ATMs & Credit Cards: Minimizing Fees: 2008
Throughout Europe, cash machines and credit cards are the standard way for American travelers to change money or pay for services. You get a much better rate than with traveler's checks but you do pay a fee, usually to your hometown bank or to your card issuer. And ATMs may not be as good a deal, as some overseas ATM vendors and US banks add a 2 percent or so fee to each transaction. How do you minimize fees when using ATMs in Europe? Are they still the best way to change money? Also, any comments about minimizing extra credit card foreign currency conversion fees?
Please Note: ATM and Credit Card fees change frequently. Contact your bank or credit card company for exact, up-to-date information before your trip.
- Please don't post questions here. Use our Travelers Helpline.
BEWARE: Wamu ATM/Debit card
If anyone is planning on using their washington Mutual ATM/Debit card to get money while traveling, BEWARE: two years in a row now we have had issues with using our card to extract cash. I took all the precautions I was advised to by the bank: I called 1 week prior and gave them the dates we would be going and where we would be traveling.Then I called the day before we left and reminded them. This trip I even gave the exact towns we would be in and we still had problems. Getting ahold of of customer service overseas is a trial of ones patience I spent 40 Euros on phone cards trying to navigate their automated system and then when I got a live person I was put on hold numerous times. I was "guaranteed" that we would not have problems with the card this trip and I had taken all the proper precautions and again 3 or 4 days into the trip we were cut off from our funds. We were not overusing our card or making large purchases, or going off our itinerary. Save yourself the hassle and use another (more reliable) bank for your ATM cards. Your travel experience and your spouse/travelpartner will thank you.
Livermore, Ca USA Fri 12/26/2008
How to Avoid Fees
Here's how to avoid foreign transaction fees. Visa / Mastercard charges 1%. Most banks pass this along plus tack on an additional 2% for a total of 3%. Most credit unions just pass along the 1% fee.
Here's how to avoid all the fees.
Capital One - Use this as a credit card to avoid fees on purchases. DONT use it the ATM for cash advances.
Schwab Account - Open an account here, they don't have a minimum balance, no minimum transactions per month, no inactivity fees, no fees at all. You have to open a brokerage account with the checking account, but you don't have to use either...they can sit there with a zero balance until you're ready to use them...Now the good news....
When using the Schwab ATM card you avoid the foreign transaction fees on both cash withdrawals and purchases. Here's the bonus...They also reimburse any ATM fees that the foreign banks charge. This holds true anywhere in the world. You can use their ATM card and you will never be charged a fee. You are initially charged the fee and then it is credited back to your account.
Hope this helps. I spent an good deal of time researching and have decided to stick with Capital One for Credit Card and Schwab for Cash while traveling both in the US or abroad.
Seattle, WA USA Wed 12/10/2008
Before we went to Europe in 2004 and Ireland in 2006, it was recommended to us to only take an ATM card, not a debit/ATM card, because if it was lost, it couldn't be used as a credit card. Ours was from our locally owned bank and we never had any trouble using it in Amsterdam, Paris, Malta, or Rome, as well as Ireland and Scotland.
Lexington, KY USA Wed 11/26/2008
US $100.00 bills are not welcome by banks in Ireland. There is a counterfeiting problem and at some unless you have an account they will not exchange $100. Another bank photo copied each bill and my passport before exchanging for Euros.
Covington, LA USA Mon 11/03/2008
credit and atm cards
just got back from 2 weeks in africa. used capital one credit card (zero foreign transaction fees) and my ufbdirect atm card (zero foreign transaction fees or withdrawl charges) and took $500usd as backup and for spending in zimbabwe. called capital one a week prior to leaving to inform them of trip. not a single problem. I have used both of these cards for the past 6 years in traveling to most of europe, south america and half of africa without any hitches. I also take a backup credit card and atm card but have never needed them. Can't understand all the problems people have with their atm or credit cards.
