Tuesday, May 27, 2008

ATM Withdrawal Rates & Tips

ATMs are a low-cost and effective means of obtaining cash while overseas. However, there are some tips to observe:

1) Withdraw Hong Kong dollars.

- You can change them to Macau Patacas at Tai Fung Bank at a favorable rate of HKD$1 = MOP$1.03. For other currencies including Chinese Renminbi, Tai Fung bank will charge you a 1.5% to 2.5% spread (i.e. commission) in its exchange rates.

- If you change more than HKD$10,000 to Macau Patacas at Tai Fung, check if they charge you a "transaction fee". [They don't charge a fee as of 09 APR 2009.]

- If you want to gamble, use Hong Kong dollars as casions don't accept Macau Patacas.

- Don't carry Macau Patacas out of the country. Except for Zhuhai (across the border to China), you will have trouble finding other people to change them.

- If you withdraw from a Hong Kong bank in Macau Patacas, you will be charged the unfavorable rate of HKD$1 = MOP$1.02. The money changer in the airport gives you an even worse deal of HKD$1 = MOP$1.01.

2) HSBC ATMs only supply Hong Kong dollar bills in denominations of HKD$500 (US$64) and HKD$1000 (US$128) pieces. Hence, you cannot physically withdraw amounts smaller than that. Other ATMs probably have similar restrictions.

3) If you are withdrawing using a ATM, debit or credit card marked with "VISA", you can expect to pay about 1.6% before any bank charges. MasterCard probably charges a similar amount. [VISA rates]

4) If your bank charges a flat fee (like most Singapore banks) for withdrawals, you can save much if you plan your spending so that you withdraw a larger amount each time.

- If you are traveling from a country like Singapore where you can get exchange rates as low as 1% commission, then change your money to Hong Kong dollars before you arrive in Macau. Don't underestimate the savings, especially if you are a budget traveler.

- The low commission money changers can be found in Lucky Plaza (near Orchard MRT) and People's Park (near Chinatown MRT). Refer to [Singapore Street Directory]

5) Take note of (4) when you charge to your ATM or credit card. If you spend small amounts of money frequently, you may pay a lot in withdrawal fees.

Oh, by the way, please don't give away your money to the casino. There are better ways to do charity. :)