Banco Universal ATM Limits

The other day I needed to make two large ATM withdrawals. I expected to make $600 withdrawals. The first day I used two accounts because one account is limited to $500 and the other account is much higher.

When I counted the money later, I noticed that the Banco Universal ATM in El Rey had only given me $500. I checked the account on the Internet and saw that it only took $500 from the account. I was pretty sure I had asked for $600, which is not an automatic selection and has to be entered manually, but thought I might have made a mistake.

The next morning I went to the same ATM and carefully entered $600. When the money came out it was $500. The Internet has verified that only $500 was removed from the account.

This is a MAJOR Problem with the software in this machine and maybe all Banco Universal’s ATMs. It did not tell me that I was asking for more than it was programmed to give, it just gave a different amount. I rarely get the paper slip because it doesn’t give me an account balance for banks in the US and often doesn’t have paper anyway.

So my reading of this is that either Banco Universal ATMs have been programmed to give out a maximum of $500 or Banco Universal has some agreement with CLAVE to give no more than $500. Since the ATMs (CLAVE) now charge $3.00 per transaction, by requiring more transactions, CLAVE gets more service charge.

The correct procedure for the ATM would to have been to tell me that I had requested an amount greater than was available. The the only complaint I would have then would be the gouging for wanting more transactions.

To give money that is less than requested with no notification is just plain wrong. This is a warning to double check your money on ATM withdrawals and to always request a receipt. The ATMs are playing more games.

UPDATE March 3, 2010: Do to all of the comments that I have received about the $500 maximum ATM limit, I went back and reviewed my past statements. Sure enough the times I had thought I had taken our $600 only showed $500 on the statement.

It shows that I have been far too trusting of the machines and had not counted my money. Maybe that is the reason it didn’t last as long as I thought it should. Even though the ATM doled out the same amount as it removed from my account, I still consider it a programming error to not tell the client that it is not giving the amount requested of the machine. I have had HSBC ATM tell me when I have asked for over $500, so maybe it is only some banks.

At any rate, my apologizes to all whose comments I disputed on $500 being the standard ATM limit. I guess I was struck down once more with a senior moment.

9 thoughts on “Banco Universal ATM Limits

  1. Don Ray:

    It is my understanding that the business entity that operates the ATMs is wholly separate from the various banks and that the banks have nothing to do with their policies. Your complaints are nevertheless valid, but I believe they will have to be taken up with the CLAVE folks, not the bank. I share your outrage at the $3 charge regardless of the amount withdrawn. It’s becoming increasingly difficult to “move” one’s money to Panama.

  2. Hi Bonnie. You may be correct, but the banks have their names on the ATMs and they only honor free withdrawals to members of their bank, so they have some say in the programming.

    None the less, to give a different amount than what was requested, without notification, is unreasonable under any way of looking at it.

    In the past, I could get $600 from the ATMs. It does make a difference.

  3. $$$¢¢¢…
    In my experience, most, if not all, ATM’s through out the world are limited to $500.00. A limit to protect themselves from fraud.

  4. Usually the amount is limited by the bank holding the account and it can be changed if requested. All of my accounts allow more than 500. I typically always get $600 to have smaller ATM charges.

    You have to have more than a $500 limit to take out $500. After the $3.00 CLAVE charge and the MasterCard charge, my withdrawal was $507.02.

  5. Banks have become unbelievably shameless.
    Here’s a plug for the bank I’ve used for over $30 years. USAA Bank out of San Antonio does not have its own ATMs, so their policy is to reimburse customers for the full amount of ATM fees — even outrages fees that some of the smaller cash machines in hotels and such places gouge. Often, people settle for the least worst when they shop around for a good bank — in my case, where I’ve traveled around my whole life and use USAA for insurance of all types, credit cards, mortgage and investment services, and general banking, they have never let me down. In fact, their customer-oriented service business model should be the standard for the entire financial and services sector. Absolutely first rate — never any games.

  6. Don Ray,

    I’m 99.9% sure all ATM machines in Panama are limited to $500, I have never found one to give more. Although the limit of your clave can be raised to more, you still have to do multiple transactions to get it out the machine.


  7. Russ, I assume this is a new change either for CLAVE or Banco Universal. After CLAVE made the change to charging $3.00 last August and Master Charge started charging for a percent of the withdrawal, I ALWAYS withdrew $600. I have done it at PriceSmart and I have done it at the ATMs in El Rey.

    None the less, if they made a change, to give out a different amount than what was requested is a poor process and the software should be corrected.

  8. Have lived in Panama now for 13yrs, and my bank account
    is in the States, and I use a debit vist card. The maximum
    I was ever able to get out at one time is 500 dlrs. However
    you can make as many 500dlrs transactions you want and
    it depends how much your bank allows per day to withdraw.
    There used to not be a 3dlr fee for each withdrawal no
    matter how much, but as we all know new laws have
    come into effect and now all banks charge a 3dlr fee if
    money is withdrawn that is not in an acccount of a
    bank in Panama. That’s just the way it is.

  9. Hi Rudi, because of your comment, I went back and checked my bank statements in the past. I have added an UPDATE to this post.

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