Using ATM in Spain

One hears many stories.

Below is the summary of what I have been told about using ATM’s in Spain:

–It comes with a cost. You will be charged a fee of $5 for using an ATM abroad.

-Unless you use an ATM that is partnered with your bank, you will have to pay the $5 fee, and perhaps additional fees – like a small percentage of your withdrawal, depending on your bank’s policy

-Did I mention that you will be charged additional fees for using a non-bank or a non-partnered bank? This will add up very quickly.

-It is best to take out cash in large amounts to avoid paying too many fees that come with your frequent trips to the ATM

The second bullet point sounds great, right?

Wrong. It looks like I could potentially be misinformed…

Let’s say that I have 2 accounts with Bank A and Bank B.

A fellow student who seemed to know a lot about banking in Spain told me to avoid using Bank A abroad at all cost. Go with Bank B, she said, because they have a partner bank in Spain so I can avoid paying the extra fees. Mind you, I was a bit skeptical as she was another student that I met during the Spain’s study abroad info session who, just like me, is looking forward to going to Spain the first time. Regardless, the student abroad peer advisor of the session conformed with her and recommends Bank B.

Well, not too fast.

I did some research and found that things aren’t that straightforward…

First off, Bank B does NOT have a partner in Spain. The so-call “partner bank” only works in the UK. I found this out after calling the company to notify them of my travels and asked this question, so I am positive that about this one. This means that I will have to pay $5 PLUS a whooping 3% of each withdrawal.

But then again, after doing some more investigation, I found that some “partner banks” of Bank B are not listed in the countries that they do function. According to this article, you can avoid paying “any fees” (I’m suspecting that you still have to pay the 3% of your withdrawal for the international transaction fee, which is the Bank B’s policy) by using a certain partner bank despite the fact that the bank is not included in their listed countries. Regardless, you will still need to pay 1% for using an affiliated bank, but not the $5. If this is the case, the study abroad peer advisor can be correct…

Now, it’s about to get more complicated. Let’s get back to the “not-recommended” Bank A.

Unlike Bank B, Bank A has made it clear that they do not have ANY affiliated partners, which made it simple : $5 per each transaction. That’s that.

Keeping in mind that even the call center from Bank B states that there is NO partner bank in Spain, it might be better to withdraw from Bank A, because Bank B will charge $5 just like Bank A PLUS the 3 percent (according to the bank’s call center who reaffirms that there is no affiliated bank in Spain… so there is no way to pay only 1% and avoid paying $5 as the article said) !!! Why not avoid the 3% and go with Bank A?

Now it’s the matter of trust.

Do you believe your fellow seemingly “knowledgeable” but inexperienced student, the experienced peer advisor, and the article from the Internet who concur that Bank  B is a better option? Will you gamble and hope that Spain is one of the “unlisted” countries with a functioning partner bank, or do you believe the bank’s representative who confirms that there is no such thing as a partner bank in Spain??? Will you rely on others’ experiences, even though the bank itself say differently?

Nope, I’ll take the “safe” route and come up with my own conclusion: it’s probably better to depend on Bank A than Bank B, especially if I plan to withdraw more than $150 at a time (which is a better idea than making small and frequent withdrawal to avoid any kind of fees, anyway.)

Still, I feel like I need more information. Any comment is welcomed and encouraged.






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