was successfully added to your cart.



You’re using ATMs wrong (here’s why)

By September 6, 2016 No Comments

Yes, in the world of travel safety, there is a right and a wrong way to use an ATM, especially overseas. Used correctly, and you will be dining on delicious Basque cuisine at Chez Gladine’s; your only difficult decision to make for the evening is whether to indulge in chocolat à l’ancienne at Angelina’s (again). Used incorrectly, you could lose your card in the machine, wake up to an empty checking account, spend the evening filing a police report, or worse. Recently I received a new, more secure debit card from USAA. With the card, they included a list of safety guidelines when using an ATM. Their advice is below my additions are in italics.

General ATM safety rules:

  • VW ATM

    VW ATM via Flickr/MarkFaviell

    Be aware of your surroundings, especially after dark.

  • Actively look around you. Thieves are lazy – showing awareness can deter potential criminals since it demonstrates awareness; they will likely wait for the next victim since they know you will not let them sneak up on you.
  • If you must use an ATM at night, consider taking someone with you. They should be standing watch, looking around behind you, not staring at the ATM with you.
  • Secure your card and cash immediately after completing your transaction. Count it later after you are in a secure area; i.e., locked car, café bathroom, home, etc.
  • Shield the keypad with your hand or body while entering your PIN.
  • Do not leave your transaction statement. Keep it with you and compare it to your statement later.

Indoor ATMS:

Indoor ATMs are a great way to get off the street and have some privacy when you are taking out cash. This does not eliminate all threats; however. Some advice for improving upon it.

  • When you enter or exit an ATM in an enclosed area, be sure to close the entry door completely.
  • Do not open locked ATM vestibule doors for others; authorized customers should have their own access. I give you permission to be rude in this scenario. You may feel bad, but better that some stranger think you to be a bad person than to be locked inside after hours with a person whose intentions are not good.
  • Do not allow any unknown persons to enter the ATM area when you are making your transaction. Be like Forrest Gump – “Seat’s taken”.

    The ATM Drive Thru – via flickr/RXB

The drive through:

  • If you use a drive-up ATM, lock all the doors and roll up the passenger windows. The ATM is a distraction that provides cover for a thief to reach into the car or, an uninvited guest to join you.

 Before using an ATM, examine the area and the machine:

Do not use the terminal if you notice anything suspicious or that you deem unsafe. Some examples:

  • The lighting around the ATM does not work.
  • Signs of tampering.
  • Unauthorized equipment attached to the machine (We’ll address this in full in a separate article).

Many countries still use cash for most transactions, which means that at some point you’ll likely need to take out money from an ATM. Unfortunately, ATMs are a great place to be robbed. They’re a bottleneck with cash involved, where your attention is diverted. Taking the above mentioned advice to make yourself safer while withdrawing cash will make the task a much safer one.

On a side note: At about halfway through this article I realized that there were a lot of ATM sub-topics that should be given more space. Thus, this will be my first in a series on ATMs: In part two we’ll talk about card skimmers and other scams, then in part three we’ll tackle what to do if you forget your code and lose the card.

If you found this helpful, sign up for more advice and blog updates, direct to your inbox!

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.