Romania offers a lot for visitors and expats alike. You can take a tour of the enormous - and somewhat overwhelming - Palace of the Parliament, which dominates the centre of Bucharest. Or soak up the atmosphere in a beer hall or nightclub if that’s more your thing. Nature lovers are well catered for too. Try hiking in the mountains, or castle hopping in Transylvania for a great short break.
Whether you’re heading to Romania just for fun - or making a more permanent move to work or study - you’re going to need some cash.
For many people, using local ATMs is a convenient option, for simple access to your cash, with reasonable enough rates and fees. Here’s all you need to know about using ATMs in Romania.
Romania has a developed banking system. You’ll find that it’s well served by local, regional and global banks.
ATMs are no problem to find in the towns and cities - but if you’re heading somewhere off the beaten track you might find them somewhat more difficult to find. A trip into rural Transylvania, for example, might mean a bit of a trek to find an ATM. Grab the cash you need before you leave the city, just in case.
Find the most convenient ATM, using one of the following ATM locators from large global and national banks:
Visa and Mastercard are widely accepted in Romania. Discover cards aren’t commonly used. You should be able to withdraw cash at an ATM run by BCR, but merchants usually do not allow payments using a Discover card.
Amex cards can be used in ATMs run by a number of local banks. Look for a branch of Unicredit or an ATM which shows the Euronet logo.
Find a handy ATM to suit your needs using one of the following locators:
- Maestro ATM locator
- Mastercard and Cirrus ATM locator
- Visa, Plus, and Plus Alliance ATM locator
- Discover ATM locator
- American Express ATM locator
Bank cards issued in Romania - like in most European countries - have 4 digit PINs and chip and PIN technology. If you have a similar card with a 4 digit PIN - like those regularly issued in other countries in Europe, the UK or Australia, for example - it’ll work in Romania with no problem.
If, however, you use an American-issued magnetic stripe card and don’t generally need a PIN for transactions, you’ll need to request a PIN for the card from your bank before you travel.
Firstly you need to know what your own bank’s limit on cash withdrawals. This will still apply if you’re travelling, so check with your home bank before you travel.
At the time of writing, there’s a Romanian law which effectively means that ATMs can not allow withdrawals of more than RON 10,000 a day (about EUR 2,150). This will apply, regardless of your home bank’s limit - so even if your usual bank will allow you to withdraw more, you’ll have a cap in place in Romania.
If you don’t have a home bank limit in place, then the ATM rules - and of course the local law - will apply. Different banks and ATM operators set their own withdrawal and daily limits. Typically, though, ATMs will limit single withdrawals to much less than the legal limit, to make sure they comply with the legislation.
To enjoy your break in Romania you’ll definitely need some cash. To make sure you can continue to use your bank card as normal during your trip, you’ll have to tell your bank in advance that you plan on travelling.
That’s because bank fraud departments monitor transactions and can block or limit spending if they think there’s something suspicious going on. If that happens, you might find yourself abruptly unable to get your hands on your cash.
It’s worth noting that Romania has been home to a number of scams including ATMs which have been tampered with, and bank card skimming in recent years. As a result, it’s especially important to make sure your bank knows you plan on going there, or they might think that the spike in spending in Romania is linked to fraud.
There are a number of international, or regional, banks represented in Romania, such as Raiffeisen or BRD, which is part of the French Société Générale. If you already bank with these institutions, you might get free or cheap cash withdrawals if you stick to their ATMs during your travels.
Dynamic currency conversion (also known as DCC for short) is a pretty common rip-off for foreign ATM customers. If you travel a lot then you’ve probably seen it.
DCC is where you’re asked, at an ATM, in a bar, or restaurant, for example, if you’d like your transaction to be processed in your home currency instead of the local currency. It sounds handy - and means you don’t have to try to figure out the cost in an unfamiliar currency.
But here’s the thing. It’s not a good deal for travellers because you don’t get to check the exchange rate used is fair. And to make a profit, the exchange rate used is set by the vendor and is generally not the real, mid-market rate. Instead of using the real exchange rate that you’d find on google, the ATM provider or merchant can add their margin to the rate and pocket the difference. You’ll get a better deal if you always choose to pay in the local currency instead.
All around the world, banks frequently charge their own customers for international ATM usage. Unfortunately, that means that as well as avoiding DCC, you have to know what your own bank will charge you to access your cash abroad.
Find all the details for your specific account online, or on the back of a bank account statement - before you travel.
Not all Romanian ATM providers add their own fee, but you’ll likely find that a private ATM, in a bar or nightclub, for example, will charge you for use. Some banks could also apply their own fee for using a foreign card.
The good news is that, if you’re already banking with a regional or global brand which is represented in Romania, you might be able to get cheap or fee-free withdrawals, if you stick to ATMs operated by your home bank or their affiliate.
The best thing to do is to check out whether your own bank has a local presence or partner in Romania. Many banks work together internationally, to offer their customers free or reduced fee cash withdrawals if they use specific ATMs while travelling. If your bank has a relationship with an institution based in Romania you could strike lucky and get free cash withdrawals.
Reduce ATM fees in Romania with a few simple tricks.
Banks set their own fees - which can vary by account type - for international card usage. It’s well worth checking where you can get the best deal for overseas cash withdrawals. Some banks offer accounts, for example, which are specifically marketed to travellers and promise free - or cheap - withdrawals wherever you are.
At the very least, if you have a couple of active bank accounts, check which is the better deal, and use that. But you might save even more if you open a new account specifically for travel, which offers a good deal on overseas cash withdrawals.
If you do only one thing, avoid DCC. It’s an entirely avoidable expense for travellers and expats using a foreign credit or debit card, and just lines the pockets of banks and ATM operators, at your expense. Choose to pay in local currency, to make sure you dodge DCC’s high fees and poor exchange rates.
If you’re in the market for a convenient - and great value - alternative, check out Wise.
If you have a local bank account in Romania or have a friend or family member who does, you can send money to Romania between accounts with Wise before your trip. Then you just withdraw cash from the local account using fee-free ATMs, as and when you need it.
That lets you dodge international ATM fees - plus, Wise could cost you less because all transfers use the real, mid-market exchange rate for transfers, with just a small fee per transaction. And there are no nasty surprises to worry about - there’s a transparent fee structure for each transaction, so you know exactly what you’re getting.
If you travel a lot, you might be able to save even more with a borderless multi-currency account from Wise. You can keep your cash in any one of dozens of different currencies, including Romanian lei, and there’s no monthly service fee charged for you to use your account. You can even get a linked multi-currency debit card for extra convenience.
ATMs are certainly convenient to use, and if you’re travelling they can offer a good deal, as long as you’re careful about DCC. Or, why not give Wise a try. Send money to a local account, and avoid international ATM fees altogether. See what you could save.
This publication is provided for general information purposes only and is not intended to cover every aspect of the topics with which it deals. It is not intended to amount to advice on which you should rely. You must obtain professional or specialist advice before taking, or refraining from, any action on the basis of the content in this publication. The information in this publication does not constitute legal, tax or other professional advice from TransferWise Limited or its affiliates. Prior results do not guarantee a similar outcome. We make no representations, warranties or guarantees, whether express or implied, that the content in the publication is accurate, complete or up to date.
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