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Luggage Transfer Correos

American using Debit card for ATM?

2020 Camino Guides

Aaron Baldwin

New Member
Camino(s) past & future
Frances 2018
I'm an American going on camino soon and as far as getting cash from ATMs, can i just use a regular debit card to get euros? Will the cost of converting it at the atm be minimal or should i figure out a prepaid card with euros loaded on it?
 

KJFSophie

My Way, With Joy !
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances (2014 & 2015 ),Via San Francesco, Italy (2017 )Camino Portugese (2018 )Camino Ingles(
I'm an American going on camino soon and as far as getting cash from ATMs, can i just use a regular debit card to get euros? Will the cost of converting it at the atm be minimal or should i figure out a prepaid card with euros loaded on it?
Aaron, you need to check with the bank that issues your card. I travel with two, from two different banks, on two different networks. Neither card has a fee.
Here's a few tips to be cognizant of: Try to use the ATM outside of a large bank, during hours of business. If your card gets eaten, you can go inside to resolve. Do avoid free standing ATM machines outside of small, local establishments. Try to have a 'camino friend' with you for added security. And finally, use RFID shields to protect theft of your info. Buen Camino !
 

falcon269

no commercial interests
Camino(s) past & future
LePuy, Frances, Aragones, Ingles, Vezelay, Toulosana, Muxia, Fisterra, Portugues, Sanabres
Also, you need a four-digit PIN. Six-digit PINs may work on some networks, but they may not work at all. Spanish banks will charge a fee. Your bank may refund it to you. There always will be a difference in bid/ask that generates a fee. Even if your bank says "no fee," be skeptical. There is always a fee somewhere. Changing currency is nearly impossible after you leave the airport, and it is very expensive at the airport money changers. AAA and similar sources in the U.S. charge very high fees, so using your ATM will be the lowest cost choice. There is no free lunch!!!
 

davebugg

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances (2017)
Camino Frances (2018)
Camino Ingles (2019)
A debit card is the preferred method simply because a credit card withdrawal is frequently treated as a 'cash advance' which incurs higher interest charges on the balance. Banks have different policies on what fees they charge for a debit card's use, so you need to check with your specific bank.

For myself, I have a checking account with Charles Schwab for the sole purpose of travel. It has a secured and encrypted link to my primary checking account which is at a different bank. I can transfer funds back and forth between accounts as needed. The debit card from my travel account has no ATM transaction fees for out-of-network ATMs; it automatically reimburses my account for the fees the owner of an out-of-network ATM might charge for its use; it does not charge me a currency exchange fee.

Best of all, that account was free to open, it is free from any minimum balance requirements, and there is no monthly fee to maintain the account. PLUS, it pays interest on my checking account balance.

That account was easy to open, and just to reiterate, it was FREE. Some other forum members have the same type of results with a few other banks as well, so it pays to do some financial institution shopping :)
 

KJFSophie

My Way, With Joy !
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances (2014 & 2015 ),Via San Francesco, Italy (2017 )Camino Portugese (2018 )Camino Ingles(
A debit card is the preferred method simply because a credit card withdrawal is frequently treated as a 'cash advance' which incurs higher interest charges on the balance. Banks have different policies on what fees they charge for a debit card's use, so you need to check with your specific bank.

For myself, I have a checking account with Charles Schwab for the sole purpose of travel. It has a secured and encrypted link to my primary checking account which is at a different bank. I can transfer funds back and forth between accounts as needed. The debit card from my travel account has no ATM transaction fees for out-of-network ATMs; it automatically reimburses my account for the fees the owner of an out-of-network ATM might charge for its use; it does not charge me a currency exchange fee.

Best of all, that account was free to open, it is free from any minimum balance requirements, and there is no monthly fee to maintain the account. PLUS, it pays interest on my checking account balance.

That account was easy to open, and just to reiterate, it was FREE. Some other forum members have the same type of results with a few other banks as well, so it pays to do some financial institution shopping :)
I concur. Indeed Charles Schwab has been one of my standards, without issues in any country. You can open accounts online and if you call they are very professional, pleasant and helpful . Thumbs Up !
 

