ATMs & Credit Cards: Minimizing Fees: 2012
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.
Barcelona ATMs charge fees
Presently in Barcelona. Used my Capital One Visa card to pay for entrance to La Sagrada Familia. 13 Euros ended up costing $16.89. I was very pleased with this 1.30 rate. I also used my Ally ATM card today to get 130 Euros at an ATM machine near our hotel. When I used the machine it told me I would be charged 3 Euros for the transaction - this seemed to be standard for Barcelona. I was charged $173.34 by Ally for the transaction for an effective rate of $1.33 per Euro. But, if the local (Barcelona) bank had not charged the 3 Euro fee the rate would have been more like $1.30 per Euro. Bottom line for me was that the Capital One rate on a credit card transaction was quite a bit better than the rate I was getting through ATMs - due to the local bank fees, NOT any fees Ally Bank charges.
Hillsdale, MI USA Mon 11/26/2012
Bank of America ATMs
This is for those wishing to use a Bank of America ATM card in Italy, specifically Florence. Prior to our trip I read here about the confusion about their fees and their alliances, and also had little luck doing a Google search for specific ATMs, so I hope our experience in October 2012 will save someone else precious time.
We traveled with the Capital One Venture credit card and a Bank of America ATM card that was linked ONLY to our online checking account. We have an ATM card for our main account but requested one for the online account so if it were stolen or lost there was no access to other accounts. It took about four days to receive that card. We moved what we felt was enough into that account a month before our trip and had an agent put a travel flag on our account for our travel dates.
First of all, the name: The Bank of America website states "BNL Banca Nazionale Del Lavoro" as the Global ATM Alliance partner in Italy. If you click on the the link, you'll see the name BNL Gruppo BNP Paribas. I had an agent a local branch confirm both a screen capture of the Google street view and the name of the bank as a true partner. He made some mention of BNP Paribas, which is a French bank (and also their alliance in France, which gave me pause initially), buying out or taking over BNL.
Fortunately with Google street view you can see the exact the location and have a visual in mind before you go. The bank's full name as seen on the street is BNL Gruppo BNP Paribas. Green is the prominent color in their branding and building signage.
First in Florence was a BNL Gruppo BNP Paribas ATM that is located in Piazza della Republica. We used it with no problem and we were not charged any fees. ATM is enclosed in its own room. If you are in the square find the carousel and the ATM is directly behind it. Or look towards the giant arch over Via degli Strozzi and it is on the left, under the loggia. In Google street view, drop your man at the Repubblica bus stop, on Via Pellicceria.
We also saw, but did not use, one that is located just a block west of the Duomo and Baptistry on Via dei Cerrentani, between Via dei Conti and Via Ferdinando Zannettil. Very convenient and secure since it is inside a small room and not attached to the outside of the building.
We used unaffiliated ATMs in Monterosso, and Volterra and each time were charged a $5 "non Bank of America Global Alliance ATM" fee and approx $2 each time in transaction fees. So about $14 total. Not a big deal in the scheme of things, but hey, more money for Gelato!
I hope this helps clear some of the confusion that is out there!
Cary, NC USA Thu 11/15/2012
No Foreign Transaction Fee Visa Card
Used the JP Morgan Visa Card from Chase, which has an embedded chip [no pin number yet; signature method] that waives all foreign transaction fees. Had no problem at all. Pleased to see no fees when we returned home. This card also offers a number of other travel perks.
Portland, OR USA Wed 10/03/2012
Fidelity ATM card
Since I have a Fidelity account, and will be living in Italy, I was very interested in Ken's comments of 2/16/12 about the Fidelity ATM card linked to cash management account. Everything Ken said appears to be true. But be aware the Fidelity website says, "Please note, there is a foreign transaction fee of one percent that is not waived, which will be included in the amount charged to your account."
