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The top 9 checking accounts for avoiding foreign ATM fees

March 17, 2021
7 min read
Young Woman Withdrawing Cash Money At The ATM
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Your flight is booked and you're ready to travel abroad. You renewed your passport and the right credit cards are in your wallet. No matter how prepared you feel you are, though, you’ll likely need to withdraw money in the local currency when you’re overseas.

You never know when the need for cash will arise, so it makes sense to be prepared by having a debit card that won’t charge sky-high ATM withdrawal fees when you're traveling internationally.

Related: 7 ways to save on overseas ATM withdrawals

In today’s post, we'll show you nine checking accounts that are optimal for saving on ATM withdrawals while overseas.

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Schwab Bank High Yield Investor Checking® account

Although Charles Schwab is synonymous with investment products, their Schwab Bank High Yield Investor Checking account is a gem. The account comes with a debit card that offers unlimited ATM fee reimbursements, domestically and abroad. It also doesn't tack on foreign transaction fees, monthly fees or have minimum balance requirements. Furthermore, the account earns 0.03% APY — rare for a checking account with no fees whatsoever.

Related: How to cash out points with the Amex Platinum for Schwab, and why you might want to

SoFi Money Checking account

SoFi Money burst onto the foreign ATM reimbursement scene a few years ago and gained popularity quickly with its far-reaching network. The cash management account doubles as a checking account and high-yield savings account — reimbursing account holders at any of 55,000+ ATMs within the Allpoint network. While the account used to reimburse all ATM fees worldwide, regardless of network, Sofi Money customers can still earn 6x the national average in APY (annual percentage yield) versus the competition. Plus, there is no minimum required deposit to open an account and no monthly maintenance fees. Many account holders appreciate SoFi’s cutting-edge mobile app that makes it simple to manage your finances from anywhere.

Related: SoFi is launching an unlimited 2% cash-back card — here’s what you need to know

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Chase Sapphire Banking account

(Photo by David Tonelson/Shutterstock)

Chase rebranded and introduced its top-tier Sapphire Banking product in 2018 to give Chase Sapphire cardholders and qualified customers more value on everyday banking. If you're able to deposit and maintain $75,000 in combined cash at Chase Bank and investments at J.P. Morgan, this can be a worthwhile checking account to consider. Customers who can meet balance requirements will enjoy no ATM fees worldwide, in addition to free unlimited trades on U.S.-listed stocks and ETFs using the You Invest℠ platform by J.P. Morgan. A monthly service fee of $25 will apply for those not meeting the balance requirement.

If you're a Sapphire cardholder and travel abroad or withdraw cash from ATMs often, the Sapphire Banking account will save you a considerable amount in fees. Though you may want to wait until Chase runs its annual Sapphire Banking promotional bonus offers before signing up.

Fidelity Cash Management account

If you’re looking for an account that does away with fees at more than a million ATMs worldwide (anywhere you see the Visa®, Plus®, or Star® logos), Fidelity’s Cash Management Account may be a smart option. Although it doesn't impose overdraft fees, you’ll need to have a Fidelity investment account if you want to take advantage of its free overdraft protection. Two caveats to keep in mind — the Fidelity Debit Card charges a 1% foreign transaction fee on purchases made abroad, so make sure to use your favorite travel rewards card that doesn't charge foreign transaction fees instead.

Furthermore, Fidelity applies a daily ATM withdrawal limit of $500; therefore, if you need to take out more cash, you're likely better off with another checking account product.

Ally Bank Interest Checking account

Ally Bank offers its competitive Interest Checking account that gives Ally Bank checking account customers access to 55,000 in-network ATMs. There are no fees to use an Allpoint Network ATM, but if you use an out-of-network ATM, they'll reimburse you up to $10 at the end of each statement cycle.

Ally is transparent about their fees with no charges for ACH transfers and incoming wires, but they will impose fees for overdrafts and outgoing wires. There are no monthly maintenance fees tied to the checking account, and their APY, starting at 0.10% (it goes up with a higher balance amount ), currently leads the pack in terms of interest-bearing checking accounts.

Capital One 360 Checking account

(Photo by rblfmr/Shutterstock)

The same bank that delivers an impressive credit card portfolio also offers the convenient Capital One 360 Checking account. There are no fees on any withdrawal outside the Capital One network, even if the network or issuer, like Mastercard, charges a fee. MasterCard will charge you a 1% fee, but that is “covered” by Capital One, so you shouldn’t find it on your statement. There's also no opening balance requirement. Just don't expect easy access to a physical branch if you need one. Luckily, Capital One has strong customer service support that's only a quick call away.

First Republic Bank’s ATM Rebate Checking account

A checking account with the words "ATM Rebate" in its name has to make our list of top checking accounts for avoiding foreign ATM fees. First Republic Bank offers free use of more than 800,000 ATMs worldwide with no foreign exchange fees and even earns interest on balances above $3,500. ATM withdrawal fees are refunded from other banks worldwide, and international card usage fees are waived. You must have a minimum opening balance of $500 and a minimum average balance of $3,500 to avoid monthly fees.

Betterment Checking account

Betterment, the financial advisory company well known for its robo-advising and cash management services, offers a compelling checking account product. Because they don't have an ATM network, you'll likely be charged a fee for an ATM withdrawal. When this occurs, Betterment will refund all of your ATM fees back to you. They'll even notify you once the ATM fee refund has gone through, and you should see the credit in your account within a few days.

What makes this underrated checking account even more potent is that no initial deposit is required to open an account. No required minimum balance is needed to keep the account fee-free. There are zero monthly service fees. For added security, Betterment Checking and its Visa debit cards are provided by NBKC Bank and your account is FDIC insured for up to $250,000.

PNC Virtual Wallet Checking account

As a PNC customer, you can access your money fee-free at nearly 18,000 ATMs across the country. Though when you leave the U.S. on a trip, PNC will only reimburse your first two in-network ATM withdrawal fees per statement cycle and up to $5 in fee reimbursements per statement period for other financial institution's ATM surcharges on the basic Virtual Wallet Checking account. If you are a Virtual Performance Select customer, PNC's top-tier checking account, you won't be charged fees related to other banks' ATMs, and you're eligible for up to $20 fee reimbursement per statement period for other financial institutions ATM surcharge fees. However, keep in mind that PNC does charge 3% of the transaction amount, so you may be better off with one of the other checking accounts on our list.

Bottom line

A debit card that reimburses you for international ATM withdrawals should be part of your travel toolbox. The last thing you want to do when you're traveling is to have to track down down an in-network ATM to avoid exorbitant withdrawal fees. With the right travel-friendly checking account, a few out-of-network ATM withdrawals per month could result in substantial savings at the end of the year.

Featured image by Getty Images
Editorial disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.