USA Tue 09/30/2008
When I was in Chapala, Mexico, my Visa atm card was accidently frozen by my husband back home. (I was there alone.) The atm machine sucked in my card, after I tried to access my money two times. When I went inside the bank to get my card back, I had no luck. The manager told me I could come back the next day since she did not have access to the machine. The next day I returned and she gave me a xerox copy of my card, which had a hole punched in it!! She told me I could not have the card back. I was totally devastated since all my money was in that account. I had to borrow some money from a casual acquaintance there since I did not have any money for food, etc. I had personal checks that were no good, and a credit card. Fortunately, I found another bank that took the Visa and I got an advance. That was the end of my trip. I vowed I would never put my card into a machine that sucked it in. SWIPE ONLY! I DO HOPE THAT I FIND SWIPE MACHINES IN THE NETHERLANDS, BELGIUM, AND GERMANY. We are leaving in a couple of days, and this money situation is very scary. I currently have 2 credit union debit cards and a Visa credit card. I hope they do not demagnatize as happened to someone on this site. I have always taken tc's as backup -- but my husband says no one in Europe will take them. The euro checks were hard to cash. I still feel more secure with tcs.
Cincinnatib, USA Tue 09/23/2008
Fees Charged By Banks
This site gives a comprehensive list of fees charged for debit and credit cards by various banks.
Baltimore, MD USA Mon 09/15/2008
AAA Visa Travelmoney Card
The figures below were found on the internet for the California AAA club. Charges may vary for other clubs. My local Iowa club charges $1 more for international withdrawals. This prepaid card does not appeal to me. I would think that anyone could find a better way to obtain foreign currency.
IA USA Wed 09/03/2008
AAA Visa Travelmoney Card
Pricing on the AAA Travelmoney card has changed. There is confusing step pricing. The best case scenario is that it would cost at least 5.5% to obtain foreign currency. Worst case scenario is over 17% with a $10 purchase of a $100 card. The hypothetical 5.5% makes the unlikely assumption of a $1500 card with three withdrawals worth exactly $500. The pricing: http://tinyurl.com/5zl53m
IA USA Tue 09/02/2008
I took 3 ATM cards with me when I traveled to Italy, each from a different bank. ATM card 1 worked for a while, and then became demagnetized. ATM card 2 never worked. ATM card 3 worked for the rest of the trip after ATM card 1 gave out, but by the time I returned to the U.S., it was also demagnetized. I carried Travelers Checks as backup until I was recently advised that nobody in Europe would accept them. I now carry cash and don't rely on either ATMs or credit cards--I just don't know what the alternative is.
Salem, Or. USA Wed 08/27/2008
Bank of America ATM
I had very good luck using my B of A ATM card in both Germany and Italy. B of A has an agreement with Deutche Bank. I paid no fee whatsoever for withdrawls in Germany, and just a small service fee (1%, perhaps?) for withdrawls in Italy. Just be sure you call the bank before you leave the US to inform them of your travel plans. If you don't set it up, your account could be blocked while you are on vacation, it's not an easy thing to fix from the other side of the Atlantic!
Seattle, WA USA Thu 08/21/2008
B of A
I am traveling to Switzerland Italy soon and Bank of America told me on the phone that they charge 3% for every transaction (ATM or credit) and an additional $2 fee at each ATM plus the foreign bank's ATM fee.
Baltimore, MD USA Wed 08/20/2008
Similar experience to an earlier poster re. Washington Mutual ATM card. We were informed before our trip that the small town we were visiting was basically a cash-only place, and to bring an ATM card. We informed Washington Mutual well in advance, and were assured there would be no problems, but the card never worked. This left us in a heck of a mess. We spend most of our remaining cash (and a lot of time) on phone cards used to get this straightened out with WAMU, all to no avail. Bottom line: Don't trust Washington Mutual ATM cards, and always bring plenty of alternative methods of payment.
Seattle, WA USA Tue 08/12/2008
B of A
Bank of America is the way to go when travelling in Europe! My travel buddy and I had no problems anywhere we went and the alliance ATMs are in most major cities saving fees.http://bankofamerica.via.infonow.net/locator/locator/LocatorAction.do go to this web site and click on international locations and you can find banks just about anywhere. There is a Deutsche Bank location in both Rome and Florence in tourist centers. I know the same to be true in Prague and Krakow. If you don't want BofA to be your everyday bank, do as my friend did and open a travel account with them.
