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Avoiding ATM Withdrawal Fees When Traveling Abroad

by on July 30, 2013 · 110 comments

in Points Guy Pointers, TPG Contributors

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Although using ATM’s when traveling abroad is generally a smart strategy for getting the best exchange rates for your dollars, many ATM transactions come with fees that cancel out any savings you might expect. Luckily, as TPG contributor Nick Ewen illustrates, there are some ways to avoid these fees, including knowing which foreign banks your US bank partners with.

Avoid ATM fees when traveling abroad.

Avoid ATM fees when traveling abroad.

As savvy international travelers, I’m guessing that most (if not all) of TPG readers carry at least one credit card without foreign transaction fees. My first such product was the Chase Sapphire Preferred, and I recently “diversified” by adding the Citi Hilton HHonors Reserve card. By foregoing forex fees, these cards save me up to 3% on purchases made abroad, which can add up to a pretty nice chunk of change.

However, what happens if you are taking a more “off-the-beaten track” trip? Many smaller merchants do not take credit cards (or offset the foreign transaction fee discount by charging their own fees), so you may be left withdrawing foreign currency from an ATM abroad in order to pay cash for certain transactions. But ATM withdrawals come with their own fees that may significantly impact your exchange rate. Fortunately, there are ways to lower (or even eliminate) the fees associated with these withdrawals if you pay attention to your bank’s partner institutions, and this post will offer some guidance for doing just that.

The Best and the Worst

Before we get into the details, here’s a quick overview of what I found when looking at some of the most popular U.S. banks and what fees you’d be dinged with to withdraw 100 EUR.

Best:

1)   Charles Schwab: Receive full reimbursements at the end of every month for any ATM fees incurred, anywhere if you have the Schwab Bank Visa Platinum debit card. 100 EUR = $131.36.

2)   Citibank: With numerous international locations, customers can avoid fees by withdrawing money from Citi-branded ATM’s. 100 EUR = $131.36, but the same transaction at a non-Citi location would be $137.30.

3)   TD Bank: America’s “most convenient bank” (a self-appointed title) charges a flat $2.50 fee for ATM withdrawals with no foreign transaction fees. 100 EUR = $133.86.

Worst:

1)   Chase and PNC (tie): By charging a $5 fee plus 3% on ALL international ATM transactions, these banks make withdrawing money outside the US a costly proposition. 100 EUR = $140.30.

2)   Capital One: This is a mixed bag. If you live in a state with brick-and-mortar locations, you will be charged a $2 transaction fee and 3% of the transaction, while if you just bank through them online through Capital One 360, there are no fees on any withdrawal outside the Capital One network. As a result, 100 EUR = $131.36 – $138.30 depending on your situation.

3) Wells Fargo: This bank charges a $5 for withdrawing money abroad from ATM’s, but if you go to a teller, they’ll also tack on a 3% fee, so beware! 100 EUR = $136.31.

4)   US Bank: With no foreign partners or international ATM locations, US Bank also adds fees to all debit card transactions abroad. However, their fee is just $2.50 (compared to $5 with Chase, PNC, and Wells Fargo). 100 EUR = $137.80

5)   HSBC: Despite having many international branches, HSBC still charges a foreign conversion charge even when withdrawing money from their own ATM’s. 100€ = $135.30 at international HSBC ATM’s, while 100 EUR = $137.80 at non-HSBC ATM’s.

6)   Bank of America: Update: As of December 2013 Bank of America charges 3% on international transaction fees. Numerous international partners allow customers to avoid a $5 by withdrawing from a partner ATM but you still get hit with a 1% international transaction fee. 100 EUR = $132.67 at these partner banks, whereas 100€ = $137.67 at non-partner locations.

Where did these calculations come from? Well first, a little bit of background. Generally, you get the best exchange rates by using either a credit card or a debit card to make purchases (or withdraw money) outside the US. Purchasing foreign currency from a US bank or exchanging US dollars for foreign currency at the airport or once you arrive at your destination will generally give you a poorer exchange rate than what you would get using plastic as well as ding you with processing fees. I’m always stunned when I hear my friends and family talk about purchasing traveler’s cheques or purchasing Euros ahead of a trip to Europe. They clearly don’t get it!

When you do take out money from an ATM, however, the fees can add up pretty quickly. Most banks will charge a flat fee for every withdrawal outside of their ATM network, generally between $2 and $5 (with the higher amounts often incurred outside the US). Then, the bank that owns the ATM will often charge an additional fee for withdrawing money – so you’re getting hit with two fees per withdrawal.

Finally, since you are withdrawing foreign currency from your account of US dollars, the currency network of the ATM (be it Visa, Cirrus, or another) will likely charge a foreign transaction fee for the currency conversion, generally between 1% and 3% of the dollar amount withdrawn.

Many banks waive fees

Many banks waive fees for their high-level customers.

Avoidance Techniques

So what’s the secret to lowering or eliminating fees on ATM withdrawals? Well, there isn’t a single universal way to do so, because it all depends on your bank. However are typically three ways that banks provide customers the ability to withdraw money abroad without fees:

1)   Premium accounts – Many banks waive these fees for their high-level customers. However, these accounts often carry quite large balance requirements and may result in other fees that can negate any savings abroad.

2)   International branches – Some US banks actually have physical branches abroad, and their US customers can often use these locations for ATM withdrawals (and many other transactions as well).

3)   International partner banks – Other US banks have created partnerships with financial institutions based in other countries, allowing their customers to take out foreign currency fee-free.

