Maybe you’re visiting Latvia for its pristine nature, soaring castles, or beautiful coastline. Or perhaps it’s Riga’s intriguing mix of art nouveau architecture and mediaeval old town that’s caught your eye. Either way, you’re going to need some cash to make the most of your visit.
For most travellers, using ATMs to withdraw local currency is a convenient choice. Here’s all you need to know about using ATMs in Latvia.
You’ll have no problem finding an ATM (*Bankomāt)* in towns and cities in Latvia.
You’ll find an ATM in almost every bank branch, although in some cases it’ll be inside the branch itself, and you’ll need to swipe your card to get access. There are also plenty of ATMs in shopping centres and near supermarkets.
There’s a well-developed banking network in Latvia. You can find a convenient ATM using one of the following ATM locators from large national and regional banks:
- Swedbank ATM Locator
- DNB Banka ATM Locator
- SEB ATM Locator
- Danske Bank ATM Locator
- Luminor ATM Locator
- PrivatBank ATM Locator
Most major credit and debit cards will be accepted to pay for goods and services in Latvia.
Not all bank cards can be used in all ATMs. Discover cards, for example, aren’t widely used - but it’s easy enough to find an ATM on the right network using one of the following locators:
- Maestro ATM locator
- Mastercard and Cirrus ATM locator
- Visa, Plus, and Plus Alliance ATM locator
- American Express ATM locator
Bank cards issued in Latvia usually have chip and pin technology, as well as an older style magnetic stripe. PIN numbers in Latvia are 4 digits long.
If you’re planning on using your American bank card in ATMs in Latvia - or elsewhere in Europe for that matter - it’s worth getting hold of the card’s PIN from your bank before you travel. UK and Australian bank cards, which usually have chip and pin technology, should be accepted with no problem.
The amount of cash you can take out of an ATM in Latvia will depend to an extent on your home bank. Locally issued cards can be set to a certain withdrawal limit, up to as much as €850 per transaction. However, if you’re visiting, you’ll likely find that ATM providers will limit you to about €250 per withdrawal.
If you’re travelling, it’s worth letting your bank know before you go. That’s because bank fraud departments track transactions, and can limit or block your card if they think there’s something suspicious going on. Let them know your plans in advance, to make sure you can use your card as normal during your trip.
Using an ATM to get local cash to fund your travels is a convenient option. And if you avoid a few common pitfalls, it can also be very cost effective. However, there are a few fees - and potential ripoffs - you need to know about before you use your ATM in Latvia.
One of the most common reasons travellers get ripped off using an ATM is because of something called dynamic currency conversion (DCC). That’s where you’re asked if you want to see the cost of the transaction in your home currency when you’re making a payment.
Banks will tell you that DCC is a customer service, saving you the trouble of working out the cost using confusing and changeable exchange rates. However, DCC transactions leave you exposed to hidden fees. And it’s not just the potential flat fees you need to worry about. Often you won’t get the mid-market rate - the real exchange rate you’d find on google - on the conversion. The bank or ATM provider will mark up the exchange rate and keep the difference as their profit. You’re not their customer, so there’s no incentive to keep you happy. You’ll get a better deal if you always opt to pay in the local currency instead.
Aside from the exchange rate, you also need to know the fees levied by your own bank on international cash withdrawals. These will be set out in writing in your terms and conditions, which you can often find online.
Wherever in the world you are, you could also find that the local bank or ATM provider add their own fee whenever you withdraw money. If you’re lucky, the ATM will warn you of the fee, expressed in euros. However, in some cases you might find that they just tell you a charge will be added, without specifying how much - or fail to mention their fee entirely.
Many of the banking brands operating in Latvia are regional, operating throughout Scandinavia for example. However, large global brands are less well-represented. If you do happen to have an account with one of the local banks, you might be able to get free cash withdrawals at their bank branches in Latvia.
You might find that avoiding ATM fees in Latvia entirely is impossible - but you can certainly reduce the cost with a few simple tricks.
Some banks work in partnership with other banking brands, to ensure that customers can get free or reduced-fee ATM use around the globe. Check before you travel, if your bank has a local partner in Latvia.
If you have multiple bank accounts, then it’s well worth checking the small print on each of them and choosing the one which offers the best deal. Remember, using a credit card for a foreign currency cash withdrawal is often an expensive choice, so if you’re considering this route, make sure you know what you’ll pay for the service.
Many ATMs levy a flat fee per transaction, which makes it cost effective to take out larger amounts of cash, in fewer transactions. Just make sure you have a safe place to keep your cash if you choose to do this.
In obvious tourist locations, and where there is a lot of passing trade, you’ll likely find that the ATMs on offer are not a great value and offer very poor exchange rates.
DCC - which we talked about earlier - is one of the most common exchange rate ripoffs. Pay in local currency to avoid DCC’s high fees and poor exchange rates.
A great way to get simple access to your money abroad is to use TransferWise. TransferWise offers the real exchange rate on every transfer, with transparent fees for a fair deal.
If you have a local Latvian bank account or know someone who does, you can transfer money between accounts ahead of time, using the real mid-market exchange rate. It's a quick and convenient way to get your money from one country to another. No tricks, and no hidden charges. And if you’re a frequent traveller, or plan on staying in Latvia for a while, you could benefit even more with a borderless multi-currency account. There are no monthly fees, and you can hold your money in any one of dozens of different currencies. Activate your debit card for the account, and you can avoid ATM withdrawal fees altogether by using the card in shops and paying with your euro balance.
Nobody wants to pay more than they have to when converting currency. Avoiding the more common scams and ripoffs outlined in this guide can be a smart way to limit the fees you have to pay. Alternatively, you can use TransferWise, to send money to a local account, or spend using your borderless multi-currency account card, and avoid ATMs altogether.
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