Malta may be small, but it’s a fascinating place, packing in a whole load of history, culture, nature and a cool city vibe. Popular for holidays, it’s not surprising that many expats looking to live and work somewhere with sun, sea and sand, also end up choosing Malta for their home.
Whether you’re moving to Malta for good, or just there for a short holiday, you’re going to need some cash to make the most of it. If you plan on using ATMs to withdraw local currency while you’re in Malta, here’s all you need to know to avoid common pitfalls, and unnecessary fees.
Malta is multi-cultural and has a thriving tourist industry. As a result, finding an ATM will be no problem** in populated areas- just look in or near bank branches, shopping centres and supermarkets. However, if you’re headed off the beaten track, to somewhere more rural or one of the less populated islands of the Maltese archipelago, it’s worth taking some cash with you, as ATM access will be more limited.
Find the most convenient ATM wherever in Malta you happen to be, using one of the following ATM locators from large national and regional banks:
Visa and Mastercard tend to be the most common networks, but Amex should also be accepted in larger, and high-end locations, and a handful of ATMs. Discover is more rarely used, and you’ll struggle to find an ATM which will accept a Discover card.
Find a handy ATM on the same network as your card, 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 Malta have chip and pin technology, with a 4 digit PIN code.
If you have an American magnetic stripe card, you can still use it in ATMs in Malta, as long as you get the card’s PIN from your bank before you travel. Cards issued elsewhere in Europe, the UK and Australia, for example, usually have chip and pin technology and should be accepted with no problem in ATMs and stores.
What you can withdraw from an ATM in Malta depends to an extent on whether you have a maximum daily cash withdrawal limit set up in your home bank. If you do then this is likely to apply in Malta, too.
If you don’t have any limits set on your card, then the ATM provider’s rules will apply. There may be limits per transaction, and also daily limits. APS Bank in Malta, for example, limits customers to €1,000 a day as a standard.
(Source, 11 January 2018)
For most people, using a credit or debit card abroad is a convenient and easy solution. However, if you don’t inform your bank before you travel, you could find that their fraud department limits or blocks your card, because of the change in spending pattern. It’s worth telling your bank where you’re going, ahead of time, just in case. Usually, this is as simple as popping into your local branch or completing an online form.
If you use an ATM to withdraw cash in Malta - or anywhere else in the world, for that matter - there’s a good chance you’ll be charged by your home bank and also the ATM provider. However, as long as you avoid common exchange rate rip-offs like DCC - described below - it’s still a good option for many travellers.
Dynamic currency conversion (DCC) is the most common pitfall when it comes to getting a fair price for your foreign currency ATM withdrawal. You can come across it anywhere you use your card - in a store, restaurant, or using an ATM. Under DCC, you’ll be asked if you want to pay for your transaction in your home currency as opposed to the local currency.
It might sound like it makes life easier, but DCC transactions leave you exposed to hidden fees. The exchange rate used is often not the real, mid-market rate - the one you’d find if you googled it. Instead, if you choose to pay in your home currency, the exchange rate is set by the foreign bank or ATM provider. They have no need to keep you happy, as you don’t bank with them, so they often offer a poor rate, and pocket the difference as their profit. Always choose to pay in the local currency instead. This means your own bank will choose the exchange rate and are far more likely to give you a good deal.
Many banks charge their customers to make withdrawals from ATMs overseas. This could be a flat fee per transaction or a percentage, depending on the type of account. Check the details in your terms and conditions, before you go.
As well as your home bank fees, many banks and ATM providers in Malta will add their own fee when you withdraw cash. In most cases though, this fee is displayed on the screen for you to review before you commit to the transaction.
If there’s a currency conversion needed, because your home account isn’t held in euros, it’s unlikely you’ll be able to get completely free cash withdrawals in Malta. However, if you bank with a global brand, or your bank has a branch or a partner institution in Malta, you might be able to access reduced fees if you use the right ATMs.
Although you’ll probably be hit with a fee somewhere along the line, you can at least reduce some of the likely ATM fees in Malta with a few simple tricks.
Before you leave, ask your home bank, if they have any local partner institution in Malta. Often banks work together, to offer free or cheap international cash withdrawals to their customers overseas. Choose an ATM run by a partner bank to benefit.
If you have several different local bank accounts, read the small print about overseas ATM fees, and choose the one which offers the best deal to use while you’re away. Every account will have its own charging structure, and some are much better than others.
Credit card cash advances using a foreign currency are usually an expensive choice and should be avoided if at all possible.
All ATMs are not made equal, and the fees in tourist locations, pubs, nightclubs and other places with a captive audience, might not offer great value. ATMs attached to banks, in supermarkets or shopping centres tend to have the lowest fees, and are safer, too.
Don’t forget what to do if you’re asked whether you want to pay in your home currency or local currency. Choosing the local currency is always the smartest choice - or you could be hit with high fees and poor exchange rates because of DCC.
TransferWise is a convenient and cheap alternative to get the euros you need for your trip to Malta. All transfers are done using the real, mid-market exchange rate, with just a transparent fixed fee, which is set out before you complete the transaction.
If you have a bank account in Malta, or if you’re visiting someone who does, you can transfer money between accounts ahead of time, and take cash from ATMs during your stay. With TransferWise you’ll get the best exchange rate available, with no hidden charges to worry about.
Alternatively, if you travel a lot, or are moving to Malta for a longer time, a borderless multi-currency account from TransferWise is a great choice. Keep your cash in any one of dozens of different currencies, including euros, with no monthly account fee to pay. All you need to do, is set up your debit card for the account, and pay with your euro balance in shops and restaurants, to avoid ATM fees, and poor exchange rates, entirely.
Nobody wants to be hit by unnecessary costs when travelling. If you steep clear of DCC, then using ATMs can be a convenient way to get your euro cash for the trip, with a fair exchange rate. Alternatively, 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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