Aaron Baldwin

New Member
Camino(s) past & future
Frances 2018
A debit card is the preferred method simply because a credit card withdrawal is frequently treated as a 'cash advance' which incurs higher interest charges on the balance. Banks have different policies on what fees they charge for a debit card's use, so you need to check with your specific bank.

For myself, I have a checking account with Charles Schwab for the sole purpose of travel. It has a secured and encrypted link to my primary checking account which is at a different bank. I can transfer funds back and forth between accounts as needed. The debit card from my travel account has no ATM transaction fees for out-of-network ATMs; it automatically reimburses my account for the fees the owner of an out-of-network ATM might charge for its use; it does not charge me a currency exchange fee.

Best of all, that account was free to open, it is free from any minimum balance requirements, and there is no monthly fee to maintain the account. PLUS, it pays interest on my checking account balance.

That account was easy to open, and just to reiterate, it was FREE. Some other forum members have the same type of results with a few other banks as well, so it pays to do some financial institution shopping :)
Was it just the bank checking account from charles schwab? I had looked into them before and they seemed like a good option.
 

davebugg

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances (2017)
Camino Frances (2018)
Camino Ingles (2019)
Was it just the bank checking account from charles schwab? I had looked into them before and they seemed like a good option.
You actually will have two accounts when you open with them. One is an "investment checking account" and the other is the "normal" checking account. I just fund the 'normal' one.
 

biarritzdon

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
CF11, CF12, CP13, CF14, CA15, S.Anton15, CF&CI15
Ditch Pig16, CF&CP17, CdN18, CM18, CF18, LePuy19
Make sure you have a back up card just in case something goes wrong with your primary account. Use the ATM's on weekdays when the bank is open and take out about 200 to 300 euros. Cash is king in Spain unless you are traveling luxe because most places won't take a credit card.
 

JillGat

la tierra encantada
Camino(s) past & future
C. Frances SJPP - Finisterre - Muxia (May 2016)
C. Frances (Sept 2017)
Camino Portugues (June 2019)
I put my travel money in my Charles Schwab account and withdraw money from that. As back-up, I carry a debit card connected to my regular checking account. And as further back-up, I set up a PIN on my VISA card for cash advances if I really, really need it. There have been times when each of these has come in handy.
 

jmcarp

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances, 2013
Camino del Norte a Chimayó (USA), 2015
Camino Portugues, 2017
Also remember to designate your withdrawals in the local currency to get the best exchange rate. The same is true when using a credit card overseas. Also, be aware of any limits your bank may have on ATM withdrawals. You can also ask your bank to raise the limits for a specific time period. But be aware if you have a limit of $200US for example, it will not be adequate if you wish to withdraw 200 Euros because the exchange rate typically favors the Euro vs the US$. And be sure to advise both your bank and your credit card companies of the dates of travel and the countries you'll be visiting, or else your card may be frozen.
 

JillGat

la tierra encantada
Camino(s) past & future
C. Frances SJPP - Finisterre - Muxia (May 2016)
C. Frances (Sept 2017)
Camino Portugues (June 2019)
Hey jmcarp, Off topic, but I see that you walked to Chimayo in New Mexico. How was that?
 

nycwalking

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
CF: (2001, 2002, 2004, 2014). Hospitalera: 2002, Ponferrada. 2004, Rabanal del Camino.
If you have BofA do not use.

The exchange rates and fees are high. At least they were in 2014.

Folks seem to swrar by Charles Scwab.

Buen camino to you.
 

Robert Long

Member
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances Sept 2016
Camino Portuguse Oct 2018
Just to reemphasize 1. Carry two cards from different banks 2. only use ATMs that are in the wall of a bank. DO NOT use free standing ATMs. 3. Only use ATMs at a bank which is open. 4. Withdraw the max to avoid fees. 5. Not a bad idea to have a buddy standing by, but I never felt threatened.