To help figure out where your bank may fall, I have researched and compiled information on some of the larger US-based banks. Please note that the fees below are just what the US bank will charge you for a withdrawal; as I mention above, the bank at which you are withdrawing money may tack on their own fee for using their ATM and that can vary widely. As you can see, there is no one-size-fits all model, so be sure to consider your options well in advance of your trip!

DISCLAIMER: This information is based on my research of bank websites and correspondence with customer service representatives via e-mail or on the phone. Certain institutions make this information very clear and easy to find, while others require some extensive digging. In addition, bank fees are always subject to change, so while these numbers are accurate as of mid-July, it’s always a good idea to call and verify the details with your own bank prior to departure. If you have any recent experience that differs from what I have below, please share in the comments!

Bank of America

Update: As of December 2013 Bank of America charges 3% on international transaction fees.

Despite it’s name, Bank of America is actually one of the better banks in the US when it comes to ATM withdrawals abroad. Through its relationships with several international partners, Bank of America customers can withdraw money without fees at numerous ATM’s outside the country. Simply visit this page and click on “International Locations” to see a list of their partners. Here’s a screen shot of that page with their various partners:

Screen shot 2013-07-25 at 9.54.34 AM

I have been a Bank of America customer for many years, and I have even found that these banks work outside of their listed countries. For example, my wife and I recently visited the Seychelles and happened to land on a religious holiday. We wanted to pick up some snacks and drinks at a store on the way to the boat dock at the Hilton Labriz, but only small (cash-only) convenience stores were open! Fortunately, there was a Barclays ATM smack in the middle of Victoria, allowing me to take out money (Seychelles Rupees) without incurring any fees.

For withdrawing money at a non-partner location, Bank of America levies a $5 fee plus a 1% international transaction fee. During my recent trip, I found that withdrawing from a partner bank (two BNP locations in Paris and the Barclays ATM in the Seychelles) doesn’t incur the 1% fee, but when I took money out from an ATM in Croatia, I was hit with both a $5 fee plus 1% of the transaction amount. These fees are detailed on the FAQ page of BankofAmerica.com (scroll down to the “Using your ATM card or debit card in foreign countries” section).

Capital One

In additional to having a number of credit cards that do not charge foreign transaction fees, Capital One also has one of the easiest and most customer-friendly ATM withdrawal policies out there if you live in a state with no brick-and-mortar locations: no fees. Period. When I called and spoke to the customer service rep, it almost sounded too good to be true. I specifically asked about fixed fees for using a non-Capital One ATM, and he said there were none. What about foreign conversion fees? He said that MasterCard will charge a 1% fee, but that is “covered” by Capital One, so you shouldn’t find it on your statement. However, as readers have commented below, if you bank through an actual Capital One physical location, you will be assessed fees as high as $2 per withdrawal and 3% of the transaction amount, meaning your costs could add up quickly.

Charles Schwab

This online brokerage offers a number of different checking account options, and while it states that “We offer a rebate on these fees assessed by others: For Interest Checking, Regular Checking, and Basic Checking up to first 6 transactions not to exceed $9.00 per statement period,” if you have the Schwab Bank Visa Platinum debit card, the bank will reimburse you for unlimited ATM fee rebates for cash withdrawals.

Chase

Chase does not have any affiliated banks outside the U.S.

Chase

As one of the largest banks in the United States, one would expect Chase to have some type of international partnership. When I found nothing online, a quick e-mail to customer service confirmed that the bank does “not have any affiliated banks outside of the US.” As a result, Chase customers who withdraw money abroad are subject to a $5 ATM withdrawal fee plus a foreign transaction fee of 3%. However, Premier Plus customers get four fee-free withdrawals a month, while Premier Platinum accounts always avoid the fee (though both are still subject to the 3% foreign transaction fee). Detailed fee information is available in the product guides at the following links: Total Checking, Premier Plus Checking, and Premier Platinum Checking.

Citibank

Unlike Bank of America and Chase, Citibank actually has branches abroad, with over 4,000 locations in more than forty countries. To find out whether your destination is included, go to this page. Asia-Pacific travelers can also visit Find My Citi. Here’s a screen shot of the search results for one of Brian’s favorite cities:

Screen shot 2013-07-25 at 9.57.50 AM

If you can’t find a location in your destination, non-Citibank ATM withdrawals outside the U.S. result in a $2 fee plus a 3% international transaction charge, though both of those are waived for Citigold members. Detailed fee information is available here.

HSBC

Like Citibank, HSBC has numerous locations abroad that allow customers to withdraw money without a transaction fee, saving $2.50. Unfortunately, they do not have an easy to use their website to locate their branches outside the US. To find a branch, visit www.hsbc.com and on the right-hand side of the page (under “Retail Banking and Wealth Management”) your can select your country to see if there are any HSBC locations. Here’s a screen shot:

Screen shot 2013-07-25 at 9.58.52 AM

Each link will take you into the specific country’s HSBC page, and from there, you can find banking locations.

Even though HSBC has their own branches abroad, withdrawals at those locations will incur the same 3% foreign conversion fee that you would find at non-HSBC ATM’s. You can compare the different HSBC checking accounts and their fees here. According to the customer service rep with whom I communicated, “There are no ATM fees assessed when a customer chooses to use a Premier Debit MasterCard.” However, I find it interesting that when you click on “Full details” under the HSBC Premier account, there is a little footnote:

Screen shot 2013-07-25 at 9.59.41 AM

Just some exceptions to keep in mind!

