Monday, July 9, 2012

Marque su PIN

So there I was in Mexico in desperate need of an ATM machine.  Sadly I didn't know where to find one, or how to ask for one.  I had a faint recollection of how to say ATM in Spanish because I had heard the word once before in a podcast, but I couldn't remember it to save my life.  But desperate times called for desperate measures and I absolutely had to break down and ask someone where to find an ATM.

I walked into the closest building which just happened to be a casino and started talking.  I don't remember what I said, but I remember the gentlemen I was talking to having a blank look on their faces (most assuredly because of my wretched Spanish) and me ending the conversation with...

¿Saben dónde está un cajero?

I went in the direction they pointed to and there was no ATM machine in sight.  I did however, find a bar with a cash register, which is exactly what I asked for, a cajero.  A cajero is actually a cashier, not an ATM machine.  While I did eventually find an ATM, it wasn't until much later that I was able to find out how to ask for an ATM machine in Spanish.

¿Hay un cajero automático por aquí?
Is there an ATM machine around here?

Cool, now we know how to ask for an ATM.  This handy little phrase may slip your mind, but not to worry, you can use my Android app My Spanish Phrasebook so you can have this expression and few other useful ATM expressions (and a whole lot of other useful phrases) handy when you need them.

But guess what?  knowing how to ask for an ATM machine is only half the battle, because the ATM machine you have to use might not have English as a language option.  And that my friends, is what we're going to talk about today.

I'm going to walk you through withdrawing your hard earned cash from an ATM in Spanish.  It's not as hard as you might think, but it certainly won't hurt to have a "how to" lesson on doing it before you do it for real the first time.

Let's get started.  BTW, this is probably going to be a bit long, so I recommend you get comfortable.

Marque su PIN
Enter your PIN

That should be pretty straight-forward.  You may also see codigo secreto for PIN.   FYI, marque comes from the verb marcar.

Ver Saldo de Cuenta
Account balance

I'm not going to translate everything, so anything I don't cover you can consider it to be your homework assignment.

Of course you have to press OK after entering your PIN, but the button was on the machine and not the pantalla - screen.

OK, so now we're ready to get down to business.

If you don't already know it, efectivo is cash.  I first learned that from reading the Spanish on a gas station pump.

Retiro de Efectivo
Withdraw Cash

Reciba Saldos y Estados de Cuenta
Get Balance and State of your Account

Saldos means balance and cuenta is account.   I selected Retiro de Efectivo.

This screen should be pretty self-explanatory.  I went with...

Ingrese otra cantidad
Enter a different amount

Borrar means to erase.  This is the button you want when you punch in a wrong number.

This is the screen you get when you don't put it the nice round numbers these machines like.

Este ATM utiliza billetes de $20 para los retiros.  Ingrese una cantidad diferente.
This ATM uses increments of $20 for withdrawals.  Enter a different amount.

Once you've finally entered everything properly, the ATM gives your  efectivo  and asks...

Sin Recibo
No receipt

Imprimir Recibo
Print Receipt

And that's it, así de facil.

Now keep in mind that your ATM might translate things a little differently, but we talked about all the key words that you need to know, so consider yourself armed and dangerous, ready to take another step down the path to fluency in Spanish.

Oh, one last thing.  You probably noticed the pictures I posted here showed amounts in dollars.  Well, in a Spanish speaking country those amounts will almost always be pesos, so be prepared.  And as for dealing with conversion rates, that my friends, I leave up to you!

¡Hasta Luego! 


  1. Thank you.
    I was in Guanajuato last summer, and did not know what I was doing at the ATM.
    I withdrew too much money as I was very confused living with USD my whole life, and not knowing much about pesos.

    I will be returning very soon, your blog helped me a lot.

  2. hey rodney-
    love this post!!! see ya at starbucks on the next go 'round.


  3. Once I stepped up to an ATM in another country and when it asked me the amount I wanted in the local currency, I had NO idea. Let me suggest this for persons before they travel. Go to an internet site that converts money amounts from one country to money amounts of another. (e.g. Then, on something like a 3x5 card convert amounts that are commonly used. For instance $1 USD for x cordobas, $5, then $10, then $25, then $50, then $100. For instance, right now I have in my billfold a card that says $1=24.25 cordobas (Nicaragua), $5.00=121.25 cordobas, $10=242.50 cordobas, $20=485 cordobas, $100=2425 cordobas. And since I generally draw out $200 at a time when I am traveling $200=4850.
    You may not have to have as many examples of exchanges as I have shown here, but I find that when I am talking to a fast talking merchant or money changer, it is not a good time for me to do math. Also, above I have rounded off some of the larger amounts. Foreign money can be mind boggling. A CR lunch may cost 3000 colones. Well, that's six dollars, which doesn't seem too intimidating after looking at 3000. By the way, in Costa Rica, I usually just mentally scratch out the last 3 digits of the amount and multiple the remaining number by 2 and that is the number of dollars--thus 3000 colones reduced to 3 and multiplied by 2=$6.00. But when you are new to the country, a printed card might come in handy.

  4. That's great advice Harlen. I've done just that on two occasions now and it was a huge help.