I did have my card eaten by an ATM. The bank teller told me the ATM mechanic would be there the next day at 2PM. In the end, after much discussion, the branch manager opened the ATM and returned my card.
Buen Camino
 

jmcarp

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances, 2013
Camino del Norte a Chimayó (USA), 2015
Camino Portugues, 2017
Hey jmcarp, Off topic, but I see that you walked to Chimayo in New Mexico. How was that?
@JillGat, see https://www.caminodesantiago.me/community/threads/camino-del-norte-a-chimayó-usa.36607/#post-352153 for my report on that walk. As mentioned in that thread, there is no established infrastructure for lodging, food, etc, so it would be difficult to do without making advanced arrangements at least for overnight lodging. Anne Sieben, who led the group I walked with, has formed a group called the Society for Servant Pilgrims which promotes pilgrimages to various religious sites such as Chimayó here in North America. See http://societyofservantpilgrims.com/chimayo/ for more up-to-date information about the Camino del Norte de Chimayó, including a suggested itinerary and lodging suggestions along the way. FYI, when we did it in 2015, we walked the opposite direction from that suggested itinerary, starting in San Luis and finishing at Chimayó.

So as not to hijack this unrelated thread, PM me using the conversations feature of this forum for any additional discussion of my experience on the route. And BTW, there is a Facebook page our group started for that Camino which contains several photographs taken along the journey -- see https://www.facebook.com/groups/1468784100118229/ .
 

Sarah Fisher

Master Traveler, Novice Walker
Camino(s) past & future
September 2018 - Camino Frances
I bank through Fifth Third. They have a small charge as do most of the ATMs in Spain. However, you will get a much better exchange rate than, say, bringing dollars to change. The best use of the fee is to know your limit and to withdraw close to that limit every time you need to re-up on cash. I also try to charge everything possible on a credit card to avoid having to take out more cash. Obviously, that probably won't happen much on the camino. But I will be taking my Capital One card. Many credit cards have a 1-3% foreign transaction fee but Capital One doesn't.

I do always stick to major banks like others have suggested. They are also more likely to have the most up to date ATMs, often with a variety of languages to choose from.
 

Sarah Fisher

Master Traveler, Novice Walker
Camino(s) past & future
September 2018 - Camino Frances
And it's been years but I've had horrible issues with prepaid cards, especially with foreign currency. I doubt it's worth the extra hassle.
 

judy jackstadt

Texas Judy
Camino(s) past & future
Spring 2017
Spring 2019
The best part about the Charles Schwab account is that it reimburses any fees. For example, sometimes an ATM can only give out a maximum of 200 Euro per transaction even though your bank at home allows you a higher limit. So you can make one 200 Euro withdrawal, then immediately make another 200 Euro withdrawal using the same card at the same ATM. The Spanish ATM gets their extra fee for the second withdrawal, but it costs you nothing! Love my Schwab account for traveling!
 

biarritzdon

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
CF11, CF12, CP13, CF14, CA15, S.Anton15, CF&CI15
Ditch Pig16, CF&CP17, CdN18, CM18, CF18, LePuy19
I got home and was reimbursed 100’s of euros but that was because I was using my BNP Paribas card at ATM’s and restaurants. There is nothing wrong with the economy in the euro zone.
 

twh

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
Frances May/June, 2018
Porto-Muxia-Finisterre Oct (2019)
My Debit card got hacked in Spain this June 2018. I only had one Debit card and was traveling "alone", did not leave home in the U.S. bringing friends and/or family.

I got a Schwab debit card just for international travel. I never use Debit cards (just credit cards) back home for 99.5% of all purchases. I have a local bank checking account Debit card in a drawer somewhere but have never carried it and don't know the PIN.

