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Using a US Bank ATM Card in the UK

by jamie_in_nj Online Now Jun 16, 2011 at 11:00 AM

I'm traveling to London in late June. My plan is to use my ATM card (from a US bank) to make cash withdrawals on an as needed basis.

I just spoke to someone at my bank (USAA). They said that as far as they know, I can use the same four digit PIN at the ATM machines in London as I use here in the US. I thought I had read somewhere that UK bank ATM's have a six digit PIN, and I might have to put 00 at the beginning or end of entering my PIN. Does anyone have experience with this? I wanted to w/d cash in local currency at an ATM in Heathrow, and want the PIN to work for obvious reasons!

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38 Answers
  • travelfrosch's Profile Photo

    Re: Using a US Bank ATM Card in the UK

    by travelfrosch Online Now Jun 16, 2011 at 11:08 AM

    I haven't used an ATM in the UK in many years, but I've used ATMs elsewhere in Europe as recently as last year. Normally, European ATMs accept 4-digit numerical PINs. Be sure the ATM you're using accepts MasterCard/Visa (depending on which your ATM card is), as many machines only accept one or the other. Also, be aware there are normally no "letters" on ATM keypads, so if you have a letter mnemonic for your PIN, be sure to memorize the actual numbers they correspond to. Be sure to let your bank know where and when you're going to the UK, so they'll know your withdrawals aren't fraudulent.

    I know USAA Bank re-imburses domestic ATM charges, but I'm not sure if they also do so overseas. If you also happen to have a Bank of America account, you should be aware that you can withdraw cash free of charge at any Barclay's ATM in the UK.

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  • travelfrosch's Profile Photo

    Re: Using a US Bank ATM Card in the UK

    by travelfrosch Online Now Jun 16, 2011 at 11:10 AM

    Re Barclay's / Bank of America: I meant no charge to use the ATM of course; naturally, you have to pay for the cash you withdraw! :-)

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  • travelmad478's Profile Photo

    Re: Using a US Bank ATM Card in the UK

    by travelmad478 Online Now Jun 16, 2011 at 11:10 AM

    4 digits are fine. I have a 4-digit PIN on my US-issued Citibank card and have never had any problem getting cash anywhere in the world (see my map for what I mean by that!)

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  • travelmad478's Profile Photo

    Re: Using a US Bank ATM Card in the UK

    by travelmad478 Online Now Jun 16, 2011 at 11:11 AM

    Also, Mr. travelmad478 has a USAA card and a 4-digit PIN. He has been fine too.

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  • GrumpyDiver's Profile Photo

    Re: Using a US Bank ATM Card in the UK

    by GrumpyDiver Online Now Jun 16, 2011 at 11:31 AM

    I've never had any issues getting money out of ATMs with my card anywhere in the world, including the UK. Just make sure that the bank is on the same network as your bank. Mastercard and Visa run most of the international ATM communications, so this can cause issues.

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  • leics's Profile Photo

    Re: Using a US Bank ATM Card in the UK

    by leics Online Now Jun 16, 2011 at 11:36 AM

    We in the UK all have four-digit PINs. We do not have letters in our PINs, we only have four numbers.

    So no need to worry. ATMs should tie into the appropriate network for your card anyway, so your PIN should work with no problems.

    UK banks won't charge you for withdrawals (check your own card provider's charges) but you will need to check if your card is accepted, if it doesn't have the Visa or Mastercard logo. Those two are accepted everywhere, but there may be some variation if it carries e.g. the Plus or Cirrus logo.

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  • jamie_in_nj's Profile Photo

    Re: Using a US Bank ATM Card in the UK

    by jamie_in_nj Online Now Jun 16, 2011 at 11:40 AM

    Thanks for the comments. The USAA card I have is an ATM card only, but USAA is mailing me one that will be ATM, debit and credit. The USAA rep I spoke to told me they charge 1% foreign transaction fee for credit, debit and ATM usage. She said something about the ATM transaction reimbursement feature, but I'm not sure if she specifically said it applies to overseas ATM's or not. I plan to use the card for ATM and credit card purchases.

