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:
- 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).
- 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|
|Monthly Fee||Minimum Balance||APY|
- Charles Schwab Bank (online)
- TD Bank
- Northwest Federal Credit Union (Virginia)
- VyStar Credit Union (Florida)
Foreign Transaction Fees by Institution
|ATM Withdrawal||POS Purchase|
|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||$2.50 + 3% of amount||3% of purchase|
|Charles Schwab Bank||N/A||N/A|
|Chase||$5 + 3% of amount||3% of purchase|
|Citibank||$2.50 + 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|
|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|
|Affinity Federal Credit Union||$1.50 + 1% of amount||1% of purchase|
|Alliant Credit Union||1% of amount||1% of purchase|
|BECU||$1 + 1% of amount||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||$1.50 + 1% of amount||1% of purchase|
|Logix Federal Credit Union||$1.95 + 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|
|Redstone Federal Credit Union||$1 + 1% of amount||1% of purchase|
|State Employees’ Credit Union (NC)||$0.75 + 1% of amount||1% of purchase|
|The Golden 1 Credit Union||$2 + 1% of amount||1% of purchase|
|Vystar Credit Union||$2.50||N/A|
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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.