In my pre-trip research I saw the warnings about using RFID card protectors, using one hand to shade/cover the other that is inputing the ID number on the keypad and checking the card reader to insure nothing feels loose on it or looks like some kind of "add on" housing etc... Each time I used it I did all these things in addition to making sure no one was "hanging" around the ATM I was getting money from. I did not read about any warnings as I have seen in this thread about only using ATM's sharing a common wall with the bank they serve. I did use several ATM's that were not physically connected to a bank building. I had never handed this debit/credit card to another human being. It had only be removed from my wallet by me and inserted by me into an ATM and then retrieved by me and put back in my wallet. So the method for getting my banking information had to be an electronic reader that I inserted it into at an ATM on the street.

I got a text from Schwab about half way through my trip asking if a credit card charge of $1,888.25 to Vianet Diffusion 67 in Spain was from me. I replied NO and the charge was not allowed on my account. Schwab wanted to cancel my account immediately. Over the next hour on the phone I explained where I was, what I was doing, I had no address they could mail a replacement card to me in the "next 5 business days", I had no back up ATM card but did have a back up credit card that I could get a cash advance from if needed. I knew that would be expensive but I thought the odds I'd need to do that were low. I've never done that before so I looked up my PIN for that card before leaving the U.S. so I had the info necessary if I needed it.

I had to go thru 2 layers of Customer Service Reps to get to someone who could authorize deviation from their standard policy of just canceling the account, now, period. We made arrangements such that I could only use the card for the next 3 weeks at ATM's and I had to call them and be on the phone with them live while I was making my withdrawals. I was happy with that solution but I did not want to spend an hour explaining my story again the next time I needed to withdraw money so I asked that the customer service rep make copious notes on my account record so the next rep could just read it and not need me to explain it again. They confirmed they would do that but warned me I'd have to go through several layers of management/supervisor to get a NEW "OK" or approval each time I made a withdrawal in the future.

Four days later, I needed cash again. I found an ATM but before inserting my card I called Schwab and due to unexpected high volume of calls....was put on hold. When someone approached the ATM I gave up my spot because I had no idea when my call would be answered so that I could initiate my transaction. I gave up my spot in front of the ATM close to 10 times before Schwab answered my call. I looked and felt like a criminal, lurking around close to the machine, hanging out there in front of it but not doing anything. When another person came to use it, I was close by and immediately went up to the machine when they finished. That suspicious behavior was repeated over and over again. Finally I'm at the machine and I have a Schwab rep. I give them my account info and a very brief description of why I am calling and I am ready to make my withdrawal. Now I have people waiting in back of me but fortunately, the details of my situation are all typed out on the screen in front of this current customer service rep right? No. I retell my whole story. The line behind me has grown to 2 people. The Rep says I have to call my manager, can I put you on hold for a "second"? Minutes go by, the people behind me are not happy so I give up my spot. Fifteen minutes later I get a manager. He says my interpretation of the previous agreement I had with the previous manager is not going to fly. He wants to close my account right now. He asks me more security questions. He says I have 10 minutes to make one more ATM withdrawal and then the card is canceled. I get back in line, there is just one person a head of me. I put my card in the machine, and type in my transaction directions. Schwab is following live, with about a 10 second delay, on their computers, I feel like an international spy or criminal on a covert mission. But someone is waiting (or maybe spying on ME?) a few feet behind me. I asked for 600 Euros and the machine made all sorts of good noises like it was pulling all those bills together, stacking them up neatly and all that needed to happen was for that little magic door to open so the wad of bills could come rolling out. The door never opened. The screen said thank you for your transaction. I asked mission control back in the U.S. if they saw on their end what happened. I was panicked assuming 600 euros was removed from my account but was not delivered to me. Mission Control said 600 euros was NOT removed from my account. They said maybe the ATM has a withdrawal limit so I then tried 200 as the line behind me grew to 3 unhappy patrons. That did not work. Mission control said try a different ATM and your 10 minutes is almost up. WTF They don't get it, I'm in a foreign country, on foot, in a town I've never seen before and I don't speak the language. There just aren't ATM's on every block like we have back home. But, I thought I saw a bank from a distance when I walked into town earlier so I ran to that location while refusing to let Schwab hang up on me so I could call again and wait on hold for another hour. This second ATM worked, I got my 600 euros and immediately realized a new, low level anixiety was now brewing because I didn't want to carry that much cash on my body.

