, you can stop doing activities where cash is required altogether. This is the hardest one to work with, so make sure you have backups to make your trip great!

Conclusion: ATMs that reject your ATM card on vacation

Not being able to get money from an ATM on vacation is a terrible, horrible experience. Plan ahead. Reduce stress by having a few backup plans to get cash – your own cash in your pocket is a good start, reliable credit cards help, and places that will give you cash back from credit card purchases. Nobody wants to be stuck somewhere foreign with no money, so be careful out there.