PNC

Add another bank to the “no international partner” list. PNC customers withdrawing money abroad will incur a $5 fee per transaction (waived for Performance and Performance Select customers) plus 3% of the transaction amount. You can get a complete overview of the fees by inputting your zip code here.

TD’s tagline as "America’s most convenient bank" unfortunately doesn’t apply to customers traveling internationally.

TD Bank doesn’t partner with international banks.

TD Bank

TD’s tagline as “America’s most convenient bank” unfortunately doesn’t apply to customers traveling internationally, as they too have no international partners. ATM withdraws result in a $2.50 fee; however, according to my correspondence with customer service, TD Bank doesn’t charge “any kind of foreign transaction fees.” For a breakdown of fees with each account, please click here and enter your state & city.

U.S. Bank

This Minneapolis-based bank also has no partners outside the U.S. They charge $2.50 per transaction plus a 2% fee for withdrawals made in U.S. dollars or a 3% fee for foreign currency withdrawals. However, the $2.50 fee is waived for Platinum and Premium Checking customers, while Gold Checking customers can get two fee waivers every statement period. To compare the different accounts, click here.

Wells Fargo doesn’t have any international partners with fee-free withdrawals.

Wells Fargo doesn’t have any international partners with fee-free withdrawals.

Wells Fargo

Like many other American banks, Wells Fargo doesn’t have any international partners with fee-free withdrawals. Any customer taking out money at a foreign ATM will be hit with a $5 fee. These fees are detailed out on the Wells Fargo debit card FAQ page here.

Now let’s put these numbers to the test on a sample withdrawal of 500 Euros at a rate of 1 EUR = $1.3136 (exchange rate on 7/19). The following calculations assume that you are using a non-affiliated bank and that all banks convert at the same exchange rate:

Bank

Currency Amount*

Fees

Total

% markup

Bank of America

$656.77

$11.57

$668.34

1.76%

Capital One

$656.77

$0-$21.70

$656.77-678.47

0-3.3%

Charles Schwab

$656.67

$0

$656.67

0%

Chase

$656.77

$24.70

$681.47

3.76%

Citibank

$656.77

$21.70

$678.47

3.304%

HSBC

$656.77

$22.20

$678.97

3.38%

PNC

$656.77

$24.70

$681.47

3.76%

TD Bank

$656.77

$2.50

$659.27

0.38%

U.S. Bank

$656.77

$22.20

$678.97

3.38%

Wells Fargo

$656.77

$5

$661.77

0.76%

* The $656.77 amount is not exactly equal to 1.3136*500. All conversions are made using the XE currency app, which includes many more decimal points when converting between two currencies.

Now let’s see what happens to those numbers when you use a partner/affiliated bank:

Bank

Currency Amount

Fees

Total

% markup

Bank of America

$656.77

$6.57

$663.34

1%

Capital One

$656.77

$0-$21.70

$656.77-678.47

0-3.3%

Charles Schwab

$656.77

$0

$656.77

0%

Chase

$656.77

$24.70

$681.47

3.76%

Citibank

$656.77

$0

$656.77

0%

HSBC

$656.77

$19.70

$676.47

3%

PNC

$656.77

$24.70

$681.47

3.76%

TD Bank

$656.77

$2.50

$659.27

0.38%

U.S. Bank

$656.77

$22.20

$678.97

3.38%

Wells Fargo

$656.77

$5

$661.77

0.76%

As you can see, those banks with international locations or partners fare much better than their counterparts. This is exacerbated even further when you lower the amount, since the fee per transaction remains fixed. Here’s the same scenario with a withdrawal of 100 Euros at a non-affiliated bank:

Bank

Currency Amount

Fees

Total

% markup

Bank of America

$131.36

$6.31

$137.67

4.8%

Capital One

$131.36

$0-$5.95

$131.36-137.31

0-4.5%

Charles Schwab

$131.36

$0

$131.36

0%

Chase

$131.36

$8.94

$140.30

6.8%

Citibank

$131.36

$5.94

$137.30

4.52%

HSBC

$131.36

$6.44

$137.80

4.9%

PNC

$131.36

$8.94

$140.30

6.8%

TD Bank

$131.36

$2.50

$133.86

1.9%

U.S. Bank

$131.36

$6.44

$137.80

4.9%

Wells Fargo

$131.36

$5

$136.36

3.8%

Again, let’s see what happens to those numbers when you use a partner/affiliated bank:

Bank

Currency Amount

Fees

Total

% markup

Bank of America

$131.36

$1.32

$132.68

1%

Capital One

$131.36

$0-5.95

$131.36-137.31

0-4.5%

Charles Schwab

$131.36

$0

$131.36

0%

Chase

$131.36

$8.94

$140.30

6.8%

Citibank

$131.36

$0

$131.36

0%

HSBC

$131.36

$3.94

$135.30

3%

PNC

$131.36

$8.94

$140.30

6.8%

TD Bank

$131.36

$2.50

$133.86

1.9%

U.S. Bank

$131.36

$6.44

$137.80

4.9%

Wells Fargo

$131.36

$5

$136.36

3.8%

You still see the banks with partners or locations abroad coming out ahead, and this time, it’s even better. That’s because the fixed fee portion of the transaction doesn’t change with the amount you withdraw, so smaller amounts will be less “efficient” so to speak. However, having a way to withdraw money without fees can allow you to take out as much or as little as you want. I experienced this very thing on my last trip abroad. My wife and I were short on Euros as we were leaving Paris last month, and we needed to take a cab to the train station. Because there was a BNP right down the street, I was able to withdraw just 10 Euros without any transaction fees. The transaction cost me $13.27. Had I been a Chase customer, that same withdrawal would’ve cost $13.27 + $5 + $5, or $23.27, over 75% more!