Olympia, WA USA Mon 09/24/2012
Waived ATM trans fee at TD
For Canadians...we opened a TD Select Service account which gives you free international ATM withdrawals (instead of their normal $5 per trans fee. It also gives you an annual fee waived TD infinite Travel Visa with $100 in free travel points right away. Good deal but with the Select Service account it is a minimum balance of $5000 to waive the high account service charges.
Kitchener, ONT Canada Fri 09/07/2012
Canadian Credit Cards
For Canadians, there's a new Amazon.ca Visa that doesn't charge any foreign exchange fees (compared to 2.5% with most other cards). I plan on using this for my next trip.
Toronto, ON Canada Sun 09/02/2012
Chip and Pin (EMV) Cards
Use this link for a list of U.S. cards that will work with the more secure European system. We found one of ours on the list and had not been aware of the feature. http://www.nerdwallet.com/blog/top-credit-cards/nerdwallets-best-emv-chip-credit-cards/
Fargo, ND USA Fri 08/10/2012
No-fee credit cards
The Capital One credit card does not charge foreign transaction fees. Also, if you have an account with TDAmeritrade, you can get an ATM card that doesn't charge foreign transaction fees, either!
Narragansett, RI USA Sun 08/05/2012
We made the mistake of changing dollars for Euros at AAA. We are AAA members and although the exchange rate today is $1 to .81 Euro, it cost us $50 to convert $351 (we were given 234 Euro in exchange).
Alexandria, VA USA Tue 07/31/2012
I just returned from three weeks in Norway, Denmark, Sweden, Finland and Iceland and used my credit union debit card, which has the chip and there was never more than a $1.00 fee for amounts from $100-500 and never a problem with using the card in stores, restaurants, etc.
Sky Valley, CA USA Sun 07/08/2012
No Foreign Transaction Fee Visa
Bank of America (BOA) recently created a new card called BankAmericard Travel Rewards that has no foreign transaction fee. I called and had my current BOA VISA card converted over.
Timothy D Lindsey
Auburn, WA USA Tue 06/26/2012
Capital One is the best for travel!
The BEST credit card for travel is Capital One. Our travel club uses them because there are no international fees and most of Europe takes CC now.
San Francisco, CA USA Thu 06/07/2012
Good rate and no fee for buying Euros before you go
Just spoke to my bank, First Citizens, a regional bank in the southeast US. I asked their rate for buying some Euros before we go and they said there's no fee for customers and their rate today was 1.1641. I'm thinking I'll pick up some before I go just in case daily ATM limits are not enough, or something happens to our cards. I know we're staying in at least one place that doesn't accept CC's.
Durham, NC USA Tue 06/05/2012
ATM and Credit Cards
Always bring a back-up way of getting money in case your debit card does not work. For some reason my card worked one time in Rome and then shut down and would not work again. I tried it 6 different times in 3 different cities in Italy. When I called my local bank they said they had no idea what was wrong. I was okay since I brought another card (Visa) and got a cash advance.
Gonzales, LA USA Fri 05/11/2012
beating money exchange fees
Before going to London we looked into all forms of accessing money and the fees associated. We found out that if we changed our cash at our own bank before we left, there was not fee at all, just the flat exchange rate. We changed most of our money before we left and kept the excess in a money belt. When we got back, the bank changed our left over pounds back into dollars, again for no fee.
Rockford, IL USA Thu 04/26/2012
If you belong to a credit union, check their rates before looking elsewhere. We belong to two and neither charges a foreign currency conversion fee on either their debit or credit cards. They have low ATM fees too.
Salem, OR USA Wed 04/25/2012
No Fee ATM
Last year I used a Capital One High Yield Money Market Account with an ATM card attached. I was able to use it virtually at any bank in Germany and Netherlands. I incurred no ATM or foreign transaction fees. And their exchange rate was excellent. Worked like a charm. There was a Deutsche Bank ATM terminal in the Frankfurt Airport as we got off the plane. Having cash will allow you to shop at local merchants that don't take cards or give discounts for cash.
