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Two ATMs with yellow ATM signs in a narrow alley in the old town centre with a few tourists in the background
ATMs in Dubrovnik's old town centre Image: Tupungato / Shutterstock

💳 Withdrawal charges on holiday

Austria clings to cash. According to statistical surveys, we pay less often with plastic than the average in other EU countries. This requires a well-developed ATM network in Austria and a withdrawal-friendly business policy on the part of domestic banks. In Austria, it is normally no problem to withdraw money from ATMs without a fee, even at third-party banks. The opposite is true in many other countries. As a result, many Austrians get into the habit of incurring expenses when travelling.

ATM and debit card abroad

Over the last four years, the debit card has gradually replaced the ATM card (formerly known as the EC card) at all Austrian banks. New cards are now only issued as debit cards, but the term ‘ATM card’ is still used in everyday language. Debit cards still have the previous functionality, i.e. immediate debiting from the account (‘debit’ means ‘direct debit’) and fast contactless payment (POS, NFC) and various services at self-service machines in bank foyers such as deposits, transfers, statements, etc. 
Current debit cards in Austria have the Mastercard or Visa logo, a 16-digit card number, an expiry date and the three-digit CSV verification number for internet orders on the back. They are therefore accepted by contractual partners of Mastercard or Visa.

Debit cards therefore offer the option of ordering online in the same way as a credit card. Other main differences to credit cards are

  • in Austria, cash withdrawals are generally free of charge, even at third-party banks (otherwise you will be notified of this on the screen)
  • immediate debiting of the current account instead of a monthly direct debit in a few weeks' time
  • no insurance benefits (e.g. travel insurance) as is often the case with credit cards
  • a lower overdraft limit compared to credit cards
  • Withdrawal limit usually per day instead of a larger monthly limit as with credit cards
Three payment cards on top of each other, each with either V-Pay or Maestro logo
Maestro and V-Pay cards are gradually being withdrawn from the market Image: BartTa / Shutterstock

Older debit cards with ‘only’ the Maestro logo continue to offer relatively good cover and remain valid until their expiry date. However, Mastercard plans to gradually phase out its global Maestro product after 30 years. For example, the Maestro symbol will disappear from Mastercard-labelled ATM cards (called ‘Girocards’ there) in Germany from July 2023. Similarly, Visa has been phasing out its ‘V-Pay’ service, its in-house rival product to Maestro, since 2020. As a result, the acceptance rate of Maestro and V-Pay abroad is increasingly falling.

Cash machine tips

  • Fees apply outside the euro zone. Minimum charges make it particularly expensive to withdraw small amounts in other currencies. Pay attention to the cost information on the screen! Due to flat fees per transaction, it may be more favourable to withdraw a larger sum at once instead of withdrawing smaller amounts several times, or to visit a (trustworthy) exchange office in the first place.
  • In the euro zone, no fees are permitted for payments and cash withdrawals by the card-issuing financial institution for debit cards. If you notice unfair charges after withdrawing cash, contact your bank or the Joint Arbitration Centre of the Austrian Banking Industry! Please note that this does not apply to third-party banks, only to branches of ‘your’ bank abroad. If fees are announced on the display when withdrawing cash, cancel the withdrawal and look for another ATM!
  • Be careful with third-party providers that operate ATMs! Just like third-party banks, they may also charge withdrawal fees in the eurozone. It may even be the case that the third-party provider's machine is attached to the building of ‘your’ bank branch abroad. In any case, you should take a close look at the ATM; is the familiar bank logo on it? Such processing companies like to charge over €6 per withdrawal, e.g. at motorway service stations or tourist hotspots at your holiday destination. Always pay attention to all charge notices on the display, these are mandatory. If necessary, cancel and get cash elsewhere!
  • Beware of dynamic currency conversion (DCC): Outside of the eurozone, ATM operators like to automatically offer to pay out the local currency and immediately take the equivalent value of the local currency converted into euros from your bank. This often happens at an unfavourable exchange rate! You should therefore prevent DCC by not selecting ‘Settlement in Euro / DCC’ or similar, but the option ‘Settlement in foreign currency’ in order to save money!
  • Maestro or debit cards can also have a protection mechanism (‘Geo Control’). Before travelling abroad, you may need to contact the bank's customer service department to have withdrawals outside the eurozone authorised.
  • At contactless POS (point of sale) cash registers, where amounts of up to 50 euros can be paid quickly without entering a code, fees are charged for foreign currency (approx. 1-2 euros flat rate plus 0.75% of the amount)
Dark green circular pictogram represents euro banknotes in the centre, with arrows rotating around the circle between the currency symbols for pounds, dollars and yen

