Indonesian Cash Money

Bringing cash or atm/credit card to Bali Indonesia? What is better? 13 tips to prepare yourself for less worry about money in Bali

This is one of the questions I receive from people visiting Bali. Even those who come for a second visit would still wonder:

What is better? Should I bring cash or atm/credit card to Bali?

It’s an important question that can impact your planning when you are going to visit Bali. Because do you need to prepare money or can everything go on the card?

With this, I want to tell you the best method that would suit you for the money subject in Bali. Hopefully, this will help as well with your (future) vacation here and other places in Indonesia.

What is the local currency in Bali?

The local currency is the Indonesian Rupiah in short IDR. When you look at prices in advertising or restaurant menu you would see the letter K, it means x1000. So an example would be 1k is 1000 IDR, 15k would be 15000 IDR. When it comes to millions you either see 1,250k (1.25 million) or 1.25 juta. Juta is the Indonesian word for million.

Recommended read: Living cost in Bali describes what the locals spend for the monthly living and housing.

The Indonesian notes/bills are and worth in USD as of 14th Feb 2020:

100000 (100k)7.3$
50000 (50k)3.65$
20000 (20k)1.46$
10000 (10k)0.73$
5000 (5k)0.365$
2000 (2k)0.146$
1000 (1k)0.073$

There are also some coins: 1000, 500, 200, and 100 coin. The table above I normally round to easier numbers when explaining money during a briefing. So I would mention 100k is about 7$ worth.

Do hotels, supermarkets accept foreign cash?

Foreign money in Bali

No, it is actually forbidden (by law) for hotels, and establishments to accept foreign cash as a form of payment. All tourists should pay in Indonesian Rupiah. However, it happens a lot that tips are given in foreign currencies. Source aksetlaw.com

When you are using a credit card to pay, the currency and amount to be paid will be converted into IDR. If you only have foreign cash at hand, you will need to exchange it at a money exchanger in Bali first before spending it at a hotel/supermarket.

Money Exchangers in Bali

If you are bringing cash, read carefully. If you are doubting to bring it, still this could be an important part for you.

This can be tricky, I have seen signs outside some establishments mentioning they are an authorized money exchanger. But who authorizes that? And what proof can be checked? Be very careful because I have not seen an unauthorized exchanger.

Below you can see which money exchanger accepts what kind of currency. Also what 1 of your currency is worth in IDR.

I got some tips for exchanging money:

  • The trustworthy companies are BMC and Central Kuta Money. These are the authorized money changes I have used in Bali. There are others but I recommend these.
  • Only exchange a small bit every time worth between 1-3 Million IDR (100-200$) or what you need.
  • Upon receiving cash in Indonesian Rupiah, keep both hands visible and count in front of the staff and their security camera. Check if it is ok
  • Before Exchanging, also check what rate you get. So you can grab your phone and calculate how much IDR you get.

ATM Machines in Bali

If your card can withdraw internationally there are some things you should know before using ATM Machines. ATM machines give out a limit of bills this can vary between 1 Million to a maximum of 2.5 Million IDR. Sounds a lot right? Millionaire immediately!

Withdrawing cash from the ATM machine does cost a fee. The bank you have charged service for withdrawing money while abroad. This can vary from a few dollars to maybe even 15$ (it depends what bank you have). Then there is an exchange rate where the bank takes a commission. So withdrawing maybe 2.5 Million IDR might cost up to 200k IDR in fee for the bank.

Tips for using the ATM machines in Bali:

  • Choose an ATM that has some personal (security)
  • An ATM at the Bank always has security 24/7
  • Before using an ATM check if something is shaky or you can easily remove a panel (Be sure you won’t get skimmed)
  • Also, check the surroundings if someone is peeking your code. Cover your code when entering.

Before leaving the ATM machine make sure that you leave with your card and cash. The cash comes out first and then your card. In some countries, this happens in the reverse order. Because of this habit, some people just forget their card after taking cash from the ATM machine.

What Credit Cards are accepted?

Visa and Mastercard are accepted in Bali at some establishments

In Bali, some hotels and restaurants accept Mastercard or Visa. If you are with American Express or any other, you are out of luck, because this is not accepted in almost all places.

Going to a warung, or some supermarkets also don’t accept Mastercard or Visa. Be sure to have an alternative at hand. The use of physical money is still a common practice.

Travelers Checks

Exchanging Travelers Checks at money changers is possible. However, the rate is much lower for these. I do not recommend bringing any traveler check. The best alternative is just some paper money.

So do you know if it will be cash or ATM/ credit card

If the information from above did not help you let’s continue. My Advice will be at the end describing that I actually would advise 3 things. Cash, ATM and a credit card.

Do you trust yourself?

If you know you are good at losing cash because it drops out of your bag, pants or purse, then don’t bring a lot of cash. Do you also know how to operate a safe? There are instructions on it. Most hotels and resorts offer a safe for your valuables.

Use the safe to store also your cash. Try first to operate the safe without putting anything in it. When you feel comfortable opening and closing it, then you can put your valuables in it. Before booking a hotel/resort, you can check at booking.com if there is a safe in your room.

Risks of bringing cash only

Bringing only cash has its downsides. I think we can both name it: Risk of losing it all. Losing all the cash can happen because of some unfortunate events. Having no ATM/Credit card will put you in a difficult spot.

Solution for that: Ask a relative or close personal friend to send money via Western Union. At Western Union, you can receive that money with your passport.

The maximum amount of cash you can bring without declaring it to the customs is a total of 100 Million Indonesian Rupiah. This is equal to about 7300-7500 US Dollars. Do check the rate first. If you are carrying multiple currencies, these will be counted and it can be a while for the customs to calculate.

Risks of bringing card only

Risk of only bringing your card. Well an ATM and Creditcard are not indestructible. A machine can swallow the card or you can still lose it.

If the ATM machine swallows it, there is a number on it. Ask for help if someone can call it. Make a picture of the machine, it has an identification number. If you did use the ATM machine at a bank then it can be quickly resolved.

If you lost your cards and have no cash, you can ask a relative or a close personal friend to send money via Western Union.

Money in the secluded places

If you are going to one of the islands, or to the north of Bali, ATM machines become limited. If one breaks it can be kilometers before you see any other ATM machine. Plan ahead and make sure to have enough money when traveling to other islands, or just somewhere North of Bali.

Arriving in Bali without local money now what?

Exchange something small at the airport. After collecting luggage and on the way out there are few opportunities to exchange foreign currency or withdraw money from the ATM.

If you withdraw from the ATM you can take the maximum it provides, which might be 2.5 Million (around 180 USD at the time of writing). If you exchange cash, then only do a little, bit. The exchange at the airport has different rates than the money changers in Kuta, Legian, Seminyak, Ubud, etc. I will soon write about which money changers to use and what to look out for.

Recommended: Cheapest taxi at Bali Airport

So there you have it bring your cards and cash

Bring an ATM card, Credit Card and Cash. If you are bringing also your cards, just bring about half the money you budget for your vacation. But do make use of the safe in the hotel room. This just prevents a potential nightmare. When checking out, do not forget to empty your safe.

If you can lock and unlock your ATM card via your phone app, do so that it is only unlocked for the moments you use an ATM machine.

Here are the money exchangers in Bali you can trust

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