ATM nonsense – deliberate ambiguity by banks?

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  • canucklad

    I can’t remember the last time I ordered foreign currency from the bank, choosing to withdraw cash from my current account in the local currency.

    When I first started to do my foreign exchange transactions in this manner, I just entered the amount, to come out of my “current account” and out it came.
    Then they made me decide between “Home “and “Local” rate, learning that I needed to always choose the Home rate to avoid the higher tourist rate.

    In Krakow, at the week end I was confronted with a whole new pile of puzzling language that made me doubt which rate I should choose.
    In addition to that, the layout on the screen would have undoubtedly confused anyone who isn’t used to these transactions.

    My question is twofold, are the banks deliberately making it confusing to increase revenue and is there a simple way to understand your home rate.

    Oh, there is a third question, surely the bank should only give us the choice / offer the cheapest rate, so why do they present 2 ?


    Many different things going on here:

    Are you using a generic ATM or one being in the name of your home bank?

    Remember each level you out from your home bank, the “fee” (spread) is increased. Besides paying the actual fee for the FX, your bank still may be charging a transaction fee. Many times the local rate is actually cheaper if your bank fee is more than the difference between the two rates.

    Bottom line, always find an ATM from your bank, most of the big firms don’t charge anything, and you will pay current market rate.


    Also get a Halifax Clarity credit card card – no loading or transaction fees and rates as good as the best available online for hard currency. I use it for everything on a trip – purchases and cash withdrawals and pay the whole lot off when I get home.


    As said, never take the convert to home currency option as this rate is always much worse than the rate at which your bank will convert the currency. This difference is then shared between the shop and the local bank/card service provider. It seems everyone wants to make as much as possible out of the consumer!

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