This section heavily depends on what country you are coming from and your bank. I will discuss here some of my personal tips as having a UK bank account, but also offer general advice about money in Bali.
Before you arrive in Bali, I’d recommend checking with your bank about travelling abroad. You need to contact them and ask them questions like:
- If I use my card abroad, will you block it for security? (and “Hey, I’m going abroad!”)
- What fee will you charge for withdrawals in Indonesia? (sometimes it’s a flat fee, or a percentage, or both!)
- Can I move money easily between accounts?
To expand on the third point from above, I think that it is a smart move to have some way of separating your money between accounts. You could do this in several ways and it just depends on your options with your bank, cards and country you come from. But the aim is the same: split your money between accounts to reduce risk of fraud.
Being from the UK and (currently) an EU citizen, I have access to two banks/cards: Monzo & Revolut.
I use Monzo as my primary bank account. Within that account, I am able to create “pots” (separated accounts) within one account. With that, I can move my money away from my available/main balance until I am ready to use it. As such, it’s very unlikely that even if my card is skimmed that I will lose any of my money, because there won’t be very much available for anyone to take!
Secondary, I use my Revolut card to make additional card withdrawals. Both these cards have free international withdrawals up to a certain amount, with a small % fee thereafter. So I’ll swap my money between them to maximise my free withdrawals each month.
You can aim to achieve the same thing. If you’re a UK citizen (and soon USA) I recommend using Monzo as a primary bank, they’re great. If you’re an EU citizen then at least having a Revolut card as a backup is a very smart idea.
If you’re neither of these, what can you setup with your bank now to improve your financial security before getting to Bali?
ATMs & Cash
There are ATMs galore in the areas of Seminyak, Kuta, Canggu, and centrally within Ubud. In more distant areas of Bali where there is less western influence and density, ATMs are much fewer in between and even when they are there they might not work for you at all. It’s all about preparation.
I always recommend that you plan your withdrawals and get cash out ahead of time when you might need it. For example I tend to withdraw once a week with the money I need for that week. I will then do what I can to split my cash in different places, so if something happens in stash then the others are still there. I’ll usually keep 300K on me at anytime, which is usually enough for any single day no matter what I do, and I’ll keep the rest of my cash back at my accommodation in a locked box.
I don’t recommend expecting that you can get cash out when you need it. The machine could not have enough cash left, the machine might be broken down temporarily, your bank might reject the withdrawal for some random security reason, or you just might not find one nearby. These things do happen, often, plan ahead.
You do need to have your wits about you, just enough, to avoid your card being skimmed. This is common issue in Bali, and tourists are frequently being frauded. I have multiple friends who have had this happen, so be aware that it does happen and you should prepare appropriately.
In order to prevent as much as possible your card being skimmed, remember these tips:
- Try to use ATMs inside banks rather than ATMs on the side of the street. There’s going to be more security (sometimes even armed guards in the day) and CCTV which reduces tampering with the ATM
- Before you use any ATM, fiddle around with the card entry slot and the PIN/keyboard. Techniques for card skimming come in different forms. Sometimes it’s a device laid on top of either the slot or the keyboard that looks completely normal, but if you pull at it to check it’s originally attached you might uncover a fraudulent device. If it comes apart – don’t use it!
- Be aware of your surroundings. Luckily most ATMs are in private enclosed boxes. But just makes good sense to be aware.