    I've never used a debit card before, and don't intend to there. I assume someone would have to know my PIN to use it as a debit card, in case it gets lost?

    I did tell them the dates I'll be away, so they'll put something in their system so it does not trigger a fraud alert.

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  • jamie_in_nj's Profile Photo

    Re: Using a US Bank ATM Card in the UK

    by jamie_in_nj Online Now Jun 16, 2011 at 11:43 AM

    The current USAA ATM card I have has the Maestro logo, and I'm assuming the new one they're sending me will too. I have not seen that mentioned, but it looks like Maestro is owned by Mastercard?

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  • leics's Profile Photo

    Re: Using a US Bank ATM Card in the UK

    by leics Online Now Jun 16, 2011 at 11:48 AM

    Yes, you absolutely must tell them when you are away buit that will not in itself stop their system from autmatically stopping your card...this is a random feature. It will, howvere, make sorting things out very much easier.

    What logo does you card have?

    Many places in the UK will not accept cards of any type for small sums (usually less than 5GBP, sometimes 10). This is at the discretion of the shop/restaurant/whatever: we in the UK (and Europe?) all have chipped cards, be they debit or credit. Yours will be unchipped, so you will be relying on the shop/restaurant/whatever to have the now old-fashioned 'swipe' technology. Most do still have this but you should be aware of the possibility that they may not.

    As far as I know you will not be able to use an unchipped card in any machines other than ATMs (ticket machines, automated petrol pumps and so on).

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  • GrumpyDiver's Profile Photo

    Re: Using a US Bank ATM Card in the UK

    by GrumpyDiver Online Now Jun 16, 2011 at 11:49 AM

    Correct Maestro = Mastercard. Look for those logos on the ATM.

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  • leics's Profile Photo

    Re: Using a US Bank ATM Card in the UK

    by leics Online Now Jun 16, 2011 at 11:49 AM

    Yes, Maestro (like Cirrus) is part of the Mastercard group.

    Use their ATM locator to find out which ATMs will be accessible:

    mastercard.us/cardholder-ser...

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  • travelmad478's Profile Photo

    Re: Using a US Bank ATM Card in the UK

    by travelmad478 Online Now Jun 16, 2011 at 11:50 AM

    > The USAA card I have is an ATM card only, but USAA is mailing me one that will be ATM, debit and credit. ... I plan to use the card for ATM and credit card purchases.

    That's a new one that I have not heard of. I don't know of any cards that are ATM, debit, AND credit. You might want to reconfirm that. The "credit card" aspect of a card like this usually means that you are able to do "swipe and sign" transactions as well as "swipe and PIN." But the money still comes straight out of your bank account.

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  • leics's Profile Photo

    Re: Using a US Bank ATM Card in the UK

    by leics Online Now Jun 16, 2011 at 11:59 AM

    The whole 'swipe and sign' thing is even more old-fashioned than swipe + PIN. I'm not sure if anywhere in the UK still has that facility but I obviously don't know for certain so am happy be stand corrected.

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  • travelmad478's Profile Photo

    Re: Using a US Bank ATM Card in the UK

    by travelmad478 Online Now Jun 16, 2011 at 12:09 PM

    They sure do. That's how I pay with a credit card all over the world!

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  • leics's Profile Photo

    Re: Using a US Bank ATM Card in the UK

    by leics Online Now Jun 16, 2011 at 12:12 PM

    So...you are in the UK and you swipe your card and then sign ....what?

    I'm just curious because it's been years and years and years since I did that, anywhere.

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  • ranger49's Profile Photo

    Re: Using a US Bank ATM Card in the UK

    by ranger49 Online Now Jun 16, 2011 at 12:45 PM

    leics - It is not at all unusual for me to be asked to sign at outlets where the "swipe machine" is down or otherwise out of action. It was particularly noticeable in Dorset in April this year; often happens at supermarkets in France and small retail shops throughout the UK.

