How to Use an ATM in Chile

Text: Julie Schwietert Collazo

When was the last time you used traveler’s checks?

I know; I can’t remember either.

These days, you can find cash machines around the world.

The ubiquity of ATMs doesn’t necessarily mean you know how to use them, though.

On my recent trip to Chile, I was embarrassed to ask colleagues to loan me cash when I couldn’t make a withdrawal from a series of ATMs. I knew I had money in the bank–that couldn’t be the problem. I read Spanish, so I was pressing the right series of buttons. Why couldn’t I get any cash?

An amused saleswoman watched as I punched buttons and cursed an ATM. She called me over to her kiosk. “It happens to all foreigners,” she said.

The problem was that I kept looking at the ATM–which seemed exactly the same as the machines back home–and going through the same rote motions of button pushing that I use in the US. Thus, I kept missing the option at the bottom left of the screen: “Conduct Foreign Transaction.”

That’s it.

So that’s how you use an ATM in Chile.

It’s also how you slow down and remember how to be present in every moment.

Photo: BigBlue (Flickr creative commons)