Tacoma, WA USA Fri 08/08/2008
funny thing about that last comment. you would think that if the dollar were crashing and worthless that all banks would refuse the dollar, not just one or two. hmmm
USA Tue 07/29/2008
ATMS & Credit Cards
Just ret'd from a 2-week visit with family and friends in No. Italy ~ in Piemonte, Lombardia and the Veneto. The current weak dollar and collapse of several banks has made the Italian banks very fearful of the dollar. Three large banks in the city of Torino actually refused to take the U.S. dollar in exchange for Euro and admitted to the fear that the dollar will soon collapse entirely and be worth nothing. I had to have money sent via Western Union from the U.S. in dollars which were converted into Euro at a very expensive rate. It is depressing to get just over a half more in Euro for the dollar. It was a lovely trip anyway!
Cincinnati, OH USA Mon 07/28/2008
We just returned from a three week European trip and we used ATM machines in England, Switzerland and Paris. There wasn't any fee charged at any of the various bank ATMs I used. In fact, the banks advertised this fact at each ATM! I had also notified my US bank that I was going to be using ATMs in Europe and they arranged to not charge me their usual foreign ATM fee as well.
Amarillo, TX USA Thu 07/24/2008
VISA PIN transactions in Spain
If you're traveling in Spain, be aware that any PIN-based transactions such as an ATM with a VISA debit / credit card validated through the FALCON network will be blocked. Debit / credit card fraud due to rampant "skimming" at ATMs in Spain has led to the VISA FALCON network to deny all PIN transactions. If your bank / credit union utilizes the VISA FALCON network for fraud protection for your cards, then you will be affected. In Spain you will have to go inside the bank to get euros.
Warner Robins, GA USA Sat 07/19/2008
When all you have is Euros in the Czech Republic
We just returned from a 3-week family vacation to the best of Europe and had a great time, following many of Rick Steve's suggestions. One problem we had with money was when we arrived by train to Prague at 10:30 pm. Their main train station is under construction, so we got dropped off at an obscure station that was very dark. We found someone to direct us to the subway to get to the main station which we knew was close to our hotel. The problem was that we only had Euros and there was no cash machine at this particular train station that switched Euros to Kronas, so we went on the subway without a ticket and needless to say, for the first time someone checked our passes, we got caught without a ticket and had to pay a fine of 700 kronas each (about $45). My suggestion to anyone traveling to Prague is to get some krona coins before you get there, being this is the only way to get a subway ticket if it's late at night or at small train stations.
Cokato, MN USA Fri 07/18/2008
My girlfriend and I are currently in Dublin for a month tour that includes France, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Belgium, and England. The ultimate way to save money on using your card outside of the United States is to set up an account with PayPal. It's an online payment system that links your bank accounts together and after creating a business account, you can request a debit card. I attached both our checking accounts to PayPal and enjoyed AT MOST 2.5% "international transaction fees." Before we left, I converted $400 to about 280 euro hoping that I might not even incur these fees. It turned out, after talking with PayPal, that any transactions on your debit card are charged in USD by MsterCard. Either way, we've been purchasing stuff with them (because cash is at a premium) and not incurring any fees. Plus we get 1.5% cashback!
Seattle, WA USA Wed 07/16/2008
Wells Fargo Pin
Thank you Jared! I had a leading zero, and when I notified of travel, they didn't tell me I couldn't have one, they just said it had to be only 4 digits. So I called back and sure enough what you said is true. You sure saved me some trouble! I went ahead and changed my pin and would never have known if I didn't stumble over your post. Many thanks!