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  • GrumpyDiver's Profile Photo

    Re: Using a US Bank ATM Card in the UK

    by GrumpyDiver Online Now Jun 16, 2011 at 12:52 PM

    When we were in Paris last year, we asked about swipe versus Chip & PIN (Canadian credit cards have had chip & PIN for a number of years and the ATM cards went that technology about a 18 months ago). We were told that there were still quite a few banks, including some Western European ones that were still on the swipe and sign system.

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  • leics's Profile Photo

    Re: Using a US Bank ATM Card in the UK

    by leics Online Now Jun 16, 2011 at 12:57 PM

    I was simply curious about exactly *what* you sign...do they still have those machines which produce duplicated carbon copies, or do you sign a receipt?

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  • travelmad478's Profile Photo

    Re: Using a US Bank ATM Card in the UK

    by travelmad478 Online Now Jun 16, 2011 at 1:00 PM

    Swipe and sign still works pretty much everywhere you have a live person doing the transaction. You just tell them that you don't have a chip-and-PIN card, swipe your card through the terminal, and a receipt prints out for you to sign. My very first, and only, instance where not having a chip-and-PIN card was a problem was two weeks ago when I was on vacation in Copenhagen. The machines at the train station would not take my card for ticket purchases, and I got dinged from about a third of the "live person" transactions I tried to use my credit card for. Even those, I strongly suspect, would have gone through had the cashier simply known how to use the terminal. It seemed to depend on the individual.

    I was pretty stunned in Copenhagen to run into this problem, since I travel to Europe and a whole lot of other countries on a regular basis and have never had any issues in all these years. I remember you saying, leics, that the train ticket machines in London might give me trouble, but in fact, I have picked up pre-paid (online) tickets for Virgin Trains and GW Trains in the last couple of years without incident.

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  • Dabs's Profile Photo

    Re: Using a US Bank ATM Card in the UK

    by Dabs Online Now Jun 16, 2011 at 1:04 PM

    When I use my US based swipe credit card in the UK, they print out a receipt that you sign. I don't think I've seen one of those carbon forms in the UK in a very long time although I used one in Antigua not that long ago. At restaurants they bring a little machine to the table that spits out the receipt that you sign, everywhere else they still seem to have the technology to use the swipe cards. The only place I've had trouble recently is Bulgaria and Macedonia and I can't say that it surprised me. But it would if someone in the UK said they couldn't handle a swipe card.

    And as everyone else has confirmed your 4 digit ATM PIN will also work fine.

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  • leics's Profile Photo

    Re: Using a US Bank ATM Card in the UK

    by leics Online Now Jun 16, 2011 at 1:11 PM

    Thank you...I was curious about *what * you actually signed these days.

    As for ticket machines, the 'fast-ticket' machines for collecting pre-paid tickets are not the same as the ordinary ticket machines and do indeed accept non-chipped cards (you have a code to enter as well as your card, I believe?). I cannot say for certain that they will not accept non-chipped cards (for obvious reasons) but I suspect they may not.

    I think it's really a matter of being aware that a) not everywhere in the UK will automatically accept any card and b) not everywhere in the UK will automatically accept non-chipped cards.

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  • Beausoleil's Profile Photo

    Re: Using a US Bank ATM Card in the UK

    by Beausoleil Online Now Jun 16, 2011 at 4:51 PM

    We each have a combo debit/credit card from each of our banks. We use the debit card for cash from bank ATMs and we use the credit card for purchases. BTW, my husband has his debit/credit card from a very small local credit union and he has never had trouble using it in Europe. We have 4-digit PINs and they work just fine. We have used the swipe and sign method for years and it works just fine. No problems. Lots of discussion but don't worry; you are fine and you will be able to get money.

    We do avoid any ATM that is not attached to a bank that is open at the time. If the machine eats our card, we want to be able to go in the bank and get it back. We've had to do that twice.

    Enjoy your trip.