Seal Beach, CA USA Fri 03/23/2012
No Fee ATMs worldwide
What a shame. I checked with Mountain Pacific Bank today about opening up an acct as an out-of-state resident. They NO LONGER offer that. Also checked with Bangor Bank (ME) and Gilmore Bank (CA). For state residences too.
sad traveler : (
VA USA Fri 03/09/2012
Brokerage Firms ATM cards
I use in Europe, incl Eastern Europe an Visa-logo Fidelity ATM card linked to Cash management brokerage account. This discount brokerage firm does not charge international ATM-usage fees, and if one is imposed by local bank they reimbursed in 24-h frame. You only need to notify them when (time-frame and European country) you are going to use the ATM card, so it will not be blocked occasionally in local ATM machines. Do not use "To Big to Fail" American bank cards for international travel, you are going to encounter variety of hyped fees!
CA USA Thu 02/16/2012
chip and pin Euro Card
<< [UWCFS Quick CARD] >> denominated in Euros € steps
1. open account via scanning in passport and address takes 5 days. 2. notarize documents, have county clerk verify notary, get apostille from state ... 3. send in passport and address documents via post 4. after approval get access to UWCFS WEB and FX accounts 5. apply for EURO Quick Card 6. takes approximately 3-5 weeks 7. receive Chip and PIN Euro Card =) 8. Top Off at Barclays or Post Office =) 9. Post deposits via IBAN/BACS/ACH/EFT =)
[Fees are here (question 1)].
: http://www.uwcfs.com/en/products/payment-cards : http://www.uwcfs.com/en/faq/uwcfs-cards/using-cards
AS i AM not a UK RESIDENT the only alternative is to open a bank account, use western union, Euro denominated Travellers Cheques, or purchase the expensive Travelex Cash Card. XE.> 1$/euro .77 // travelex 1$/ euro .67 on $ 1000 thats 100 Euros lost ...
Nashville, TN USA Wed 02/08/2012
Best Chip-and-PIN Card for American Travelers
There's a new chip-and-PIN card offered by Andrews Credit Union in Maryland with NO annual fees, a 1% transaction fee, and only $5 to open a CU account. It's called the GlobeTrek Visa. When you join the credit union, there is a link to the American Consumer Council, which you must also join to qualify for credit union membership. The CU even has toll-free numbers you can call in Europe to reach the credit union in the States.
Seattle, WA USA Tue 02/07/2012
Credit Card and Local Currencies
When planning to travel to Europe, I call my credit card company and ask to speak to their "Fraud Division." I tell them the countries I plan to visit and the dates so that they know that any charges that appear during these times are almost surely legitimate. They really appreciate the call, and this removes the chance of my card being placed on hold for fear of possible identity theft. I also try to obtain a mixture of local currency from my bank, the amount of which is based on my likely expenditures. I email my bank with the appropriate request for funds, and the foreign currencies arrive at my door, FedEx, the next day. Maybe it isn't the absolute cheapest thing to do, but the convenience is worth a few dollars, and I am then able to familiarize myself with the currency (E.g., Norwegian and Swedish bills are very similar, and Russian rubles are in the Cyrillic alphabet.) The Bank will repurchase what I have not used when I return. Familiarize yourself roughly with what the exchange rates are from dollars to "whatever" and be especially mindful that Euros and British Pounds Sterling are NOT the same exchange rate--not even close.
Tucson, AZ USA Thu 02/02/2012
Traveling with cash
Before leaving for Paris last year, I went to my local bank and got some cash for the start of the trip. They asked what denominations I wished to have and I decided on mixed. I left with 2-$100 bills and other smaller denominations. (I wanted to minimize the bulk of smaller bills.) When I got to Paris I went to 5 banks (PNB Paribus) and was told at each one that "We don't have any money." This was puzzling to me until a friend who lives in Paris told me that they do not serve anyone but regular customers. I thought this would be helpful for others to know. Advise: If you take cash, don't get bills larger than $50, preferably smaller than that.
Bellevue, WA USA Thu 01/05/2012