If you want to avoid paying ATM fees in Albania you need to be selective about which banks you use.
Even if your own bank hits you with fees, there’s no need to let greedy Albanian banks charge you extra money on top.
I lived in Albania for two months and have discovered most of the banks want to charge extra fees. Some of the ATMs warn you about it. They detail the fees involved and ask if you want to proceed. That’s okay. It gives you the chance to retrieve your card and walk away. However, not all banks warn you. Some just add an extra fee on top and you know nothing about it until you check your statement. That’s wrong. Actually, it’s worse than wrong. It stinks.
When I first arrived in Albania I used the first machine I could find. It was very close to the ferry terminal in Saranda. The ATM added fees. I was not happy about it but I needed some cash to get a new SIM card for my phone. I’d heard many establishments don’t accept cards in Albania, so I wanted some quick cash.
A couple of days later, I tried making a withdrawal from an ATM outside a Credins bank. It didn’t add any extra charges at all. After that, I stuck to that bank as much as I could.
So, if you want to avoid paying ATM fees in Albania, use the machines provided by Credins bank.
There may be other options, but I never found them.
About a week before I was due to leave Albania, the ATM outside my usual Credins bank wasn’t working. I went to an ATM provided by Raiffeisen Bank and tried it instead. Towards the end of the transaction, the ATM warned me there would be a 700 Lek fee (€5.67) and asked if I was happy to proceed. I wasn’t happy at all so I cancelled the transaction.
I was in a shopping centre at the time, so I tried the machine next to it. Unfortunately, I can’t remember which bank it was but the ATM was not as honest as its neighbour. I don’t recall seeing any warning at all. I withdrew 10,000 Lek and when I checked my account It said I’d withdrawn 10,450 Lek. The ATM had added a sneaky 450 Lek (€3.65) charge on top.
So, if you are visiting Albania and want to avoid being hit by any unexpected ATM withdrawal fees, Credins is probably the best bank to use. Things may change in the future but in April 2019 Credins Bank was not adding any extra or hidden ATM fees.
If your own bank normally charges you foreign transaction fees for withdrawing cash or using your cards abroad, it’s possible to avoid those fees too by opening a Wise Multi-Currency Account and getting a Wise debit card. I’ve had a card for around a year now and it’s saved me a fortune in bank fees. If this may help you, you can get an idea of how much money you can save HERE.
12 thoughts on “How to Avoid Paying ATM Fees in Albania”
Thanks a lot for this. Can confirm that as of September 2022, Credins Bank still charges no ATM fee.
To add some intel for people in Shkodra: if the ATM at the Credins branch at Sheshi Demokracia is broken/empty, there is a second Credins ATM in the hospital north of the city center, in the west entrance to the main building:
Thanks for the update and the additonal information you provided.
I’ve never been to Shkodra and got curious so I checked out some images of the area. It looks like an interesting place to be. If I ever go back to Albania, I may make it my first port of call.
Alpha Bank charging 700 Lek as at 25 April 2022, at the Air Albania stadium for a UK issued Barclaycard. Stupidly I thought I was paying a reasonable 50p fee, not £5 robbery. And forgot a week earlier I’d used a Credins Bank just along from Tirana International Hotel on the north side of Skenderbeg Square and that didn’t charge commission. Like you advise here. That was using a UK issued Wise (formerly TransferWise) card on a Euro account but usually same tariffs apply.
It’s good to know Credins bank is still not charging any fees.
If you already have Wise account, taking cash from an ATM using your Barclaycard was a doubly bad move. Barclacard will probably charge you some foreign transaction fees as well.
Did you have no funds in your Wise account at the time? If this was the case, you could have added some cash to your Wise account using your Barclaycard. If you had added it as GBP, Barclaycard would have only charged the same fee as they do for making cash withdrawal from a machine in the UK. Then, if you made a withdrawl in local currency, Wise would have handled the conversion and you would only have to pay its normal (low) fee.
Unless you were using Credins you would have still got a charge from the ATM but you would have avoided some of the Barclaycard fees.
Dear Steve, thank your for your follow up and apologies for my long delay in replying. Things got a bit hectic but I appreciate you taking the trouble to advise people. I like to use different cards and actually have an offer with Barclaycard so they don’t charge foreign transaction fees, as long as you pay off the bill in full each month. However, that does make the Wise card usually the best value for bigger or frequent amounts. While I find Wise (formerly Transferwise) doesn’t quite live up to its marketing outside the EU or UK – extra currency conversion charge, plus the not well publicised 1.75% fee for over £200 and 50p if more than two withdrawals, this is still better than any of my UK bank cards. Plus even in Albania / North Macedonia / Serbia they charge the very low foreign transaction fee so if you can pay on a card it is very inexpensive.
Twice in recent months I made the mistake as well of pressing to take out the money charged in GBP not the local currency – a rookie error when I was flustered or in a rush and forgot you must always choose local currency (Albanian Lek not pounds, or Macedonian Denar or Serbian Dinar) to get the best rate. Wise actually helpfully sent me a reminder afterwards not to make that mistake. My last withdrawal as I got the local bank’s bad rate I paid £5 more than I would have done if withdrawing in Serbian dinar using my Wise card.
Finally, if anyone is visiting the stadium in Tirana there is a Credins bank machine very near by, in front of a University building on the main road which is Mother Theresa Square. So if you walk 100 yards from the stadium you can spot a machine that won’t charge an excessive fee 🙂
Thanks for for such a detailed comment. The information you have provided may help other travellers.
I’ve always selected local currency, so I’ve never been caught out that way, but I think it’s good that Wise contacts people when they do this. Some of them may not know about the perils of dynamic currency conversion.
I did make a different mistake though, and a very foolish one. I can’t remember where I was but think it may have been Madrid.
After I completed the request, I took out my phone to snap a picture of the machine so I could use it in a blog post about saving money making withdrawals at foreign ATMs.
After I took the picture I began walking away and realized I hadn’t picked up the money. I turned around and saw it dangling out of the machine. I dashed back and, just as I was stretching out my hand to grab the cash, the machine pulled it back inside.
Kind of ironic bearing in mind the reason I was taking the photo.
Thanks for this!
Just wondering if it is true and many places don’t except card and mainly work with cash?
Yes, it’s true. Nearly everything is done in cash. If you arrive with euros you can use them too. A lot of places seem to prefer euros. I go told it’s because the euro is a stronger currency than the Lek. If you are in Tirana, some of the larger establishments accept cards, but it’s generally best to carry some cash.
Hi! I will be soon in Albania and this information is very useful to me. Thanks a lot for sharing.
I’m happy to have helped. I hope you enjoy your time in Albania.