7 Ways to Deal with Low ATM Withdrawal Limits

Last Updated on April 15, 2024 by Christine Kaaloa

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atms in myanmar, atms in burma
ATM withdrawals when you travel | Myanmar ATM

How to Deal with ATM withdrawal limits

Ever arrived in a country and when you went to the ATM discovered that there was an ATM withdrawal limit at the machine or bank? This is when there is a cap on the amount of money you withdraw from the ATM in that country, despite your limit being higher at your home bank.

 Is the machine broken? How will you get currency? Are you screwed? You try other machines only to be told the same thing.  Your panic rises. Take a deep breath…’

Each country’s withdrawal limits are different.

In the U.S. ATM withdrawal limits can range from $300-$1000+. If you’re a western traveler or come from a country with high ATM withdrawal limits,  you might assume withdrawing $300 for the first week of your trip will be a snap. However, each country’s withdrawal limits are different.

In countries like India and Pakistan I encountered low ATM withdrawal limits. India ATMs allowed a maximum of 10,000 INR (or $120 USD). Meanwhile, Pakistan ATM machines allow half that, many banks do not take foreign debit cards and some ATM machines run out of money.

Incidentally, I walk you through this on my group adventure trips to make sure you’re prepared for these destinations. In Pakistan, I also physically take you to money exchanges and banks that accept foreign cards, so we can nip that stress early on. Join one of group adventure!

ATMs in India
ATMs in India

Low ATM withdrawal limits are stressful to travelers, for three reasons:

For western travelers traveling in cash-based countries like the above, lower ATM withdrawal limits can be baffling, alarming and stressful. Especially if you are traveling alone.

  • You are unaware that the machine has a withdrawal limit and it refuses to process your request.
  •  You do not know what the withdrawal limit is and your transactions tell you that you have either insufficient funds or it cannot process your request.
  •  You do not have a debit/bank card with low or no ATM fees and multiple withdrawals can rack up ATM fees both in the country and with your home bank.

7 Ways to Deal with Low ATM Withdrawal Limits

1. Research. Find Facebook travel and expat community groups dedicated to that destination.  Be informed about the country’s currency and money exchange situation in advance. If the country you are traveling is a cash-based country then moreso, a low ATM withdrawal limit may affect you as you will likely need to pay for both, small and large expenses in cash, for example food, transportation, lodgings. In cash-based countries, credit cards are not often accepted partially due to credit card commission fees that affect small vendors.
2. Have an emergency backup plan:  Do not rely on only one form of currency exchange. Always have more than one option for withdrawing or exchanging currency in a country.   An extra debit card, some USD cash and credit card… I bring it all. It seems excessive at first glance, until you arrive at a destination where each option gets crossed off one-by-one.
3. Check the ATM machine for a posted notice of the maximum withdrawal limit. Airport ATM machines tend to post signs as they’re dealing with travelers. If you feel like something may be up with the airport ATM machines, seek a tourist information kiosk and ask them what the ATM limit is. When in doubt, have seed cash to exchange at an airport currency exchange so you have cash to pay for a taxi to your hotel..
4. Withdraw lower sums of money. In developing countries, I might try to withdraw  $200USD at the start, but if i’m flagged, I try lower sums.
5. Withdraw just a little less than the maximum withdrawal limit. When you learn what the maximum  withdrawal amount is, be sure to withdraw just a little less to ensure the transaction goes through. It can be as much as one dollar under the limit to ensure you get through the threshold.  I’m not good with conversion math under pressure, so I’ll round to the nearest ten or hundred depending upon what the currency is and what the ATM allows.
6. Do multiple withdrawals
You may not be able to extract the ideal sum you want in one withdrawal. But often, you will be allowed to withdraw that maximum limit in multiple sessions. Traveling Pakistan, I would make up to four consecutive withdrawals per ATM visit, simply because ATMs that took foreign cards were challenging to find and few! I had to make my withdrawal amount last me for a week or longer.
If you are traveling somewhere remote, then moreso, you want to do your max withdrawal times, as you won’t know if there is ATM accessibility where you go and if there is, they may be such a small bank that they run out of currency.
7. Have a debit or bank card with low to no ATM transaction fees. I use Charles Schwab as my main travel ATM card. It is dedicated only to travel. They have reimbursable ATM fees and no foreign transaction fees.
For more ATM tips, visit my post on 24 International ATM Mistakes to Avoid
What are your tips for dealing with low ATM withdrawal limits? What countries have you traveled with low withdrawal limits?

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