Capital One charges no ATM fees.

Capital One charges no ATM fees.

There are two clear categories of winners here:

-Banks that charge the same small (or non-existent) fee regardless of where you withdraw money: Capital One (no fees whatsoever) and TD Bank ($2.50 per transaction but no foreign conversion fees).

-Banks that have partners/locations abroad: Bank of America and Citibank (note that HSBC isn’t included here, since even HSBC withdrawals outside the U.S. incur a 3% foreign transaction fee)

Some international ATM’s won’t recognize PIN’s longer than four numbers.

Some international ATM’s won’t recognize PIN’s longer than four numbers.

A few other things to keep in mind:

1)   Regardless of which bank you choose, it’s essential that you call your financial institution prior to leaving the country to have them put a travel note on your account (and the same should be done with your credit cards). I’ve heard many horror stories of foreign ATM’s sucking in a debit card when the account is flagged for fraudulent activity.

2)   Some international ATM’s won’t recognize PIN’s longer than four numbers, so if you have a longer one, you may want to temporarily set a four-digit one while traveling abroad.

3)   Some international ATM’s also will not allow you to withdraw from non-checking accounts (savings, money market, etc.), so make sure that your cash is in your checking account before you travel or try to take money out.

At the end of the day, we all have different requirements in a banking relationship, and international ATM withdrawals likely only play a small part in your decision. However, be sure to take these fees into account when you are planning your travels, especially if you are visiting a destination where credit cards are not widely accepted.

Disclaimer: The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

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  • Matt

    I’m surprised Charles Schwab wasn’t mentioned in this article. You can use any ATM in the world and Schwab reimburses all the ATM fees at the end of each month

  • babyshark31

    Don’t forget about the Schwab Checking Account. Zero Foreign Transaction Fees and refunded ATM fees worldwide. It’s my go-to card when traveling internationally for cash.

  • Max

    I completely agree. Schwab beats pretty much every bank here and you earn interest on your checking.

  • Windycityf

    I got hit with fees using a Citibank ATM with my Citibank card in Bali.

  • http://www.discoverbuenosaires.com/ DaVe

    Another one in agreement. :) Schwab has the absolute best checking product with ATM refunds and good exchange rates.

  • Mike

    Great article! Looks like I need to re-evaluate my banking options…

  • Bill

    I switched my entire banking to schwab, they are by far the best bank I have ever used.

    Customer service is also some of the best I have ever experienced for a company, never mind a bank.

  • Kelvin

    The Schwab account is the only bank account I’ve ever had that I would recommend. Schwab charges no ATM fees and reimburses any ATM fees that are charged by the ATM’s bank anywhere in the world.

    The account is completely free to open and maintain since there are no minimum balance requirements and no minimum opening deposit. There really is no reason not to have this account for anyone who ever travels internationally.

  • KevininRI

    I would disagree with your classification of Bank of America under “best”.
    From their webpage that you reference, they only partner with banks in Germany, Italy, France, UK, Australia/New Zealand, Canada and the Caribbean. While they are some of the more popular tourist destinations for US travelers, it is still only a small fraction of the world. My advice is to bank with a smaller bank or credit union that doesn’t charge it’s customers for any foreign ATM withdrawals, or if they do, it’s usually just the 1% conversion fee, and some even refund foreign banks’ ATM fees as well, which in some countries such as Thailand can regularly be over $5 USD per withdrawal.

  • Curtis

    I had a Capital One account for a couple years, using it for international travel, but then they took away the benefit of no fees. Was this changed back recently?? If so, I will re-open a Capital One account solely for the purpose of international ATMs again.

  • kevin whited

    ** In additional to having a number of credit cards that do not charge
    foreign transaction fees, Capital One also has the easiest and most
    customer-friendly ATM withdrawal policies out there: no fees. Period.
    When I called and spoke to the customer service rep, it almost sounded
    too good to be true. **

    That’s because it WAS too good to be true.

    If you live in a location with brick-and-mortar Capital One branch locations, it is not true. Here in Houston, I started an online account with Capital One some years ago, and did enjoy those privileges. As they built branch locations in town (now all over the place), I got a nice note from Capital One that they were discontinuing the free ATM withdrawals and were imposing foreign transaction fees. Boo.

    That’s when I opened a Charles Schwab account specifically for travel. As other commenters point out, it’s about the best deal going out there. And their customer service blows away any other bank I’ve had the (dis)pleasure of dealing with.

  • LB

    +1 for Chuck Schwab – second to none.

  • Chris Coveney

    Some smaller banks who can’t compete with banks with big ATM networks offer no fees for ATM access via other banks, and refunds of OTHER banks ATM access fees — including international. (Mine says “keep your international receipts, but they have never actually asked for them, and I’ve never been charged ATM fees internationally.)

  • LB

    GREAT customer service. You get to talk to chill heady bros in Denver and sweet, corn fed white girls in Indiana.

  • Nate

    Exactly schwab. Where is it? Did they not pay for recommendation?

  • Dan

    I believe Bluebird charges a flat $2 fee.

  • Mitesh Amin

    I also agree! Charles Schwab is the best for ATM use worldwide. Also very easy to get money in and out once it’s all setup. Scottrade also offers a similar product and their trading fees are also pretty low. However Scottrade terms state only domestic fees are reimbursed, but I experienced otherwise and also heard mixed things .

    It’s seems like brokerage checking accounts offer better banking services and banks tend offer better investment services (such as bofa).

