ATMs & Credit Cards: Minimizing Fees
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.
8/14 Post on ATMs is Wrong
The poster below regarding Capital One fees needs to clarify his post by explaining exactly what card and account he has. Our Hi-Yield Money Market Account at Capital One: No fees charged by Capital One for using an ATM. Period. That does not stop another ATM owner from charging fees, but that is outside your bank! European bank-owned ATMs do not charge fees. The cost of the money using this card has been about 8/10 of 1% above the interbank published rate. This has held for the 5 year and many countries we've used this in. That 8/10 of 1% is charged by the NETWORK (Plus, Cirrus, etc), not Capital One. Please, if you are going to post something here, post correct information. There is too much misinformation on the web already.
Elkins Park, PA USA 08/23/2013
ATMs & Credit Cards: Minimizing Fees
Capitalone ATM cards may not necessarily be the best for minimizing ATM fees. It is true they don't charge the 1% foreign conversion fee, but be sure to read any fine print on the other fees. According to the terms on my capitalone ATM card: "Please keep in mind that when you use a Capital One Bank ATM, there are no fees for the transactions. However, when using a non Capital One Bank ATM outside of the US, Puerto Rico, and US Virgin Islands for an inquiry, withdrawal, or mini-statement, Capital One Bank charges you $2.00 for the transaction plus a 3 percent transaction fee. There are no fees for purchases made with your debit card and purchases can be made with any merchant worldwide who accepts MasterCard." So you might be better off with an ATM card that charges you a 1% foreign currency conversion fee, if it does not tag on the other fees.
Potomac, MD USA 08/14/2013
I disagree with the necessity to have a VISA/MasterCard logo on the ATM card. These companies charge 1% to take your money out of your account! We have used Capital One's ATM card tied to their Money Market account (paying about .5% interest!) for years with absolutely no problems. They charge NO foreign transaction fees, same as their credit card (which is a VISA card, btw). We've used it for years in Europe, Thailand & Cambodia. We simply move money, online, from our credit union checking account into the Capital One account and then go. Of course, there is a fee that the bank in Europe, etc. may charge. What you need is an ATM card that will work on the cirrus interbank network. The ATM card needs a Cirrus logo (back of card) or PLUS in order to work outside of the US. These are the two main interbank networks in the world.
Seattle, WA USA 08/11/2013
Vendor Currency Conversion Costs
Credit cards can still be convenient despite advice to use cash from ATM's, however, beware offers to charge your card for purchases in dollars versus native currency. True, your card will be billed in dollars and no bankcard transaction fee is applied. BUT, the vendor, through his agency, will make the conversion at a rate that is less favorable to you, AND will apply a higher transaction fee than your bankcard will.
On our recent trip to the UK, a store vendor asked me which I wanted and instructed me to make the choice, but the instructions were incorrect. When I protested, I was effectively told, "too late, and too bad". I should have simply returned the shirt (the store was better than a souvenir stand).
In another case, at a restaurant, I was not even offered a choice. When I asked to talk to the manager he stated that his card reader was new and that he didn't fully understand how it worked. He offered to refund me a "the few pence difference". I should have asked for a complimentary beverage.
These offers to pay in US dollars are becoming more prevalent and more aggressive. The differences are small in each case but it is as if someone reaches into your pocket and takes your small change as you leave the store or restaurant.
Sunnyvale, CA USA 07/06/2013
Charles Schwab is a fantastic card. You do not pay any ATM fees anywhere in the world, plus a great exchange rate too. Also, if you are purchasing rail, theatre tickets, etc. use the card and again incur no fees and receive a very favorable exchange rate. For example, I just purchased London theatre tickets for the Book of Mormon at the Delfont Mackintosh Theatre. The intra day bank rate was $1.5704 and when I checked my bank statement (online) I received $1.5770 per pound. Less than one cent difference. You won't get this from other banks and they will also ding you with a "Foreign Bank/Transaction" charge on top of it.
Phoenix, AZ USA 06/15/2013
Chip N Pin Cards
Andrews Federal is the only place I could find to get a true Chip N Pin card. Most banks only offer Chip N Signature cards. One complaint about Andrews though..beware and apply for Credit Card months before you travel!!!!! I applied back in March 2013... here it is end of May and still no card. Am being told it's being processed but could take 3weeks for delivery since it is manufactured in Canada. That puts us to late before we leave to have the cards. The problems has been, you must become a member of the bank 1st, then apply for card. Then they send out documents via email for you to sign and I didnt' understand that both me and my husband were sent 2 seperate emails with places for our signatures. I assumed mine was the only one sent and thought it curious when I was the only one made to sign. Sent it off anyways, no follow ups from them or anything. Called back 2 weeks later to learn my husband had an email too (went to spam). Once I signed it and sent it off I guess it was approved finally. But Andrews has no communication with you and it's all on your end to make sure the application and cards are being processed. Call them weekly!!!!! Just disappointed that they didn't contact me in anyway to let me know status of application.
Newburgh, IN USA 05/29/2013
Spanish Exchange rate
In just took cash at an ATM at BBA Bank in Sevilla Spain and there does not appear to have an addition to the exchange rate. I was Charged $326.00 for Euro 250.00 that is $20.00 less than a similar transaction @ Banko Popular.
CLIFTON PARK, NY USA 02/27/2013
No fee atm
Capitalone360.com (formerly ING) NOW has a checking account that bears a little interest plus has no foreign ATM fees. (Mastercard applies a 1% fee for any charges outside U.S., regardless of currency). It's an on-line only bank so it has to be connected to an existing bank account.
Toledo, oh USA 02/21/2013
BoA Travel VISA Card has the EMV chip
I strongly recommend using the Bank of America Travel VISA Card. Aside from a favorable exchange rate the card does not charge a currency exchange fee PLUS the card now has the EMV chip. Most helpful for Metro and vending machines that take credit/debit cards. See Rick's book for an explanation on the EMV chip.
Boynton Beach, FL USA 01/31/2013
free ATM withdrawals
I always use when my Charles Schwab debit card whenever I travel anywhere in the world. They offer a interest free checking account. Plus you can withdraw from any ATM in the world for free (Schwab will reimburse the fee at the end of the month). Finally, Schwab gives you the inter-market rate on your transaction, so you'll know you will have the better conversion rate.
I know other banks do this, but I really love the Schwab service.
Also a credit card with 0% foreign transaction fee is helpful.
SF, CA USA 01/30/2013
I just contacted Capital One to obtain a debit card from them. Due to their merger with ING Direct they are not currently issuing any new accounts. However, ING Direct does seem to be offering a similar product. Their Electric Orange Checking account supposedly offers no ATM or transaction fees except for the usual visa transaction fee. On the phone I was quoted that fee by an ING representative as .002% or 20 cents on $100. Sounds too good to be true. By the way, ING direct is only an internet banking site...no branches. They transfer funds from your present checking account. This may be a good way to go. Curious if anyone has used this.
How to find a Bank of America ATM in Italy
With your internet connection go to BNL.IT. Then click on "BNL PRIORITY". On the next page click on "PRENDI UN APPUNTAMENTO". This will bring you to a series of three drop-down boxes where you enter your location by Regione, Provincia and Comune. Once you enter that info click on the "CERCA" button. There you will see all their branch locations in that locality. Simply click on the "BANCOMAT" tab at the top of the page to see all the ATM locations along with a map!
Weston, MA USA 01/03/2013