Should I be worried using an ATM in Bali? The short answer is no. Bring your ATM card and use like you would at home. But read these tips to keep from being scammed.
Nothing ruins a holiday faster than losing your hard-earned cash because you made a simple but avoidable mistake.
The banking system in Indonesia is quite sophisticated. For locals, you can pay bills like electricity, mobile phone top-ups, and even airfares if you don’t have a credit card, which is the case for the majority of the local population.
If you are a tourist looking for a friction-free holiday, here are 3 tips for making sure you don’t have a problem using an ATM in Bali – and if you do have a problem, this might help.
- Withdraw cash using major bank ATM’s
- Ask for the location of safe ATM’s
- Go inside the bank for large transactions
The easiest way to get cash when on holiday in Bali
The lowest friction way to get cash while in Bali is to visit an ATM attached to a bank branch with a 24-hour security guard.
Assuming you get picked up from the airport because you are staying at a Villa in Seminyak our driver knows several trustworthy ATM’s along Sunset Road open 24 hours where you can stop and get cash out with little to no risk.
The best ATM’s to use are the ones attached to major banks with the ATM located inside the foyer. If you use an ATM attached to a major bank with a security guard present, the chances of having your card skimmed are zero.
The next best option is a stand-alone ATM from one of the major local banks. We recommend BNI as a trustworthy bank with many ATM’s scattered around Bali, and several close to Villa Koru in Seminyak.
If you need to make a large transaction, it is best to go inside the bank branch itself. Opening hours are generally 9 am – 4 pm. Things can get crowded around lunchtime, and especially in the afternoon, so morning is the best time. The closest branch to Villa Koru is just around the corner, about 10 minutes walk, on Sunset Road. See the map below.
Some ATM’s are not safe
Even the big banks get targeted by skimmers when the ATM is isolated enough. Use your common sense – if it looks dodgy, it probably is – so don’t use it. Skimmers use a couple of tools to obtain card details. A sleeve which captures the card details as its inserted into the ATM slot, and a camera used to look at the PIN being entered.
Skimmers were rife in Bali a couple of years ago, but security has tightened up significantly. The chances of being skimmed if using ATM’s inside a branch are zero, and using a stand-alone AST from BNI is considered exceptionally safe.
How to spot an unsafe ATM
Don’t use ATM’s in isolated areas. Common sense really, but it must be said. If the area is dodgy then perhaps looking for an ATM isn’t your smartest move.
We have an inherent distrust of ATM’s located inside convenience stores. They tend to be the targets of fraudulent activity more than bank branches, probably because there can be so many people hanging around, especially late at night, looking for an opportunity from the “tired and emotional” late night crowd who may be intoxicated and therefore likely targets.
Unsurprisingly the most hit ATM’s for skimmers are dimly lit, with few customers and at ATM’s that are clearly not provided by the major banks.
Most Major Bank ATM’s are Safe
If the ATM you are thinking of using looks like part of a national bank, brightly lit and clearly branded it’s 99% safe.
The ATM’s with the brand you recognise from your home country? Not so much. They tend to have overpriced “convenience” charges and for some reason also tend to be the ones least guarded and most likely to be targeted by skimmers. Go figure.
A note on fees
Most banks will charge a convenience fee for using an ATM overseas of between $2 – 5 per transaction, as well as the less-than-competitive exchange rate. Therefore maximising each cash withdrawal is the better option.
For a short-term holiday (less than 2 weeks) we recommend using an ATM and accepting this as a cost of being on holiday.
Look for a sticker on BNI ATM’s that indicate the denomination of notes available. They spit out only two denominations, IDR50,000 rupiah notes (about AUD$5) and IDR100,000 rupiah notes. The Rp100,000 ones are best because $250 in Rp50k notes will make for a thick wallet!
The withdrawal limit from your home bank will dictate how much you can withdraw in one day – usually around AUD$300 – and the withdrawal limit on most BNI ATM’s is either IDR2,000,000 or 2,500,000 (that’s around AUD$200-250).
Money Changers in Bali
If you have more than, say, AUD$1,000 in cash that you want to be exchanged for IDR, there are plenty of money changers around.
If you are here for a short time and a good time, use the ATM’s. It’s easy, risk-free and the amount you get knicked by your bank is probably worth the exorbitant fees they charge for the security and peace of mind they provide.
If you are here for longer than a week, then maybe a money changer is better value. Like anything else, you get what you pay for. Money changers are plentiful in Bali – you can’t swing a cat without hitting one.
The best ones are not far from Villa Koru along Jalan Seminyak, along the street from Bintang Supermarket.
All the trustworthy money changers are going to be exchanging at roughly the same exchange rate, so shopping around doesn’t really get you much of a deal. In fact, if you are offered an exceptional deal outside of the normal rate you can easily check on the internet – don’t do it!
There is no such thing as free money!
Anyone offering you a deal too good to be true is likely setting you up for a scam, which, unfortunately, remain common in Bali, mostly driven by the greed of tourists thinking they can drive a hard bargain.
Pick one with direct frontage onto Jalan Seminyak with heavy walk-by traffic and ask the rate. Check it off the internet, and factor in their margin. If it’s close, you’re good to go.
Remember, the rate you see on the internet is the bank interchange rate – not the retail rate you will get from a bank, so don’t expect it from a money changer. You can usually do better than the bank rate offered at local branches, so check those first and you’ll have a sweet spot in the middle you can negotiate for.
Be careful when watching the count. A common scam is to count it in front of you and just before handing it over slip a few notes using sleight of hand. Once you hold the wad of cash in your hand, the transaction is excepted and any short-changing is difficult to come back from.
Don’t forget it works the other way around. There are plenty of tourists who make a fuss when they get their money and rant about being short-changed when they weren’t. This never ends well.
If you’re staying at Villa Koru we can direct you to a trustworthy money changer on the main street of Seminyak with 100% confidence.