  • jeff

    Schwab for the win

  • pcg

    And here I thought I was gonna rush over and say something novel about Schwab…nope! Good to see so many folks singing the praises of my favorite (and the least evil) bank ever.

  • Max

    How could you guys not mention Charles Schwab Bank???? No ATM withdrawal fees worldwide and a great forex rate.

  • Matt

    Schwab!!!

  • Loren

    Charles Schwab is a great Bank for any overseas traveler. I have have had 6 people switch to use them because they are second to no one. PNC’s free Virtual Wallet account still gives me 2 ATM fee refunds per month, and I use that overseas also.

  • Jacob

    I use ally bank. It’s an online bank with no physical branches. They charge no fees on any transaction except overdraft where they hit you hard. It’s like $40. There is a 1% conversion fee from MasterCard but its not a big deal. Officially, there are no ATM fees on any transaction foreign or domestic, though every once in a while it will reimburse me for a fee charged by the ATM though this isn’t an official benefit.

  • Aaron

    I agree. I use Schwab oversees.

  • markbanshee

    I went out of my way to get to the Citi branch in Ginza, Tokyo and I was still hit with a hefty fee. I complained a great deal when I got home and they did nothing for me. Their excuse was silly, something about having to charge because that bank doesn’t see US customers as account holders even though I am. I guess its different with the Euro branches, but I was annoyed

  • Eric

    What are the chances I can get a Schwab debit card before my trip on Sunday? :)

  • Eugene

    Why didn’t anyone mention the Fidelity Cash Management Account?

  • Johnny

    Citibank “officially” doesn’t charge if you are a CITI customer and it is a CITI branch outside of USA BUT in practice this is not the case. I have banked with them for 10years and have pulled money from over 30 countries. They ALWAYS charge the fee of 3%… after numerous complaints and escalating the issue, their response has always been that the foreign atms are “separate legal entities” and not CITIBANK USA therefore subject to the 3%.. readers beware! good post though… I may switch to TD!

  • Dawn

    There are plenty of independent credit unions that also reimburse for ATM fees anywhere in the world. Often these banks don’t have ATMs of their own. Mine, local to San Francisco, also offers excellent customer service, and very good online and mobile banking.

  • Arlington Traveler

    Capital One Bank has two divisions.. their brick and mortar and Capital One 360 which is the former ING Direct. Capital One Bank (the brick and mortar part) does charge out of network fees AND the 1% MasterCard surcharge on foreign transaction fees.

  • Mitesh Amin

    Not going to happen! It will take some time to verify and fund the account. You should still apply and get it setup for next time.

  • GeekAbroad

    Used Schwab for my last trip and was completely satisfied. Favorite part was there is no minimum required. So I can just load it before a trip, drain it, and let it sit before my next trip.

  • Matt

    The information regarding Bank of America is wrong. The 1% transaction fee apples to all withdrawals, even if they are part of the network. Straight from their website:

    In addition, an international transaction fee may be charged for debit card purchases and ATM cash withdrawals in currency other than U.S. dollars, regardless of whether the transaction is performed at an ATM within the Global ATM Alliance, China Construction Bank (China) or Banco Santander (Mexico). The international transaction fee is 1% of the U.S. dollar amount for each converted ATM cash withdrawal.

  • Marib

    I think your info on Capital One is out of date. I agree with Kevin Whited and Curtis that Capital One took away the benefit of no foreign transaction fees. I got the letter last summer. Since I wasn’t traveling then, I waited several months to call them about it. They confirmed the new fees. So we closed our checking account with them. We plan to open an account with Schwab soon so we can use it for upcoming trips.
    I see you put Schwab as #2 on the Best list, but then you make no further comment about them. Heard they are great.
    What would be more useful is a comparison of Schwab and Fidelity’s Cash Management offering.

  • egwg

    The TD premier account waives non-TD ATM fees regardless of balance, and non-TD fees reimbursed when minimum daily balance is at least $2,500.

    First Republic Bank does not charge an ATM fee and refunds ATM access fees from other banks. $3,500 minimum average balance to avoid monthly service charges.

  • thiseye

    I’ve always used small bank ATM cards with “free ATMs” (rewards checking account) when overseas and never had an issue getting refunded the fees automatically. The funny thing is the international ATMs usually have less fees for the transaction than using ATMs in the US. I remember an ATM in Cairo charged me 70 cents (which was subsequently refunded by my bank)!

  • Yati

    Like Schwab, a USAA account also will get you free ATM usage worldwide. I use both.

  • thepointsguy

    We added it in!

  • JB

    I was a citibank client for years – tried to use their app, tried to go to actual Citibank ATM’s in foreign countries. It was impossible. I bled fees. Finally I switched to Schwab. No account minimum, no monthly fees, totally refund all ATM fees everywhere! No currency arbitrage BS. Schwab. I can’t believe I didn’t switch earlier.

  • thepointsguy

    Do they still hit you with a conversion fee or do they waive that as well?

  • Chris

    Ally Bank has only a 1% charge on foreign ATMs. Ally pays higher interest 0.40%-0.75% depending on balance vs. 0.10% for Schwab. Schwab requires a brokerage account ($1000 min to start). Both seem like good options. Thanks for the article as I didn’t realize just how bad my Chase checking would be on my upcoming trip so I added an Ally checking account (already had a savings).

  • Barbara

    per https://www.fidelity.com/cash-management/atm-debit-card “there is a foreign transaction fee of 1% that is not waved, which will be included in the amount charged to your acccount.”

