question for users of ATMs in Europe

Do they typically have an option to check the account balance? Specifically wondering about Germany, Czech Republic, and France.
This question inspired by my FD who has generated a Notice of Insufficient Funds on an account that is in BOTH our names. It occurs to me that I haven’t used this feature on an ATM in years, since I check balances online. The Gen Y kid may not even know it exists. I’m pretty sure it was there when I did my walkabouts in the 1990s.

In Holland this is only avalible if you have an account with the Bank that operates the ATM.

not sure about the rest of Europe

Same here in France.

The past year while in Germany I could get cash through the ATM’s from my American bank account, but could not check the balance. FWIW, generally by the time I walked back to my flat and logged in online the transaction was posted and my balance was update.

Are we talking about foreigners/ tourists using ATMs at “partner” banks, or generally? Because I use cash group, and when I’m using an ATM of my own bank (Hypo) I can look at the account balance in a separate step from getting money. But if I use a different bank, e.g. Deutsche Bank, they can’t access my account, I can only get money. (without fee because of the cash group system).

For tourists, I assume that the partner banks are similarly unable to get into the home bank and look at the account.

Furthermore, both this account balance and the ones printed out at the “Kontoauszugsdrucker” (Account transactions printer) bear a warning that this is not the accurate last-minute balance because transactions might have occurred but not been booked into the system yet (since they apparently do only one “run” - where the daily transactions are transferred to permanent entries - a day, so everything that happens after 3 pm or so won’t show up yet. So even if you check your balance, you still can get overdrawn.

In my experience (in Iceland, the UK, France, Germany, Switzerland, the Netherlands, Hungary, Austria, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Italy, and Russia), you can’t see your balance if you’re using a foreign card (at least, if the account is in a foreign currency). As others have pointed out, some banks won’t even show your balance if you use a local bank card that wasn’t issued by that bank.

With my own bank’s ATMs in the UK I can see the exact figure of my balance. At any other ATM it will just tell me I can withdraw up to £300, or some figure, today (this applies in both the UK and Italy).

Last time I was in Hungary (January of this year), my BoA card showed the remaining balance in forint after my withdrawal. My account was in dollars. I can’t remember which banks I used, but I was a little surprised, because I don’t remember this being the case before.

Huh. Based on the replies previous to yours, it sounds like a traveler from the US won’t be able to access her balance at a European ATM, and that does make sense when I think about it. Your post makes me wonder if BofA is somehow different - the situation in question does involve a BofA account.

Thanks everyone for responses. When it comes down to it, really, the kidlet probably just needs another discussion about money management more than she needs account balance access. :slight_smile:

That’s an interesting question. When I say I don’t remember that being the case before, I was using a Chase card at those previous times. I also seem to recall seeing my balance in pesos in Mexico using the BoA card. I’m not 100% certain about that, though.

Well for some reason I could always tell my current balance when I used my (UK origin card) on the Continent. I know others could not

I think it depends on partner banks. Not exactly relevant to the OP, but I was able to check my balance at a Mexican ATM with my Bank of China ATM card. Of course the balance was displayed in Mexican Pesos.

In Europe I’ve only ever extracted money from a company credit card without testing the balance. Next time I will, though!

Actually I’m much more surprised to hear that it works at all - even knowing that privacy rights don’t exist in the US, there’s still the technical side of allowing Bank B to access the account of Customer Jones at Bank A. Don’t a lot of older Banks have their own special computer systems?

The privacy issue is not an insurmountable one. If a customer of Bank A, identified with his Bank A-issued ATM card, asks Bank B to query Bank A as to his account balance, and report the balance to him, then Bank A can take itself to be authorised by its costomer to disclose his account balance to Bank B. If necessary a term to that effect can be included in the agreement which the customer signs with Bank A when his ATM card is issued.

However, there might be other reasons why this wouldn’t happen:

  • Incompatible data systems, as you point out. There may be a common standard to enable withdrawals to be processed at other banks’ ATMs, but not to enable the full range of services to be provided.

  • For commercial reasons, Bank A might not wish Bank B to know more about Bank A’s customers than it strictly needs in order to process the withdrawal. The more Bank B knows about the Bank A customer, the more effectively it can target him to transfer his business to Bank B.

Where balances are provided, it may be because, by coincidence, the card-issuing bank and the cash-dispensinb bank are affiliates, or subsidiaries, and so commercial competition is not an issue. Or because the two banks have entered into some agreement which reassures them that the information will not be harvested, or will not be used in this way.

I’ve used that option both in Germany and France, but there is a caveat: it only really works if the ATM is “in network” for the issuer of the card. If it’s not, you’ll get the option but it won’t work. The same applies to that option in Spain.

Well, UnionPay is the universal Chinese ATM card. It doesn’t really matter which Chinese bank you do business with; it’s always going to be UnionPay. UnionPay has a deal with Banamex in Mexico, and so it was mostly curiosity that caused me to check it out (I was also trying to see whether some money that I wired from my USA account had made it to my Chinese account; it was a substantial sum that I was concerned about!).

I think for me the interesting part is that it allowed me to withdraw Mexican Pesos. The CNY is regarded as nonconvertible; without a receipt showing that I changed dollars to CNY, I have no means in China of getting my CNY converted back to dollars. My last month here (which is still a few years off) is going to be interesting…

Curiously while i have to visit an ATM of my specific bank in order to check my balance while in Ireland, in the US I can get my balance (in US$) from most, if not all, ATMs.

I sometimes wondered if, while abroad (in EUrope from Canada), the ATM showed not the bank balance but the remaining funds available for withdrawal - IIRC I have some limit like $1000 or $2000 every 24 hours. Presumably if the balance is below that it would show the actual balance? Hard to say, as I have more than that in overdraft protection.

Germany/my account is at a Sparkasse (local savings bank): it seems that my account balance is available from a subset of ATMs that are in network in the sense that they have a reciprocal agreement for free ATM use with Sparkassen, and account statement printouts are available from account statement printers in a still smaller subset (Sparkassen in certain regions of the country). So real-time interoperatibility seems to be a cost issue.

Practically speaking, getting one’s account balance might be less of an issue to consumers in Germany as you can usually overdraw your current account by the amount of one or two months’ salary (I am a long-time customer and they set my overdraft limit at about 3.5 months’ net salary), also people who want up-to-the minute information wherever they are always have the option of internet banking from their laptop or smartphone.