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At least a couple of times I've arrived from a long flight and headed to the ATM in the airport to get some local currency only to find out that the ATMs in the airport are special and will rip you off by either charging additional fees or just giving a worse exchange rate than usual (I can't recall which). The last time I remember this happening was in Narita, Japan some years ago.

This time I'm flying to Seoul and though I've been there before I can't recall if I've had to use the ATM or if they were a rip-off. I think I always had Korean money in advance.

So do the ATMs at the airport in Seoul cost the same as ATMs in the city or are they more expensive?

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I've never come across a country where ATM fees varied depending on the location of the ATM.

Whilst it's certainly possible that there exist some "private" ATMs in various airports that charge more, but the normal bank-operated ATMs will charge exactly the same fees and give exactly the same exchange rate through-out the country.

Specific to Seouls Incheon airport (ICN), there are multiple ATMs within the airport operated by the major Korean banks (Shinhan and Kookmin, and potentially others), all of which will give you the same exchange rate and charge the same fees as the equivalent ATMs anywhere else in the country.

In many cases the fees WILL vary slightly between banks, especially if your home bank has a relationship with one of the local banks, in which case there may not even be any fees. It's worth checking with your bank before heading to any country to see if they have any such relationships. eg, the Global ATM Alliance allows cardholders from certain banks to use some international ATMs free of charge - although they do not have any ATMs in South Korea so this does not help you in this specific case.

Also keep in mind that not all Korean ATMs will work with "foreign" cards - you need to look for an ATM which is specifically labeled as "Global" and/or has the Maestro/Cirrus logos on it. All of the ATMs at the airport should be fine, but elsewhere it may only be one of the ATMs available at a specific branch that will work with your card. (This was the case last time I was there a few years ago, not sure if it's changed by now or not)

Not all ATMs (including those at the airport!) are open 24 hours, with many "closing" at around 11pm. Some, including the Citibank ATM at the airport, are open 24 hours.

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In Germany, ATMs often charge additional fees. The currency conversion is usually made by your own bank, making it irrelevant where you withdraw money, but in some countries (e.g. Switzerland), the ATM operating bank may do the currency conversion, potentially (most likely) ripping you off. I am not 100% sure, but I think I recall that Korean ATMs often charge extra, if you use them outside the bank's opening hours. – Tor-Einar Jarnbjo Sep 16 '12 at 1:36
It could be the case that I came across private ATMs in airports before. I had totally forgotten about the concept of private ATMs until you reminded me just now. But I did start remembering all the grief with Korean ATMs after I posted this question. More than once I had to run from ATM to ATM all over Hongdae or Busan to find first a "world ATM" and secondly an ATM that didn't just dislike my card! CitiBank was always the best option but doesn't always have a branch where you need one! – hippietrail Sep 16 '12 at 10:26

I don't know about the fees, but I remember from my trip in 2007 that there were a few currency exchange places in Myeongdong that had better exchange rates (at least for yen to won) than the currency exchange at the airport. By the way, why use the ATM? Isn't currency exchange better?

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It depends. I don't know if TRY (Turkish Lira) is handled in the airport in Seoul. I've arrived with money I couldn't change in the airport before. So actually I asked about that too in not one but two other questions! (-: IST, ICN – hippietrail Sep 15 '12 at 13:12

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