  • Jason

    I carry a couple of the AMEX reloadable cards – they don’t charge fees for 1 withdrawal a month. You can have 3, and they are easily reloadable, don’t require minimums. The only problem I’ve had is at an ATM in Beijing which didn’t like the AMEX cards.

    Bluebird is another option – $2 per transaction.

  • Barbara

    Capital One CREDIT card will still charge you big time Cash Advance Fees from the ATM transaction though right?

  • Jason

    Think this is also mentioned below, but here is from the CapOne 360 Checking (i.e., not from a physical branch) FAQ:

    Foreign Transaction – If you use your Card for a foreign transaction (any transaction made in a foreign currency or that MasterCard® classifies as a cross-border transaction), we won’t charge you anything. However, MasterCard may apply a charge for converting the purchase to U.S. Dollars.

  • pcg

    Better, but you’re still missing it from the individual bank writeups, the charts that show fees, and the recap. :-)

  • Barbara

    Did PNC charge you the 3% of transaction amount (as article mentions)?

  • pcg

    FWIW, Schwab’s brokerage account minimum of $1,000 can immediately be drained to $0 after the account is open. But you’re right about Ally’s better interest rate, and the 1% charge isn’t onerous (though still higher than Schwab’s 0% :-)

  • Kelvin

    If you open the Schwab checking account and link it to the brokerage account Schwab waves the $1,000 minimum to open the account. When I opened my Schwab brokerage and checking account, I didn’t fund either account right away. By opening both accounts together, there is no minimum account opening balance required.

  • CVG_Traveler

    You left out a pretty big bank, USAA, which refunds domestic and international ATM usage fees up to $15 per month. They also have a partner network of 60K ATMs worldwide that offer fee-free withdrawals. Foreign currency withdrawals have a 1% transaction fee. USAA primarily serves the military and their families, but anyone can join and they have great customer service.

  • M

    Schwab should be what all your readers are using. Just supplement to existing back account and ACH money in as necessary for free. Kind of a pain to link accounts from the Schwab side so I push / pull money from my Citi account. Every atm in the world becomes your personal free atm.

  • Tul

    I went to Citibank to ask about this – I was working in Guatemala with a nearby brach – and was told by 2 people in the bank and one on the phone that if it was an international ATM, even a Citibank one, overseas fees still applied. I didn’t test this because I got a capital one card but just FYI.

  • Dawn

    My credit union has no fees, and I get the current rate, so it’s essentially a free transaction to convert money from USD to whatever currency I need. I’ve used it all over the world with no problems and the ATM fees are always reimbursed (though interestingly, in most Third World countries there don’t seem to be ATM fees).

  • Nick Ewen

    Yes, but keep in mind that cash advance fees will apply on many other credit cards as well. The best bet is to get one of the checking accounts to withdraw money with little or no fees.

  • Nick Ewen

    I think the key word there is “may.” Like I mention, my three international withdrawals at partner banks did not incur the 1% international transaction fee, while the one outside the network (Croatia) did. I’d love to hear of other (recent) experiences with B of A customers at both partner and non-partner locations.

  • Aaron

    I beg to differ regarding chase premier checking- you have four times per month with no fees or 3%forex fees either – they give you the exact rate
    I assume this is for premier platinum as well
    I know this from experience and confirming with chase reps

  • DanG

    This has been the case for me as well. My Citibank card works everywhere but they hit me with fees when I withdrew funds from a Hong Kong based Citibank branch.

  • Amy

    Wells Fargo info: The $5 fee, as you said, is waived for premium accounts. The 3% fee is only if you use the ATM/Debit card for Purchases, not ATM withdrawals. I just used my WF card for 2 months of ATM withdrawals abroad, with not one fee added.

    Here’s their website verbiage:
    Wells Fargo will assess a $5 fee for ATM cash withdrawals made outside the United States and an International Purchase Transaction fee which is 3% of the transaction amount for each purchase made with your debit card in a foreign currency that has been converted into a U.S. dollar amount by a network.

  • Loren

    Not on the ATM transactions from my Virtual Wallet Spend Account. Just a $5 fee, which was reimbursed at the end of the statement cycle.

  • Nick Ewen

    Interesting, since the official Chase documents linked above specifically say that both the Premier and Premier Platinum accounts DO incur the 3% transaction fee for ATM withdrawals in a currency other than US dollars. When was your most recent experience without fees?

  • Nick Ewen

    Thanks for the info, Amy. I must admit that the WF rep I initially spoke to did not seem like the sharpest knife in the drawer, but she confirmed with her supervisor that the 3% would apply to ATM withdrawals. Do you have a link to the verbiage you cite above?

  • Nick Ewen

    True, but keep in mind that the list of countries in the image above isn’t all-inclusive. As I mention in the post, I used a Barclays ATM in a country not listed and didn’t accrue any fees, so while those are obviously some popular destinations, it is not an exhaustive list.

  • Nick Ewen

    Thanks for the information, Kevin. It sounds like I spoke to a Capital One 360 rep rather than a Capital One Bank rep. Now that I think about it, I’m pretty sure that they asked me for my state of residence, and since Florida has zero brick-and-mortar locations, I’m wondering if that’s why I was directed to 360.

    We’ll update the post accordingly.

  • Eric

    I ended up contacting Schwab and they said I might be able to have it expedited, but I figure I’ll wait till I get back. n.b. applying does require a hard pull :)

  • Sophia

    Interesting. This post would help travelers a lot. Truly said that usage of ATM machines are the best way to get good exchange rates when traveling abroad , but only if the bank charges a nominal or zero transaction fees.