Fremont, CA USA Tue 07/01/2008
ATM in Italy
Before leaving for Italy this May, I bought $1500 worth of Euro from BofA, which converts to 915 Euro. Since it was a large amount, there was no charge for delivery fee. While in Italy, I use Deutch Bank's ATM and BofA initially charged a $5 access fee, but after I complained (since using Deutch Bank in Germany has no fee), BofA refunded $20 access fee since I used it 4 times. The exchange rate BofA gave me was 1 Euro = $1.639 for getting the Euro while in U.S, while in Italy, the rates have been 1 Euro = $1.555, 1 Euro = $1.549, 1 Euro = $1.546. For each ATM withdraw, there was a 1% fee charged that is not the $5 so no refund on that. Next time, I'll just use ATM and not bother with buying Euro while in the U.S.
Menlo Park, CA USA Mon 06/23/2008
Bank of America
We got Bank of America (B/A) debit cards before we spent a month in the UK and France. B/A has affiliates in both countries, and we never paid ATM fees in either country using the affiliates' ATM machines. We drew out local currency, of course, and were charged for currency exchange at a low bank rate.
Vallejo, CA USA Thu 06/19/2008
Bank of America & BNP ATMs in France
We just returned from a trip to Paris and Normandy. We used our Bank of America (BOA) debit/visacheck cards at the BNP ATMs without fees or surcharges. Exchange rates seemed fair as well. We had 4 digit pin numbers which worked flawlessly. I had called BOA ahead of time to let them know we would be in France as well. We also used a Citi MC for a few transactions, and for the most part we regret it. They charged additional "currency fees" and the exchange rate was no better than at the BNP ATMs. Next time I will be doing all purchasing by cash/ATM using the BOA cards and the BNP ATMs.
Atlanta, GA USA Wed 06/18/2008
tidbit from wells fargo customer service
tidbit from wells fargo customer service
they told me that i could not have a leading zero in my ATM pin number ex. 0123 would not work in EU ATMs
for what its worth their current rates: $5 for atm withdraw and 3% for a purchase
boise, ID USA Tue 06/17/2008
ATM cards take various
Just got back from a trip to Italy. We took four different kinds of cards with us. A credit union ATM debit Visa card with Cirrus and Star Logo, and it worked only once to get cash out at the airport with the expensive money exchange, when we tried to use it in the city go get cash out at the ATMS, it would not work. It would work when we would buy something using it as a credit card. We used this card when we were not sure about the business, such as at the marketplace. We had put cash in this checking account just for this purpose, it is not an account we use all the time, so we could close it easily if it was abused. As a back up, I took my Bank of America atm card with a Visa logo, interlink, plus, an star logos on the back, and it ended up being the only debit card we could take cash out with. I did not want to use this card as it is associated with my regular checking account, but we had no problems with it as we only used it at the ATM, and did not use it to pay anything with or let it out of our sight. We also took an AM EX and another MC, and we used both of these for various purchases, and found that the AMEX gave us the best exchange rates and fees. We did not take cash out on the credit cards, as we were warned ahead of time that the fees would be way too high. All in all, we are very very glad we did not rely on just one kind of card.
Fresno, CA USA Tue 06/17/2008
SCHAB ATM and CAPITAL ONE CREDIT
I was in France, Netherlands, Germany and Italy in May. I got ATM withdrawals in all countries using my Schwab One card. I opened a checking account with Schwab specifically for the trip and it worked very well. They have a daily limit of $2,000 and multiple withdrawals in any one day (total withdrawals can't exceed $2K). This card worked very well for me where ever I went. Today I just completed comparing the conversion rates in all my transactions and I am very pleased that the rates of exchange very closely tracked the daily currency rates that I obtained from the Economist website. If I was charged any transaction fees on my Capital One card, it is virtually undetectable, using the same Economist rates. I heartily endorse use of Capital One and Schwab when travelling in Europe.
Orlando, FL USA Wed 06/11/2008
List of ways to aviod fees
1. Make sure you're being charged in the local currency. If they charge you in USD the conversion rate will probably be poor.
