Brazil travel alert: ATMs are f#%ked.


If I was some sort of sadist who got my rocks off by yanking the chains of people who expect things to work logically, I might have a lucrative career designing the ATM network at a variety of banks in Brazil. I went to no fewer than 9 machines today in search of one that would give me cash. Here are some of the oddities:

– In any bank, there are separate machines for separate purposes, such as depositing checks, taking out cash, and seemingly taking out different denominations of cash. Except when there aren’t.

– In some banks for some reason that eludes me, you can take out amounts of 100, 200, 300, 415, and 600 reais. What the hell? 415? yes, go figure. Except when you can’t of course, which is…sometimes.

– Sometimes I can get cash from a particular bank. Sometimes I can’t. Sometimes at a different machine at the same branch I can. Sometimes I can’t. Sometimes, another branch of the exact same bank will give me cash. Sometimes not.

– Sometimes, a machine will tell me that they are not a part of the Cirrus network, and therefore my card is not able to be used on this machine. Except that my card is on the Plus network, not the Cirrus network.

All in all, if you have enough patience and embrace the absurd, you should be fine. Except when you aren’t, which is sometimes. Like when you really need the cash.

Happy travels!


  1. troy says:

    find a Citibank. always worked for me.

  2. Stephen says:

    They have always worked for me too, when they are around. Alas, this is not always the case.

  3. Newton says:

    Bah, you know… Citibank is having financial problems. lol.

  4. walter says:

    Stephen… as I told you, some things could it seems weird… but you can get fun….

  5. HSBC also usually works and doesn’t charge the R$6 fee

  6. Stephen says:

    I have had mixed results with HSBC. The one at the airport in Sao Paulo worked, the one at the mall in Salvador, not so much.