Published April 11, 2013
Traveling abroad? Don’t get hit by high international ATM fees. Every time you perform an ATM transaction, you’re liable to incur a fee upwards of $5.00 a pop. That adds up quick. Fortunately, you’ve found your way to this blog post and are about to learn how best to avoid racking up unnecessary charges. It’s a simple process, really. You need only need to do a little research and a bit of planning to dodge ATM fees wherever your travels take you.
What NOT to do
First and foremost, don’t try to solve the ATM problem by carrying copious amounts of cash. Can you say dangerous? Regardless of how careful you are and how many precautions you take, carrying a thick wad of bills is a fantastic way to set yourself up for theft. Don’t do it! It’s easy to think making a few large ATM withdrawals rather than a multitude of smaller withdrawals is a smart technique for avoiding fees. While this could save you from losing a fortune in ATM fees, the risk of loss or theft is not worth it.
A good travel credit card is an invaluable boon to any traveler. However, it is foolish to rely solely on credit for overseas expenses. Sooner or later, you’ll come to an establishment that won’t accept your card. You definitely want to keep cash an option wherever you go.
You probably don’t want to switch banks or open a new account just because you’re traveling abroad. Luckily, most major banks have international partners where you can make free withdrawals. Find out at who your bank partners with and map out potential ATMs. One of the world’s biggest partner systems is the Global ATM alliance, which comprises Bank of America, Barclays, Deutsche Bank and several others.
If your bank was locations around the globe (such as HSBC), you have nothing to worry about. Just make sure you perform your transactions at in-network ATMs. It can be tremendously helpful to pinpoint potential ATM locations before leaving home.
If you have a little time to open a new checking account, apply for a Charles Schwab high-yield checking account. At the end of each month, you will be reimbursed for all international ATM fees you incur. Charles Schwab high-yield checking accounts do not require a minimum deposit or charge a maintenance fee. Your debit card should work at almost any ATM worldwide.
Community banks and credit unions
If you’re not digging Charles Schwab, visit local community banks and credit unions. These institutions sometimes offer checking accounts that do not charge international ATM fees. Credit unions, as not-for-profit institutions governed by their members, are able to offer some pretty fantastic financial products.
For more information on your specific institution’s fees, check out our post on international debit card fees.
Credit card foreign transaction fees
It is smart to have a free way to withdrawal cash because at some point, you’ll probably need it. However, you’ll probably want to charge most of your purchases to a credit card. Why? Fraud protection for one. It is much easier to get fraudulent charges canceled on your credit card than with debit or cash. Also, if you have a good travel credit card, you can earn some awesome rewards overseas. However, you’ll need to make sure your card does not charge a foreign transaction fee. Most credit cards charge an additional 3% for out-of-country purchases. If you are making a substantial amount of overseas purchases, it is imperative to find a card that waives the fee. If you need a starting point, check out Capital One. None of Capital One’s credit cards charge a foreign transaction fee–and they have some pretty darn good cards for travel rewards.