Billed as one of the most affordable destinations in Europe, it’s no wonder tourists are flocking to Bulgaria. Where else can you take a beach vacation and a ski trip in the same go? While credit and debit cards are very widely accepted in Bulgaria, you’re going to want to have some cash on hand for smaller purchases, like coffee and small meals, as smaller shops may not want to run cards for low purchase amounts. Luckily, ATMs are plentiful in all but Bulgaria’s smallest towns. Read on to learn what you need to know about using an ATM in Bulgaria.
ATMs in Bulgaria widely accept Visa, Mastercard, Cirrus, and Maestro. They can be found in shops, transportation hubs, and nearly all banks. However, travellers should be aware that skimming devices designed to steal card information can be common in Bulgaria, so it’s recommended that you try to use ATMs that are found inside banks, as they tend to be safest.
To find a local bank ATM, try these tools:
- UniCredit Bulbank ATM locator
- DSK Bank ATM locator
- First Investment Bank ATM locator
- United Bulgarian Bank ATM locator
- Postbank ATM locator
There are also some international banks with a presence in Bulgaria:
US, UK and Australian cards should all work without problems in Bulgaria. Visa, Mastercard, Cirrus, Maestro, American Express and Diner’s Club are all widely accepted. American Express may not be accepted everywhere, even if the business has a sign saying it accepts it, so it’s a good idea to bring a backup if you usually use AmEx.
To find an ATM within your card’s network, use these tools:
- Maestro ATM locator
- Mastercard and Cirrus ATM locator
- Visa, Plus, and Plus Alliance ATM locator
- Discover ATM locator
- American Express ATM locator
In Bulgaria, chip and PIN cards are most common. If you’re coming from somewhere that still uses magnetic swipe strips, like the US, you should still be able to use your card most places, but may run into trouble at unattended vending machines, like for toll booths and train tickets. To use most ATMs in Bulgaria, you should have a four-digit PIN. If yours is longer, you may want to request a four-digit PIN from your bank before you leave.
Many Bulgarian ATMs limit you to 200 leva per day. If you need more than this, you may need to go to multiple ATMs.
Before you travel anywhere internationally, you should let your bank know where you’re going, when and for how long. This way, you’re less likely to have your card shut down for suspicious activity, leaving you without any way to get cash or make purchases. You can also see if your bank has a daily spending or withdrawal limit, and check if you can temporarily increase it for the duration of your trip if you need to.
It’s an unfortunate reality that ATM use often comes with fees. Luckily, you can take some steps to reduce or avoid these.
When using your card at a foreign ATM, you may be given the option to complete the transaction in your home currency rather than the local currency. Dynamic Currency Conversion may seem like a helpful service, but it actually allows the ATM to set its own exchange rate, which can be marked up, allowing the ATM owner to profit off what’s essentially a hidden fee for you. It takes a little more math, but always choose to view transactions in the local currency to avoid hidden DCC fees.
ATMs in Bulgaria may charge flat fees per withdrawal -- using a local bank ATM rather than a commercial ATM is the best way to avoid these. Your bank may also charge either flat fees or a percentage as a withdrawal fee, or foreign transaction fees. Check with your bank for details, and pay close attention at the ATM to make sure you don’t miss any fee disclosures.
Your best bet is to get a card that doesn’t charge withdrawal fees or foreign transaction fees and reimburses you for ATM fees. You should also try to avoid ATMs in airports and hotels, as their fees tend to be higher. If an ATM charges a flat fee, try to withdraw a higher amount to avoid being hit with multiple fees for several smaller withdrawals.
If you have access to a bank account in Bulgaria, use TransferWise to move money there ahead of time. TransferWise moves money at the real mid-market rate, which is the same exchange rate you see when you Google it, with no markups or hidden fees, just a small, fair transfer fee. TransferWise also offers borderless multi-currency accounts, which allow users to send, receive and hold money in dozens of global currencies, including Bulgarian Lev. Borderless accounts even offer consumer debit cards to customers in the EU.
Whether you’re staying in Bulgaria for a while or just making a short visit, this advice should help. Safe travels!
Bulgaria’s enviable position on the Balkan peninsula has made it an attractive place for settlers since the dawn of time.The country has long been a meeting...