2. Capital One Credit Cards do not add a fee to your transactions.
3. Citibank has ATMs in a lot of countries, check out their website.
4. Bank of America is a part of Global ATM Alliance (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Global_ATM_Alliance)
5. Local Credit Unions and smaller banks sometimes refund ATM fees.
San Francisco, CA, CA USA Sun 06/08/2008
WaMu debit cards in Portugal
Warning: Washington Mutual debit card doesn't work in Portugal! Just spent two weeks there. I contacted WAMU to alert them for security purposes and be assured my debit card would work. Called 2 more times to verify card would work in Portugal before I left. However, ATM kept saying communication problems. Wasted 2 hours on phone with customer service who assured me card was fixed and now would work. Don't believe them! Mg of Bank of Portugal spend 45 minutes trying to help me. Went through my cash and embarrased to have to borrow and have accomodations & food paid by my traveling companion. My back-up card was 3% + 19% advance. Dispicable that WAMU employees aren't informed or truthful about problems. Jan
Edmonds, WA USA Fri 06/06/2008
Four OR Six digit PIN # in Italy???
Good Morning All,
I will be traveling for three weeks in Italy (Milano, Toscana and Puglia) and always use my WAMU bank / debit card when I am in Europe. Please correct me if I am wrong, but doesn't one need a FOUR digit PIN number in Italy? I was arguing with the woman at the bank who insisted one needs a SIX digit number.
[Editor: While future questions need to go to the Traveler's Helpline, we confirm that you must have FOUR digits on any plastic card...no letters, only numerals.]
Anyone know the right answer?
Los Angeles, CA USA Mon 06/02/2008
Nightmare in Italy
We landed in Rome on a recent trip and almost had to turn around and come back home as we could not get cash from any ATM, using our Wells Fargo cash card. Problems: 1) the listing of available ATMS from the Wells Fargo website was worthless -- some did not exist and many others were not working or out of cash. Wells Fargo uses the "star" ATMs, but Cirrus were much more prevalent. 2) Although we had notified the Wells fraud division before leaving that we would be in Italy, we kept getting a "we are instructed to return your card" message every time we used the card. There was no indication as to why. 3) When we called Wells' 24 hour number we got someone who was completely incompetent and barely spoke English -- the night shift people. No help at all. 4) We finally got a few transactions to work by getting small amounts (eg, 100 Euro), which meant we were paying a very high fee per euro obtained. We tried to have money sent from Wells Fargo to an Italian Bank by money transfer, but the byzantine Italian banking system would not allow a tranfer to be completed for almost a week -- by then we would have long been out of money. Finally, we had someone from home send us a few thousand Euro by Western Union, paying the high fees associated with the transaction. I resolved never again to travel without Euro traveler checks for all the cash we might need, but now I see all the comments about how hard it is to cash them and the high fees for doing so. Frankly, I am about to conclude that it is best to just stay home, or at least out of Italy. While Italy is a beautiful Country, it is riddled with incompetence (eg, just try to find an ATM that actually has cash in it on a weekend). Does anyone have suggestions re how to be sure you can get money and do so at a reasonable fee?
San Francisco, CA USA Sun 06/01/2008
ATM usage in Europe
I am planning a trip to Europe in a few weeks. Although I am planning on taking back-up cash and have access to another card, I was planning on using my ATM/check card as well. I appreciate JMakiyama's message and was concerned when I only saw the Star logo on the back of my MasterCard debit card. So I decided to do some research on this issue.
First I called my bank and the rep told me that if the ATM machine did not have the STAR logo I could not access funds. I asked her how they could advertise international access when the STAR network only in the US. The bank rep was not aware the STAR network was a US/ Canada ATM. I referred her to the STAR website which clearly explains there are only STAR ATM machines in the US. She never offered another option as to why they thought I would have international access, but yet refers me to a US based logo ATM
I did not stop there, I called the 800 number listed on the back of my card. They informed me that although I had the STAR logo I also had a MasterCard logo and could access any ATM machine that displayed the with the MasterCard logo regardless to whether the ATM displayed a STAR logo. I took this a step further and called the MasterCard emergency travel number listed on their website. I found out that if you have a check card with the Master card logo you can still use the ATM to withdraw cash as long as the ATM has the MasterCard logo, although the other logos for the ATM may not be the STAR logo. Also, you may use the Maestro or Cirrus ATM if you have a MasterCard logo on your card as Maestro and Cirrus are products of MasterCard. Also I found out that the Plus network is a product of Visa and again if you have a visa logo on your card you can use any ATM that have the visa logo to withdraw cash. Had I listened to the Bank rep I would have assumed I could never use that card internationally. Had it not been for JMakiyama's message I would not have made those calls and may have been in for a real surprise when I couldn't find a STAR logo. I would have never thought to refer to a MasterCard logo. Of course, until I actually try a MasterCard ATM in Europe I will never know if what I have been told is correct, so I will plan accordingly.
