If you are visiting Serbia and want to avoid paying ATM fees, you need to use the right banks. The good news is it’s pretty easy to do.
Although there are some banks you will need to avoid, there are others that will let you withdraw money from their ATMs without having to pay any additional fees.
This blog post is based on personal experience, not research and, although some of the “good” banks may become greedy in the future, at the time of writing the information is accurate and up to date.
There are a lot of banks in Serbia. I lived in Belgrade for a month but never tried them all because I only normally make one cash withdrawal per week. If a bank tried to hit me with fees, the only thing I withdrew was my card. I moved on and tried another one instead.
I’m writing this post because I don’t think it’s right for banks to charge foreign visitors for using their ATMs and I hope to make it easier for people who are visiting Serbia and want to avoid paying ATM fees during their time in Serbia.
Good Banks to Use If You Want to Avoid Paying ATM Fees In Serbia
NLB is a Slovenian bank that has branches all over Serbia. I used to use NLB cash machines in North Macedonia and they never added any extra costs to the transactions.
I’m happy to say the situation is the same in Serbia. If you use a card that was issued in another country, NLB doesn’t care. There will be no foreign currency fees.
UniCredit is another good option. It’s an Italian bank, but it very active in Serbia and every time you use an UniCredit ATM you won’t need to worry about any added fees at all.
If you are finding it difficult to find any ATMs that belong to NLB or UniCredit, it might be worth trying a Halkbank ATM.
Halkbank is actually a Turkish bank. Although I saw several Halkbank cash terminals in Belgrade, I never tried to use one because I didn’t need to withdraw any cash at the times I was near them. However, I used a Halkbank ATM in North Macedonia and managed to withdraw money without being charged. I think there is a good chance the Halkbank terminals in Serbia will be equally tourist-friendly so it might be worth a go.
Banks to Avoid
Raiffeisen Bank is a Romanian bank, but it has branches in Serbia and other Balkan countries.
When I tried to use a Raiffeisen Bank ATM in Belgrade it wanted to add a 500 RSD (€4.23 / £3.80 / USD 4.82) fee.
Faced with a message like that, “cancel” is the thing to do.
Vojvođanska banka is another bank you need to avoid if you don’t want to pay ATM fees while you are visiting Serbia.
It also adds a 500 RSD transaction fee every time you use one of its machines.
Avoid Dynamic Currency Conversion
It’s not just a case of knowing which ATM to avoid if you don’t want to pay foreign currency fees. Some ATMs try and get you to accept the offer of dynamic currency conversion. If you don’t know what that is, Wikipedia has an article that explains it: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dynamic_currency_conversion
The main thing to know is, the machine will offer to do a conversion to your home currency. This can seem pretty nice because you get to know how much is going to be taken from your card and don’t need to do any sums. The problem is, there are hidden fees and conversion mark-ups that mean you actually end up paying more. If you want to get the best deal on your withdrawal, the best thing to do is refuse the offer of dynamic currency conversion and choose the other option instead.
To be honest, I can’t remember if any of the machines I used in Serbia offered dynamic currency conversion. I refuse it so often it’s become a reflex action.
How to Avoid Foreign Currency Fees from Your Own Bank
If you withdraw money abroad, using your normal debit card your bank will probably charge you foreign currency fees. If you use your credit card, your card issuer will do the same. These fees can cost more than the ones some ATMs try and charge.
Fortunately, there is a way to avoid foreign currency fees, but you have to open up a special account. It’s called a TransferWise Borderless Account.
The account costs nothing. It’s free to open, there are no monthly or yearly fees, and it comes with a debit card (MasterCard).
The trick is to use the TransferWise card to withdraw cash from your ATMs and to pay for goods and services as well. You can save a fortune in bank fees. I know, I’m a perpetual traveller and use my TransferWise card every week.
You can manage the account from your computer or via a special app on your phone. These days, I mostly use my phone. When I need to withdraw money, I open the app, specify the amount and then send it from my bank. The funds usually arrive within just a few minutes.
When I withdraw money from an ATM, there is a fee but it’s much less than I would pay if I used one of the cards issued by my British or European banks. If you rarely go on vacation, this service may not interest you. However, if you travel a lot like I do, the savings add up week after week. You can find out more information about the TransferWise Borderless Account here: https://transferwise.com/us/borderless/