Caution with withdrawals in foreign currencies

Credit card abroad

Woman holding a credit card out of a car window to a reader held by a person standing by the car
Card use abroad is easy, but usually involves more costs than at home Image: Stella_E / Shutterstock

Especially outside the eurozone, credit cards are often indispensable and the better choice than debit cards because debit is not accepted everywhere. A prerequisite for withdrawing money with a credit card is, of course, that the respective credit card limit has not yet been utilised. How expensive withdrawals are depends very much on the contractual fee structure. Many financial institutions charge around 3% of the withdrawal amount. Or there is a minimum fee for cash withdrawals regardless of the amount withdrawn. Of course, your card may also have been advertised as allowing free cash withdrawals. However, there is often an important condition that this only applies within Austria! It is always a good idea to know the cost code of the card-issuing bank.

Credit card tips

  • Even in Austria there are usually fees for cash withdrawals with a credit card - abroad almost always - check the conditions!
  • Foreign fees for withdrawals: Banks generally charge between 0% and 4% for transactions in foreign currencies and if this does not apply outside the eurozone because the payment was still made in euros, a ‘foreign transaction fee’ of around 2% will still be charged. These costs are itemised in the general terms and conditions of your bank's card services.
  • To see whether your card is accepted for withdrawals at the ATM in question, look for the logo of your own credit card brand on the device. Normally, Visa and Mastercard cover is very good worldwide and not an issue. They have around 90% market share and contracts with over 80 million merchants. Visa tends to be better represented in Asia and Mastercard in the USA and Europe. The acceptance of other cards such as American Express, Diners Club International, JCB Global etc. is correspondingly lower. 
  • Keep an eye on your monthly credit limit so that you are not left without money in an emergency.
  • Find out whether your card must first be authorised for use abroad before travelling and give the appropriate instructions (e.g. Cuba generally rejects American card companies such as Diners and Amex)
  • Beware of an excessively low limit when booking a hire car - is the available limit sufficient for a pre-booked deposit? If such a high amount exceeds the limit, you will not be notified and the car reservation may be cancelled!
  • Instalments may be subject to high interest rates (e.g. 15%)
  • A foreign currency payment harbours a risk in the fixed exchange rate; Visa and Mastercard set their own daily exchange rate here (visa) and there (mc). Depending on the currency, differences to the actual market price of up to 1.5% are possible. Banks add an average exchange rate surcharge of 2% to the rate set by the credit card company.
  • Especially if you are travelling in high-inflation countries (currently e.g. Argentina, Turkey), you should pay attention to when debits from currency conversions are made to your bank account.
  • If you suspect that your card details have fallen into dubious hands when travelling, you are protected against unjustified debits by credit card companies and can initiate chargebacks. This is why fraudsters tend to try to withdraw money abroad using duplicate cards (‘skimming’). As a precaution, it helps to set the limit for foreign withdrawals at your bank to a low level or 0.
Dark green circular pictogram represents credit card in the centre, an arrow next to it points to the left

Additional fees for payments abroad

Prepaid credit cards

Two smiling young women in a pedestrian zone with backpacks holding credit cards and mobile phones
Prepaid cards utilise the acceptance of credit card networks with certain restrictions Image: Antonio Guillem / Shutterstock

Credit cards with a topped-up balance and no credit limit are called prepaid cards. They are also ideal when travelling, as you cannot spend more than the amount you have topped up. This allows you to keep a clear overview of your spending and also limits the damage caused by misuse. Prepaid cards do not require a credit check and are therefore easier to obtain. Debt is not possible. As no bank details are required, prepaid cards are also suitable for young people aged 14 and over.

However, transactions with the card provider company can incur high costs. Some prepaid companies charge around 2% of the amount topped up. In addition, an annual fee and or a fee for leaving the card unused for months are common. Prepaid cards are accepted online in the same way as ‘normal’ credit cards, with the exception of some travel services where higher authorisation amounts are required.

Prepaid card tips

  • Each top-up costs money - calculate whether a ‘normal’ credit card would be cheaper if used frequently
  • Top up your prepaid credit sufficiently before travelling
  • Caution; as there is no credit limit on the top-up credit, prepaid cards are of little help in the event of financial emergencies when travelling
  • No instalment purchase or partial payments with prepaid card possible
  • Expensive cash from ATMs - around 5 euros withdrawal fee plus foreign currency fee in non-euro countries
  • High percentage fee for exceeding a daily limit (e.g. withdrawal over €200)
  • Many car hire companies and some hotels do not allow reservations with prepaid cards
  • Prepaid cards also have an exchange rate risk (as with credit cards - see above)
Dark green circular pictogram represents three hands. They are each holding yen banknotes, a mobile phone with radio signals and a credit card

Prepaid is safe but relatively expensive


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