However, based on this experience I would highly recommend that before you use any card, you get the emergency travel customer service number for all the company's whose logo appears on your card and make a "trail run" call so that you are familiar with the service they offer and what to expect in a real emergency. Also, MasterCard has an emergency travel list on their website you can print out and take with you to access a customer service line for each country they service.
Franklin, TN USA Thu 05/08/2008
ATM usage in Europe
Alerted my bank of impending trip to Europe and was told that ATM card was usable on all machines displaying the STAR logo. Well, I discovered in Europe that the STAR Network ATMs are only located in Canada/US. This caused us a little grief, but followed R Steves advice and had back-up cash and used the credit card more than I wanted to. I used the same ATM card in Europe in 2006! You need to see on your ATM card, the logos Cirrus, Maestro, Plus..... fo usage in Europe
San Jose, CA USA Wed 05/07/2008
Insonsistant ATM fees
We were in Paris for two weeks in March and found the ATM fees to very inconsistant. Upon arrival we withdrew 300 Euro from Societe General Bank using our Schwab Check card. The ATM fee was $1.83 (reimbursed by Schwab). A week later we went to the same bank branch (I thought we had a good deal on the ATM fee) and withdrew another 300 Euro. This time the ATM fee was $4.75!
El Sobrante , CA USA Sat 04/26/2008
Bank of America/ Deutsche Bank in Italy
Despite setting up an ATM accounts with Bank of America, our ATM cards did not work at Deutsche Bank ATMs in Italy. We had even called B of A before we left to notify them that we would be in Italy. The ATM would show a message that the cards were "not approved for international use". We asked worker at a Deutsche Bank in Milan and they really didn't seem too interested in helping us. We called back to Bank of America in the US and they saw no reason why they shouldn't work. They said to try another bank's ATM and they worked just fine. They only problem was when we got 250 Euro , the fees amounted to just under $9 per transaction, just what we were trying to avoid in the first place by using the BA/DB relationship. Color me mad!!!
Hood River, OR USA Fri 04/18/2008
International Transaction Fees
We just returned from France and took debit & credit cards, cash as well as Travelers Cheques. Liked having all methods to pay in case something didn't work. We were pleasantly surprised that we were able to get TC's fee-free before leaving because of a Premier BofA checking account, & found them very easy to cash at any post office. Banks were usually closed when we looked for one, but Post Offices easy to find in the many towns we visited. Just look for the probably only yellow sign near the main streets.
Lacey, WA USA Thu 04/17/2008
VISA and MC ripoffs
Theres a class action lawsuit settlement offer from the US District Court of Southern NY against VISA and MC for overcharging Americans (not just New Yorkers) on foreign currency transactions from 1996 to 2006 - and I've researched it and it seems definately legit. Info is available on their website - cffsettlement.com - and all travelers should check it out because as I said, it looks legit and its not hard to navigate.
Jeremy M Snitkin
Novato, CA USA Mon 04/07/2008
Credit Union Debit Card
I used my local credit union's debit card to withdraw money all over Europe at all sorts of ATM's for absolutely no fees whatsoever with absolutely no hassles, and at the daily published exchange rates. Just keep in mind your daily withdrawl limit (I think mine was $300 USD) and do the USD-Euro calculation in your head to figure out the max you can get. There's not a better way to do it really, paying in cash for everything helps you budget better, and paying with credit cards means extra foreign transaction fees. The absolute worst thing you can do is change money at one of those airport counters that charge ridiculous fees.