  • Ilia

    I second incorrect Wells Fargo fee description. Called Wells Fargo and confirmed ATM withdrawal is only $5 flat. 3% applied to purchased AND over-the-counter cash withdrawal at the local bank.

  • jacobslide

    Also, do not forget that a lot of the smaller branches and local credit unions do not charge any fees. (not to mention a slew of other pros)

  • Derek

    Schwab is the best and only answer. By the way your info is wrong on Citibank, Citibank does charge 3% foreign transaction fees outside of the US at Citibank ATM’s. That’s the whole reason I switched to Schwab. Who cares about searching for partner ATM’s with BOA. If you have Schwab, you use any ATM. Schwab is the best international travel ATM, period. Nothing else comes close.

  • Flyer

    I used both Fidelity’s mySmart and Cash Management accounts in South America with the premise that the ATM fees would be reimbursed in Sept 2013. When I returned and noticed no fees were reimbursed for the international withdrawals, Fidelity told me that the ATM withdrawals had been classified as “cash advances” by Visa and were not eligible for reimbursement. Somehow it was neither my fault nor Fidelity’s but Visa’s but Fidelity claims they cannot do anything about it.

    Beware working with a company that makes excuses about not keeping its promises.

    The only competitive advantage is that they still give ~1% forex fee.

  • Flyer

    Bank of America fees are going up! In Nov 2013 will hit 3% even for partner banks:

    https://www.bankofamerica.com/deposits/manage/faq-atm-fees.go

  • Flyer

    BofA fees going up to 3% Nov 2013:

  • Flyer
  • Pingback: Using money overseas while traveling | +2 to TRAVEL

  • john

    From 8 november 2013 Bank of America charges 5$ + 3% for an abroad atm withdrawal!!!

  • vanderschlecht

    Bank of America bumped up foreign transaction fee to 3%. that’s right 3% + $5 Fee. (if you use ATM allicance banks they wave $5 but still charge you 3% off the total sum) good bye BOA.

  • L Pollock

    Warning: Starting November 8, 2013, Bank of American now charges a 3% international conversion fee – even if they waive the $5 non BofA ATM fee.

  • Lizabethvm

    As of October 28 2013, Bank of America now charge 3% exchange rate fee, even when withdrawing from a bank within their alliance!

  • Summer

    Dawn, can you give me the name of the SF credit union? Looking to get out of BOA asap, living overseas and just getting fee after fee….

    thanks!

  • Dawn

    It’s only for residents of San Francisco: SF Fire Credit Union.

  • Summer

    Oh thanks! I’m a Sonoma kid…

  • firstlast

    As of Nov 2013, In Mexico , Bank of America has initiated a 3% foreign transaction fee for withdrawals using a BofA debit card in a Santander (Affiliate) ATM. No other fees are assessed. This brings it into line with 3% transaction fee using a BofA credit card internationally.

  • firstlast

    I do not know which article you did not read. The article I read is replete with Schwab 0% transactions and a monthly reimbursement.

  • Jim

    I called CitiBank today an a US based CitiBank account will be charged a 3% fee at all international Citi ATMs.

  • TOM

    if you have an extra $100k lying around, you can qualify for an HSBC Platinum account with no ATM fees anywhere in the world and the best exchange rate (the wholesale interbank rate) available. It works at any bank, anywhere and if a fee sneaks through, they will reimburse you.
    You can move your IRA to HSBC and qualify that way. The credit card is also fee free with the same astounding exchange rates.

  • Peter

    @disqus_cqIg8u8gLq:disqus you can join a credit union like SFCU, which also has no foreign transaction fees
    https://www.sfcu.org/membership/

  • slee26

    I just want to clarify to everyone that Charles Schwab has two sides to them, the corporate side and the banking side. Schwab has added on the debit card to the savings account, which is on their banking side; therefore, you no longer need to open a checking account + a brokerage account in order to get the debit card, which is goes under the corporate side. BEWARE: the banking side is a bit archaic. You have to mail in a form and a voided check to add an external account. PROS: when you call the 888 number, after minimal automated system (meaning after 1 or 2 clicks) you get an actual person with a wealth of knowledge (I called them about 6 times in the past 2 weeks).

  • Rohit

    Of course, Schwab charges you a ridiculous spread that will cost you hundreds over the course of your trip, but never mind the $2 fees…

  • amb

    I just called in to BofA’s customer service and discovered their rate is $5.00 plus 3% when using a non-affiliated bank. When using a partner bank ATM, you still get charged the 3%. I think you’re article (which was very helpful!) cited a 1% charge for Bank of America.

  • Jeff

    I just got of the phone with PNC and confirmed that at least as a virtual wallet account holder there is no 3% fee for ATM withdrawals, but there is for purchases (but of course I will use my no fee card from elsewhere for those). The $5 fee is a bummer, but PNC has lesser requirements than some other banks to get one of their premium accounts so I was also able to confirm that I would not be charged the fee.

  • Tony

    As of Dec 2013 Bank of America has upped its 1% foreign transaction fee to 3%

  • jfc

    No, using a Schwab checking debit card outside the U.S. gets you exactly whatever the VISA card network rate is for that particular day. There are no fees or % deductions added by Schwab. And of course, they’ll also reimburse any ATM fees charged by the foreign ATM operator.

  • jfc

    I live abroad and am part of an expats forum on banking issues. Among my group, I haven’t heard any reports of Fidelity welching on ATM reimbursement. But, contrary to their website, those here with Fidelity cards say they don’t charge 1% on foreign ATM withdrawals but DO charge 1% on point of sale purchases.

