Imagine, you are at the airport visiting an ATM station to acquire money for your vacation and you get the message that no traveler wants to see on an ATM machine, “Your card has been retained. Temporarily out of service.” In other terms, this ATM has ate your debit card and is now out of service.
This happened to me in Bolivia (See my full story HERE) and with no prior experience dealing with something like this. Add being outside of the comforts of home and in a new country, I found myself learning very quickly how to navigate this situation.
No one wants to be in the situation I was while traveling and I hope you aren’t but in passing down my experience and tips below of what to do if an ATM eats your card as well as tips on withdrawing money from ATM’s abroad, I hope you can be prepared for even the worst of situations while traveling.
What To Do If An ATM Eats Your Debit Card
- Breath! Yes, its frustrating. Yes, this may mean time sorting out the situation during your holiday but it can and will be sorted out.
- Take pictures of the machine including the telephone number to call and the message that may appear on the screen.
- Take notes of the location of the ATM, the time and date the incident happened so that you can share these details when you make a report to the bank or ATM provider.
- Call your debit card provider to freeze your account and set up alternative options to replace your card such as expediting a card to be sent to your holiday destination or to your home if you have other options to cover costs/get access to cash during your trip. (When this happened to me in Bolivia I was traveling alone and still had 3 months on the road before I returned home. Sending a debit card to my home wouldn’t help me and I knew I would need access to cash. I was advised to see if the bank could retrieve my debit card as this would be the easiest way to get access to a card based off my travel situation.)
- Call the bank or phone number found on the ATM machine to explain your situation and ask what steps you should take to retrieve your card. In my case, I was told to visit a branch in the city to report my issue. Keep in mind every case will be different so stay patient and be friendly with staff as this goes a long way in expediting situations like this.
- Withdraw money from your credit card If you have a cash back option (Cash back allows you to withdraw money) to hold you over until your debit card situation is fixed. (SEE #1 IN “TIPS FOR WITHDRAWING MONEY FROM AN ATM ABROAD” BELOW FOR MORE DETAILS ON THIS.)
- Best of luck and again, don’t let this set back ruin your trip!
Tips For Withdrawing Money From An ATM Abroad
- Always have a plan B even before beginning your trip such as contacting your credit card provider to set up the cash back option on your card . Credit cards can act as debit cards in emergencies. Interest rates on cash withdrawals on credit cards are much higher then other purchases made on the same card and there may be a fee for taking out cash as one does with debit cards on ATM’s but in an emergency you will be willing to use this. (When setting up cash withdrawals be sure to ask the credit card representative about interest rates, fees, etc. to better understand how this works for your card.)
- Inform your bank and credit card company of your upcoming travel plans to ensure they don’t freeze your account. You should have no problems using a credit or debit card abroad.
- Check the logos on your card and ensure the ATM you are using has one of the logos such as Visa. This will ensure you have better chances of not having your card eaten by the ATM.
- Pick an ATM that is connected to a bank. This will make it easier to speak to someone or go to a local branch should your card be ate, the requested amount is not withdrawn by the ATM machine or any other issues come up.
- Use your credit card. Most places in the world are becoming cashless so you may not even need cash all together.
(TIP: When making purchases if you are offered to convert the amount to your home currency ALWAYS turn it down. The conversion rates by your bank will always be better.)
The trick with credit cards is selecting the best credit card for travel which offers no foreign transaction fees or interest rates and as a result will help bring costs down while traveling. Shop around for which card has the perks you want. See below some useful articles that compare these credit cards.