FL USA Thu 04/03/2008
I found this on the Bank of America website:
Use your ATM card or Check Card within our Global ATM Alliance in the countries shown with no fees.
Barclays (United Kingdom)
BNP Paribas (France)
China Construction Bank (China)
Deutsche Bank (Germany)
Santander Serfin (Mexico)
Westpac (Australia and
Fairfax, VA USA Thu 03/06/2008
Bank of America ATM fees
I am traveling to Rome on March 13. I just spoke with my bank (Bank of America) yesterday. I plan to use my debit card for cash withdrawls. They said there is a 1% ATM fee if I use a BofA ATM machine. The agent was not able to locate one in Rome however, so she said they would waive the extra fees for using a non-BofA machine. However, I thought I read somewhere that Europe uses a 4-digit PIN number. I forgot to ask my bank and my current PIN is over 4 digits. Did anyone else encounter problems with their PIN?
Editors Note: All Questions must be posted to the Travelers Helpline.
Kansas City, MO USA Wed 03/05/2008
Barclay's ATM at Gatwick Baggage Claim
For those who had problems with Smart Chip in London, I used my ATM card at a Barclay's machine in the Baggage Claim at Gatwick. It's right at the bottom of the escalator as you make your way toward the trains, if I recall correctly. They didn't charge me all that high a fee, either. I was pleasantly surprised. Hope that helps!
Cary, NC USA Mon 03/03/2008
Visa Travel Debit ATM Cards
Just back from Italy (2/9/08-2/20/08). Had a very difficult time finding an ATM that would accept a VISA Plus System pre-paid travel debit card in Rome and Florence. Many Visa Plus System labeled machines wouldn't work either. The requested withdrawls were below the limit amounts. We ended up using a Visa credit card for cash advences at the same machines without any problems. In my opinion the debit card was an expensive product that didn't perform.
North Canton, Ohio USA Sun 03/02/2008
The interesting thing about this is that the network bills your bank about 6/10% for the transaction, that is paying the bank over there and collecting from your bank. That's called a "Cross-border Transaction Fee", and is unavoidable unless you bank just absorbs it. For the 6/10% they bill the bank in Euro; for another 4/10% they will bill in US $. Since your bank deals in foreign currency, they can pay in Euro, then bill you their own fee of 2-3% for currency exchange. So, instead of passing on the 4/10% network currency exchange fee, they charge you their own, higher fee. Ain't free enterprise great.
You can avoid this fee by using a smaller bank without a foreign currency operation. They can only pay in $, so they pay the 1% network cross-border and exchange fees and pass it on to you.
CO USA Wed 02/13/2008
Citibank Now Charges 2% For Foreign ATM Withdrawls at Citibank ATMs
I have lived in Japan for 5 years and regularly used my Citibank ATM card to withdraw money (yen) from my US Citibank checking account at Citibank ATM locations here in Japan. I'm a hawk with my statements and refuse to be nickeled and dimed by these rip-off fees. I am taking a big enough hit as it is now with the pathetic US dollar rate. This foreign fee policy seems to be ever changing and this latest move is the final straw for me.
Before 2006 there was no foreign fee noted in my statements but I believe it was 1% for currency exchange. The policy changed in early 2006 when they started to separate the charge on the statements and noted the 1% on a separate line as FOREIGN FEE.
Then the policy changed again in Jan 2007 when they increased the currency fee to 3% for non-Citibank ATM's but eliminated any FOREIGN FEE for Citibank ATMs. I was happy with this since I was able to check the exchange rate on their website and would know how much I could get with each withdrawl. Also I avoided using non Citibank ATMs because of the rip-off 3% currency fee plus the additional $1.50 for using non-citi ATM.
I wasn't aware of this latest policy change until last week when I noticed a foreign fee charge on my statement for a recent withdrawl equal to 2%. I called Citibank customer service and got the fee credited because I was a longtime customer and in my opinion was not notified properly of this new customer unfriendly fee increase that will hit me and many of my friends who also use Citibank abroad frequently. I voiced my opinion to the customer service rep. that I will no longer be using Citibank unless they rescind this terrible greedy policy. Citibank long touted how their ATM's in branches out of the US were free to use - well now they can't say that.