It all worked out but do yourself a favor and avoid this hassle and anxiety and frustration by having a second or third ATM card with you, regardless of the fees it has attached to it so you don't waste your precious Camino time doing what I did.

Check out this short article below about best "no fee" Debit cards. Schwab is #1 with no fees period and actually pays you interest on your money. Fidelity Cash Management Acct is #2 but it does have a Foreign Transaction fee, Capital One 360 is #3 but it is subject to an ATM operator fee. The fee types are discussed in the article. Good luck on your Camino.

https://www.creditkarma.com/credit-cards/i/no-fee-debit-cards-for-international-travel/
 
Last edited:

Havnen

New Member
Camino(s) past & future
First Camino, St. Frances (October, 2016)
After having my debit card and same passcode for 20+ years, I learned just before leaving the States for the Camino the ATMs in Spain would not accept a card with a passcode that began with zero. Got mine changed just before I left but kept having to remember the new one. Heads up pilgrims!
 

shefollowsshells

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
Several alone and with children
Make sure you have a back up card just in case something goes wrong with your primary account. Use the ATM's on weekdays when the bank is open and take out about 200 to 300 euros. Cash is king in Spain unless you are traveling luxe because most places won't take a credit card.
YES!!! Great advice, so repeating it so you are aware of why...
Withdrawl when bank is open so if there are issues you can get them resolved. I used my card once and the machine literally "ate" (took away) my card. Thank God the bank was open.
I too withdrawl about $200 each time I withdrawl, I chose Euros vs Dollars because I heard that was the best thing to do , though I have no real advice there
I have found that credit cards are taken way more places now then they were back on my first Camino, but it sure feels good to have money on you when they don't.
ALSO- and this is HUGE...I was having trouble on the Norte getting money at times, knowing that of course I had the money I was requesting. Upon entering the nice bank the lady actually said to me, "use the big banks" to get money out. Something to do with the smaller ones not having the same technology or something. Honestly I don't remember her reason but once I did I was fine from that point on.
 

Bala

Veteran member
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances: SJPdP-Burgos, (2015); Burgos-Sarria (2018); Sarria-Santiago (2018).
Frances (2020)
@twh , that is one heck of a story! It should certainly motivate others to take a second card.

@shefollowsshells , I think the ATMs at "small" banks don't get serviced as often and aren't stocked with as much cash. We ran into the same problem in Uganda. Not fun. It was a Monday morning and everyone kept telling us, oh they're probably out of cash from the weekend. Several towns and a bunch of banks later, we finally got some cash. o_O

Moral of the story, keep trying and look for "larger" banks.

Also, check with your home bank as to which ones they have international agreements with, and whether your card is on the same system as the ATM. Symbols will be on the card and the ATM.
 

andralynn

Member
Camino(s) past & future
I am leaving for Barcelona May 20th, 2019 and will begin my Camino in San Sebastian May 27th, 2019
Also, you need a four-digit PIN. Six-digit PINs may work on some networks, but they may not work at all. Spanish banks will charge a fee. Your bank may refund it to you. There always will be a difference in bid/ask that generates a fee. Even if your bank says "no fee," be skeptical. There is always a fee somewhere. Changing currency is nearly impossible after you leave the airport, and it is very expensive at the airport money changers. AAA and similar sources in the U.S. charge very high fees, so using your ATM will be the lowest cost choice. There is no free lunch!!!
That is a “true story”😊. When saving for the Camino
one should save an extra $500 just for fees and exchange rates.
It sucks BUT it is what it is and we can’t let that affect our journey.
Some experiences are worth the cost! Buen Camino Fellow Pilgrims.
I’ll be on the Norte next week🎉💥🎉
 
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances, 2015
I have two checking accounts at the same bank. One is normally funded at $350 and is used only for debit card use and usually only at ATMs. For the camino I didn't want the trouble of transferring funds often between accounts but I didn't want to have a fortune in the debt card account either. Before the trip the account had more funds added to it to bring it up to $1,000 and I set up a weekly transfer of $300 to it from my other account. Also, when withdrawing from an ATM I always took out the same amount so I could more easily see any fraudulent withdrawals. I used $300 but next time a more unusual withdrawal of $280 is going to be tried.
 