  • jfc

    Another national credit union whose various CREDIT cards have no foreign currency fees is Pentagon Federal Credit Union, which also often has very good CD rates. Anyone can join via an easy small one-time online contribution to a veteran’s group. Unfortunately, their debit card does charge a foreign currency fee, so best to avoid using that.

  • jfc

    BTW, among the Pentagon FCU credit cards I mentioned above that charge no foreign currency fee, they also have one called the PFCU Promise card that has no fees, including no cash advance fees. So you can use it to make ATM or bank counter withdrawals abroad without any PFCU fees, and even pay no interest, if you use their online banking to transfer funds into your credit card account (to offset the withdrawal) right away.

  • jfc

    Last time I checked, for U.S. customers, anytime you open a Schwab High Yield Checking account they’re automatically going to open a Schwab One brokerage account with it. You don’t have to use or fund the brokerage account, but it happens automatically. I certainly didn’t have any $1000 minimum when I first opened mine. For some years, I never used or had a dime in my brokerage account and that was no problem. But eventually, I started using the brokerage account, which is probably what Schwab figures will happen with a lot of its checking customers.

  • jfc

    USAA sometime back began charging a 1% foreign currency fee.

  • jfc

    Using the Schwab VISA debit card abroad is about a good a deal as it’s possible to get. But, they don’t set their own exchange rate. They simply use the VISA card network rate for the day — without the usual 1 – 3% foreign currency fees or foreign ATM fees that other banks tack on. VISA US has a website that allows you to calculate their daily exchange rate for any currency. Any Schwab transaction will match it exactly, every time.

  • jfc

    The deal about having to subject a mailed-in paper form in order to link external checking accounts with your Schwab checking account is indeed a hassle and archaic. However, you can avoid that by simply linking any external checking accounts with your Schwab brokerage account instead, where their account linking is all done online (no paper). And, as an added advantage, Schwab allows free in and outbound ACH transfers to and from both their brokerage and checking accounts. And of course, you can also use their online banking to transfer funds back and forth between their brokerage and checking accounts, sometimes the same day, always no more than the next business day.

  • jfc

    Based on reports from cardholders of each, Schwab is fee-free for both foreign purchases and ATM withdrawals. But supposedly, Fidelity is fee-free for foreign ATM withdrawals but does charge a 1% foreign currency fee for foreign POS purchases.

  • jfc

    That’s also been what’s been reported by U.S. Citi card holders in the foreign country where I live. And to add insult to injury, all the domestic banks in my foreign country charge their own foreign card ATM fee of $5-$6 per withdrawal. And the Citi ATMs in my foreign country also charge that local flat fee as well, at least against U.S.-issued cards.

  • jfc

    State Farm Bank is another institution that charges no foreign currency fee and reimburses foreign ATM fees up to a limit.

    Likewise, for anyone who has any military connection past or present in their family, Service Credit Union in New England has a checking account with no foreign ATM fees and they reimburse the VISA 1% foreign currency fee on any foreign ATM withdrawals at month end, if you have a direct deposit with them.

  • jfc

    Overall, both in terms of checking and credit cards, BofA is terrible with fees in terms of anyone wanting to use their cards outside the U.S. They do, however, have ONE credit card that for some reason doesn’t have any foreign currency fees, unlike all their others that do. The fee-free card is called their BankAmericard Travel Rewards VISA card. If you already have any other BofA credit card, they normally will be willing to swap your current fee-heavy BofA credit card for that one.

  • Paul

    Confirmed twice via chat that Citibank charges 3% foreign transaction fee on ATM transactions and has for years (only waived if “gold”, as in keep enough gold there $50k min). That puts them in with the average bunch for me!

    Cheers,
    Paul

  • http://techie-pinoy.com/ Vinson

    So if you keep your money in that account for a longer time then you can
    earn a lot of interest. Some of the banks like barclays wealth international bank account and banks located in smaller countries offer more interest rates.

    Open Australian bank account from overseas

  • Bostonbeanster

    I spoke with capitalone360 to clarify their situation. If you are a capitalone360 member you are NOT charged any fees by capitalone360. You may be charged an ATM fee from the bank you decide to use but capitalone360 will not charge you any additional fees or percentages. The brick and mortar thing is really not relevant as what distinguishes capitalone360 customers is that they are all considered online banking customers (or so said the capitalone360 lady on the phone)

  • Adam

    Does anyone know what atm’s in italy usually charge. I know there are tons of different banks, but on avg.

  • dmoney

    I just chatted with a guy from Citi — Even if you withdrawal money from a Citi branch in Moscow, you get a 3% international fee…

  • ABZ

    As other users have noted there is NO 3% fee for foreign ATM withdrawals with a PNC Debit Card. The fee is a FLAT $5 (usd) for any foreign ATM withdrawal. This is standard for all accounts unless you have an account which is reimbursed for ATM fees.

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  • Tom

    Why is Band of America listed in the “Worst” banks category?

    In the Avoidance section, the author says “Despite it’s name, Bank of America is actually one of the better banks in the US when it comes to ATM withdrawals abroad.” And then when I review the tables where showing the results of withdrawals under different scenarios, BoA looks to be consistently one of the lowest in fees charged. I’m also trying to reconcile this data with the disclosure called out a couple times that as of Dec 2013 BoA charges 3% on foreign withdrawals.

    As a longtime BoA customer, I’m trying decide whether to open an account elsewhere for my international travel.

    Could someone, clarify?

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