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Tuesday 17 November 2009

Your Money? It’ll Still Cost You

ATMs – those hole in the wall machines that give you access to cash all day and every day – are now a part of everyday life. What the world was like before their coming is for many unknown, or a fading memory, which latter is a good thing: not so long ago, if you came up short out of banking hours, you were stuffed.

But not all has been plain sailing with ATMs in the UK. There were for many years networks that only yielded cash if you were a customer of a particular bank or building society. Then there were networks that worked more flexibly, but you still had to be a member of a particular “club” of banks.

Here in Portugal, the ATM appeared rather later than in many countries, and with one important benefit: they all sit on the same network, and all behave in an identical way: they are called Multibanco machines. This is a big plus for those like me that like the country, but have difficulty figuring out the language – well, at the kind of speed that isn’t going to cause annoyance to the rest of the queue.

Yes, a Multibanco ATM will talk to you, reassuringly, in English. There is also a standard series of animated characters to help pass the time while one country’s network talks to another, to make sure your credit is good.

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