Debit Card Foreign Transaction and International ATM Fees

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If you plan to travel internationally, make sure to verify the fees that your bank might charge to access your checking account. In general, there are two types of extra debit card-related fees you might incur:

  1. Foreign ATM Fee – Typically a flat fee of $2 – $5 charged for each use of your debit/ATM card at an international ATM to withdraw foreign currency.  This dollar fee is similar to how you may incur out-of-network fees for using an ATM that doesn’t belong to your bank.  For example, if you withdraw foreign currency worth $200 USD, you will be charged an additional $5 (given your bank charges a flat fee of $5 for such transactions).
  2. Foreign/International Transaction Fee – Typically a 1% – 3% fee for using your debit card in a foreign currency. The fee is calculated as a percentage of the converted transaction amount and is essentially the same as a credit card foreign transaction fee.  For example, if you make a foreign purchase worth $50 USD, and your bank charges you a 3% fee, you will pay an additional $1.50 as a foreign transaction fee.

Banks and financial institutions vary in what fees they charge, depending on whether you’re using your debit card to withdraw cash or if you’re using it to make a purchase, e.g. at the point-of-sale (POS):

  • The most common fee structure we encountered was that where both fees are charged for an ATM withdrawal (e.g. $2 + 3% of the withdrawal amount), and only the percentage of transaction fee is charged for a POS debit card purchase.
  • The other fee structure, adopted by just a few institutions, was a completely separate treatment of ATM withdrawals and POS purchases. In other words, an ATM withdrawal incurs only the flat fee and a POS debit card purchase will trigger the percentage fee, not both.

We’ve analyzed fees at some of the biggest financial institutions in the country, including big banks, credit unions and online banks.

Banks & Credit Unions with No Foreign Transaction Fee

Capital One 360 | 360 Checking
Capital+One+360
  • $50 cash bonus for new accounts
  • Access to over 38,000 surcharge-free Allpoint ATMs
  • Use a mobile app or computer to deposit checks from anywhere with CheckMate
  • No foreign transaction fee
Monthly Fee Minimum Balance APY
$0.00 $0.00 0.20%

Foreign Transaction Fees by Institution

Institution Fee Structure
ATM Withdrawal POS Purchase
Banks
Ally Bank 1% of amount 1% of purchase
Bank of America $5 + 3% of amount 3% of purchase
BB&T $5 + 3% of amount 3% of purchase
BBVA Compass $2 + 1% of amount 3% of purchase
BMO Harris Bank $2 + 3% of amount 3% of purchase
Charles Schwab Bank N/A N/A
Chase $5 + 3% of amount 3% of purchase
Citibank $2 + 3% of amount 3% of purchase
Citizens Bank $3 + 3% of amount 3% of purchase
Comerica $5 + 3% of amount 3% of purchase
EverBank 1% of amount 1% of purchase
Fifth Third $5 + 3% of amount 3% of purchase
HSBC $2.50 + 3% of amount 3% of purchase
Capital One 360 N/A N/A
KeyBank $2.50 + 1% of amount 1% of amount
M&T Bank Greater of $5 or 3% of amount 3% of purchase
PNC $5 3% of purchase
Regions $5 3% of purchase
SunTrust $5 + 3% of amount 3% of purchase
TD Bank $3 N/A
TIAA Direct $2 + 2% of amount 2% of purchase
USAA $0* + 1% of amount
*Up to $15 of other banks’ charges refunded each month. No USAA fee for the first 10 withdrawals each month. $2 USAA fee applies to subsequent withdrawals.
1% of purchase
US Bank $2.50 + 3% of amount 3% of purchase
Wells Fargo $5 3% of purchase
Credit Unions
Affinity Federal Credit Union $1.50 + 1% of amount 1% of purchase
Alaska USA Federal Credit Union 1% of amount 1% of purchase
Alliant Credit Union 1% of amount 1% of purchase
America First Credit Union $1.50 + 1% of amount 1% of purchase
Boeing Employees Credit Union (BECU) 1% of amount 1% of purchase
Desert Schools Federal Credit Union $2 1% of purchase
Digital Federal Credit Union $1.50 + 2% of amount 2% of purchase
First Tech Federal Credit Union $2 + 1% of amount 1% of purchase
Kinecta Federal Credit Union $1 + 1% of amount 1% of purchase
Logix Federal Credit Union $1.95 + 1% of amount 1% of purchase
Mountain America Credit Union $2.50 + 1% of amount 1% of purchase
Municipal Credit Union $1.50 + 1% of amount 1% of purchase
Navy Federal Credit Union $1 + 1% of amount 1% of purchase
Northwest Federal Credit Union $1 N/A
Patelco Credit Union $1.75 + 2% of amount 2% of purchase
Pennsylvania State Employees Credit Union (PSECU) 1% of amount 1% of purchase
Pentagon Federal Credit Union $1.50 + 2% of amount 2% of purchase
Randolph-Brooks Federal Credit Union $1 N/A
Redstone Federal Credit Union $1 + 1% of amount 1% of purchase
SchoolsFirst Federal Credit Union $1 + 1% of amount 1% of purchase
Security Service Federal Credit Union $1.50 + 1% of amount 1% of purchase
SEFCU $1.25 + 1% of amount 1% of purchase
Space Coast Credit Union $1.50 + 1% of amount 1% of purchase
State Employees’ Credit Union $0.75 + 1% of amount 1% of purchase
Suncoast Schools Federal Credit Union $1.50 + 1% of amount 1% of purchase
The Golden 1 Credit Union $1.50 + 1% of amount 1% of purchase
Vystar Credit Union N/A N/A

Highlights:

Fees are generally the lowest for members of a credit union, where the percentage of transaction fee is often small. Visa and Mastercard charge 1% for purchases in a foreign currency, and most credit unions simply pass the fee along to their members with no mark-up. Banks however, usually tack on an extra 2% to that amount.