I would advise any others who have Citibank and live or travel outside the US to call their customer service and express you disgust with this latest fee increase that is un competitive and unfair to longtime customers. 1-800-374-9700
Tokyo, Japan Thu 02/07/2008
Schwab & Capital One - the Int'l FREE Combo!!
I've been living in Taiwan for more than a year now and pay NO SURCHARGES of any kind for unlimited ATM withdrawals and credit card purchases. The key is using a Charles Schwab Investor Checking account paying 3.01% interest now (linked with a Schwab One Brokerage Acct) for your ATM and spending cash needs and a Capital One Mastercard for your larger credit card purchases. This tandem is fool-proof in Asia and indeed anywhere outside the US of A. Cheers to avoiding those annoying fees!! Happy Year of the Rat!!
Taiwan Thu 02/07/2008
Capital one worked for us in Italy
Wife and I spent 17 days in Italy over the holidays and used Cap1 money market cash card almost exclusively for cash . No fees. Unlimited monthly withdrawls (we made dozens to pay cash for rooms). We did call them before the trip to let them know that we would be in Italy. We also used a Cap1 VISA card and they did not disable our card, but we did have a phone message when we returned from the trip from thier fraud division. We were very happy with the Cap1 VISA and bank card on this trip.
Port Orchard, WA USA Sat 01/19/2008
Traveler's Cheques in Rome
This is not necessarily about ATMs, but when in Rome and carrying traveler's cheques, DO NOT waste time trying to cash/exchange them at banks. First, the wait at Roman banks is ridiculously long; and second, if you find a bank to conduct the transaction, the fees are astronomical! Your better choice would be to go directly to the bureau de change at the Vatican. They are more than willing to cash/exchange the cheques and with no fees, so what you give is what you get (depending on the exchange rate).
Big Bear , CA USA Fri 01/18/2008
Smart Chip in London
We just returned from London and ran into the Smart Chip issue. We came off the plane with 10 pounds between us, and could not get cash out of any of the machines at Gatwick. Our hotel suggested we go into a branch of HSBC and speak with them. Inside the branch a clerk directed us to a bank of machines that still read magnetic strips. By this point, we didn't care what the fee was - we needed cash. We were lucky that it was a week day. By the time we got home a freeze had been put on one of our ATM cards, but that was easily rectified. Going forward we plan to leave the country with a stash of cash that we can convert if necessary. I hate the idea of paying for the conversion, but at least I know I can convert cash on just about every corner.
Raleigh, NC USA Mon 01/14/2008
I just returned from 2 weeks in Europe, including stops in Munich, Vienna, Prague and Berlin and only used my Bank of America ATM card. I wasn't charged a fee at any Deutsche Bank machines, but 1% at any other.
Portland, OR USA Tue 01/08/2008
Class Action Lawsuit for Foreign Transaction Fees
There has been recent information about a class action lawsuit filed with the US District Court of New York concerning overcharging by VISA, MasterCard and others on foreign transaction fees. I have known some people to actually get a mailing stating that they may opt into the suit but that is not necessarily required. Evidently, you may take part by visiting ccfsettlement.com and following their instructions. You may then get up to 3% back on credit and debit cards used overseas from 1996 to 2006. My local credit union confirms it is not a scam and some "googling" seems to verify it as legit. However, since one has until May 30, 2008 to submit a claim, I'm planning on holding off in order to fully determine the veracity of this. Just wanted to get the information on this site for those who may not have heard about it or those who may have and want to add their two cents.
HdG, MD USA Mon 01/07/2008
Global ATM Alliance
Several banks around the world have formed an alliance where you are not charged a transaction fee if you withdraw money from one of their ATMs around the world.
The banks are: Barclays (UK), BNP Paribas (France), Bank of America (USA), Westpac (Australia & New Zealand), Scotiabank (Canada), Deutsche Bank (Germany).
England Wed 01/02/2008