Mick McQueen

https://www.facebook.com/groups/
Camino(s) past & future
I am escorting the Roll of Honour (Afghanistan) on Camino France on 20 May from SJPDP
The Roll of Honour details the 41 young Australians who died on Active Service in Afghanistan. In the centenary of the ANZAC’s, the Roll of Honour will be escorted to 41 prominent places and events around the World, laying 41 Poppies at each location.
I'm an American going on camino soon and as far as getting cash from ATMs, can i just use a regular debit card to get euros? Will the cost of converting it at the atm be minimal or should i figure out a prepaid card with euros loaded on it?
All good mate just remember that there are certain ATM that won’t work with visa but the other 99% are just like any other around the world, be vigilant for skimming devices but look at the end of the day you never lose a cent as a result of any fraud with your bank cards due to fraud. Just check with your bank for processing fees
 
Camino(s) past & future
CF 2006,08,09,11,12(2),13(2),14,16(2),18(2) Aragones 11,12,VDLP 11,13,Lourdes 12,Malaga 16,Port 06
That is a “true story”😊. When saving for the Camino
one should save an extra $500 just for fees and exchange rates.
It sucks BUT it is what it is and we can’t let that affect our journey.
Some experiences are worth the cost! Buen Camino Fellow Pilgrims.
I’ll be on the Norte next week🎉💥🎉
No reason to pay any fees at all with Charles Schwab.
You get them ALL back at the end of the month!
 
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances (2018)
I'm an American going on camino soon and as far as getting cash from ATMs, can i just use a regular debit card to get euros? Will the cost of converting it at the atm be minimal or should i figure out a prepaid card with euros loaded on it?
I have both American & Canadian debit cards. The banks are Scotiabank and Bank of America. I googled for 'sister bank' relationships for these banks to identify where I would get the best fee situation. Bank of America results here. I used Deutshe Bank ATMs only while on route. I believe by using the 'sister bank' you do not get charged a 'convenience fee' for use of the ATM, though you do get charged an exchange rate that is more favourable for the bank. I never had any issues withdrawing cash. I got cash before leaving, then in Pamplona, Leon, and Burgos I believe. I carried a decent amount of cash on me, but kept only 'spending cash' in my day-wallet, and then kept the rest in a less-accessed pouch in bag along with my other important docs. I elaborate here on my pack list post. (bottom of page).
 

jmcarp

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances, 2013
Camino del Norte a Chimayó (USA), 2015
Camino Portugues, 2017
Be sure your card has a 4-digit PIN associated with it.
 
Camino(s) past & future
Frances 2017, 2018, 2019, Ingles 2018, (Madrid 2019 partial - retired hurt!) (more planned)
Can any of the posters recommending buying a RFID cover for a card cite a single authenticated report of anyone, anywhere, ever having their card details compromised remotely?
 
Camino(s) past & future
CF 2006,08,09,11,12(2),13(2),14,16(2),18(2) Aragones 11,12,VDLP 11,13,Lourdes 12,Malaga 16,Port 06
Can any of the posters recommending buying a RFID cover for a card cite a single authenticated report of anyone, anywhere, ever having their card details compromised remotely?
I bought those one year, but discarded them pretty quickly.
Never felt I needed them (yet).
 
Camino(s) past & future
Frances 2017, 2018, 2019, Ingles 2018, (Madrid 2019 partial - retired hurt!) (more planned)
I bought those one year, but discarded them pretty quickly.
Never felt I needed them (yet).
Well Annie, you made the correct evidence-based decision. At the risk of answering my own question, I do not believe that there has been a single authenticated issue - ever. A theoretical capability was demonstrated under laboratory conditions and it spawned a multi-million-dollar marketing opportunity based on fear and misinformation.
 

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