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  • jamie_in_nj's Profile Photo

    Re: Using a US Bank ATM Card in the UK

    by jamie_in_nj Online Now Jun 16, 2011 at 5:12 PM

    Thanks; that's a good tip about using the card at a bank that's open. That would be no fun to have the card eaten after hours!

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  • GrumpyDiver's Profile Photo

    Re: Using a US Bank ATM Card in the UK

    by GrumpyDiver Online Now Jun 16, 2011 at 6:41 PM

    Leics - what you sign these days is not a lot different that what happens with a chip & PIN transaction. The machine prints out two copies of the charge; one for the merchant and one for you. The merchant copy has a place to sign. You sign there and return to the merchant.

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  • anilpradhanshillong's Profile Photo

    Re: Using a US Bank ATM Card in the UK

    by anilpradhanshillong Online Now Jun 16, 2011 at 6:46 PM

    The number on your ATM card is an unique as the IMEI number on your cellphone. This number is matched with your 4-digit PIN which you input at the time you wish to make a withdrawal.

    Had used my ATM card last July almost all over Europe and London. Absolutely no problems, save the transaction fees ;-)

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  • DrFlorpin's Profile Photo

    Re: Using a US Bank ATM Card in the UK

    by DrFlorpin Online Now Jun 16, 2011 at 6:54 PM

    Jamie, just to add another wrinkle - I too used swipe and sign during my trip last August and was routinely asked to provide ID because of the signature on the back of my card being badly smudged. As others have indicated most of Europe seems to use chip and PIN.

    Also, I frequently used my debit/credit card for ATM cash withdrawals. I did have one incident at a Lloyd's ATM in which I would enter amounts to be withdrawn and the message on the screen kept reading "invalid amount, try again" or something to that effect. Eventually it spit out my card and I successfully used an HSBC ATM across the street.

    It so happened that I was keeping an eye on my account online and that night I noticed that the Lloyd's ATM interaction had resulted in a 200 GBP/350 USD deduction from my account. The issue was resolved without much fanfare upon my return to the US but the point is I would recommend taking a tally at the end of each day just to be on the safe side.

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  • ViajesdelMundo's Profile Photo

    Re: Using a US Bank ATM Card in the UK

    by ViajesdelMundo Online Now Jun 16, 2011 at 8:28 PM

    we have the USAA card which we use as our ATM card. I am looking at it and it has MASTERCARD on it, and says 'USAA Cash Rewards Debit Card'.

    as we live outside the US and use the ATM for all our cash, we have established a checkaccount attached to this card as well, which we fund so that we don't have the ATM fees, as USAA refunds up to15USD per month on foreign transactions. Initially, on your e-statement it will show the fees, but then subtract at end of the month, is I believe how it works.

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  • hawkhead's Profile Photo

    Re: Using a US Bank ATM Card in the UK

    by hawkhead Online Now Jun 16, 2011 at 11:48 PM

    Just in the last month or so, as I have been shopping, I have noticed signs in the shops advising that as from a certain date they will no longer accept 'swipe only' cards i.e. has to be chip and pin. This is, of course, following the same path as the phasing out of acceptance of cheques.

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  • anilpradhanshillong's Profile Photo

    Re: Using a US Bank ATM Card in the UK

    by anilpradhanshillong Online Now Jun 17, 2011 at 7:00 AM

    @ DrFlorpin - "invalid amount, try again"

    Yes, I also faced a similar problem. However, when I inputted a smaller figure, the machine gave me my amount. It only meant I had to make two/three withdrawals from the same machine - much to the annoyance of the people waiting patiently in the queue ;-)

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  • leics's Profile Photo

    Re: Using a US Bank ATM Card in the UK

    by leics Online Now Jun 17, 2011 at 9:41 AM

    I asked at my local supermarket today, just out of interest. The way they cope with swiping and signing is to have electronic signing pads which are attached to the till network. The operator compares the signature with that on the card. This option is very, very rarely used, of course.

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