Travelers should also take note that the ATM you are using may charge an additional fee on top of what your bank will charge. Make sure to verify this fee before completing a transaction (you will likely be provided a warning during the process).

What to do?

With all of this information, the best things to do before leaving the country are as follows:

  1. Notify your bank of where you are traveling and how long you will be there – otherwise your account may be flagged, leaving you without cash.
  2. Ask your bank if they have any partnerships with other banks in your destination country. This way, you can use those ATMs to avoid costly fees.
  3. Check your daily ATM withdrawal limit. If you anticipate needing to access more than that amount at one time, ask your bank to raise it. Worst-case scenario, you can always withdraw cash from a teller at a foreign bank and, in most cases, be charged the same percentage fee as if you had used a debit card.

It may take a conversation with your bank and some real-time calculations, but doing research in advance will help to make reduce both stress and fees on your next international trip.

Planning to study abroad? Read more about banking tips for students abroad.

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  • BJP

    Bank of America in November of 2013 stopped offering free ATM withdrawals from China Construction Bank. I just applied for a Fidelity cash card that is free all over the world!!! No fees whatsoever!

  • kh

    Wow, thanks so much for the info. The Capital One 360 online banking company sounds too good to be true? Is it? Are there any drawbacks?

    • NWjohn

      That mostly depends on your preferences. Since it is an online bank, you can’t walk into a bank branch for customer service or to deposit a check. If you’re comfortable banking entirely online or with your phone, however, online banks like Capital One 360 are great options. You can read more about others here: http://www.nerdwallet.com/blog/banking/nerdwallets-top-online-checking-accounts/

    • anna belle

      I bank with Cap1360 and Ally and I called both before I went to France. I chose to use my Capital one card when I went. They had told me up to 2% but when I checked my account I couldn’t find any fees. I love both Cap1360 and ally. C1360 has lower interest and lower fees. Ally is higher interest and free ATM use anywhere in the US. Both have spectacular customer service. I use BofA as well, as little as possible, only when I really need that option to deposit cash or an actual cheque.

  • NWjohn

    Thanks for the correction Tom! We’ve made the update.

  • Tina

    What is Bank of America’s policy for using their Visa debit cards to make online purchases in a foreign currency? I need to get a train ticket (the deal I found is only available online) from London to Paris, and the rail company will only let me pay in pounds. But the rail company does accept foreign cards. So I just want to make sure Bank of America won’t charge me some crazy fee for it. Thanks for the information!

    • NWjohn

      Bank of America should charge a fee of 3% of the purchase amount for international currency conversion.

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  • Kelly

    Is there any US credit or debit card provider issuing a “chip and PIN” card yet?
    so few European and fewer and fewer Canadian retailers take the antiquated US mag stripe cards. thanks you

  • http://veryquickbooks.com VeryQuickBooks

    I just signed up with Charles Schwab. They have absolutely NO fees on anything for their checking account. Also no minimums to sign up and no minimums to maintain the account. They have a helpful website and online chat was excellent. It was super easy. I wish I had known about them years ago! Only drawback for me is that they cannot set up a business account, so I’ll have to keep that at another bank, but I don’t use that one much now anyway.

  • Liz

    I just set up a USAA Checking Account, after realizing that BofA has been charging me 3% for every foreign withdrawal, on top of the $5 they’ve always charged me (not to mention that I’ve been in a country that uses US dollars plus its own currency, and BofA charges me $5 for each currency I take out, even though it’s within the same ATM session…grr). I’ve had a USAA credit card since I was 18, and like it, so it was easy to set up the checking account (I used to have a Schwab account, and didn’t like them…though zero fees does sound pretty enticing!). USAA told me that they only charge 1% foreign transaction fee and no ATM fees; in fact they will refund me any fees charged by the ATM I am using, up to $15 per month. I have yet to test it out, but given that they will refund me fees imposed by the other bank’s ATM, and it is basically only an online bank, I’d have to say that your claim that USAA charge $2 to withdraw from a foreign ATM is incorrect.

    • NWjohn

      Thanks Liz, you’re right. We included the $2 fee as the amount you’d pay once you went over USAA’s limit of 10 foreign ATM fees per month, but we see how that may have been misleading and made an edit in the table above.

      • Liz

        Oh I see, thanks for clarifying that; USAA does mention the 10 atm withdrawals per month in their materials. Sooo…either they didn’t tell me about the $2 fee or I forgot, haha. It’s definitely good to keep that in mind while travelling!! Thanks for compiling this list, so helpful!