Eliminate ATM Fees When Traveling
ATM fees can really add up — especially if you’re traveling for weeks or months at a time. Let’s think about it: While you’re on the road, you will probably withdraw money from an ATM twice a week. Fees vary around the world, but on average you end up paying around $3-5 USD per withdrawal. That is $10 per week, $40 per month, or $520 per year! Do you know how many days you could spend in Southeast Asia for that amount? Almost 3 weeks!
Even if you only use the ATM half the time, that’s still $260 USD per year. And most travelers I know go to the ATM even more than twice a week, which only increases the amount in fees they pay. Why give banks money you need for travel? You did a lot of work saving your money — don’t waste it by giving it to a bank.
To help you avoid fees, here are four things you’ll want to do on your next trip to eliminate those pesky fees:
First, pick a bank in the Global ATM Alliance. This is a network of large banks that have come together and waived fees and allows for free ATM withdrawals. While they have the high fees ($5 USD per withdrawal) for banks outside their network, by using partner ATMs you can avoid ATM charges entirely.
Below is a list of major banks in this alliance:
Bank of America (United States)
Barclays (England, Wales, Spain, Portugal, Gibraltar and certain countries in Africa)
BNP Paribas (France, Ukraine, Turkey, Poland, Morocco, Italy, New Caledonia, Réunion, Guyane, Guadeloupe, Martinique, and Luxembourg)
Deutsche Bank (Germany, Poland, Czech Republic, Spain, Portugal and Italy)
Banca Nazionale del Lavoro (Italy)
Scotiabank (Canada, Caribbean, Peru, Chile, and Mexico)
Westpac (Australia, New Zealand, Fiji, Vanuatu, Cook Islands, Samoa, Tonga, Papua New Guinea, and Solomon Islands)
Be sure to check with your local bank on specific coverage areas. There are some exceptions, i.e., if you use your Barclays card in one country, there might not be a fee, but in another, there may be. Other fees, such as an international transaction or foreign currency fee, may also still apply so double-check before you go!
Note: Bank of America charges a 3% foreign transaction fee on all withdrawals not in USD.
Secondly, if you are a US resident, the best bank to use is Charles Schwab.
Charles Schwab has no fees and reimburses all your ATM fees at the end of each month. You will need to open a high-yield checking account in order to qualify, but there is no minimum deposit required and no monthly service fee. Their ATM card can be used in any bank machine around the world, and you’ll never pay a fee. This is my primary bank card and I’ve been using it for years. Since getting it, I’ve avoided all ATM fees. It’s literally saved me thousands of dollars over the past decade of traveling the world.
Third, get a low-fee card. I use HSBC as my backup because HSBC has ATMs all over the world and charges only $2.50 USD per ATM transaction when you use a non-HSBC ATM. While it’s not as good as zero, it’s still better than what a lot of other banks charge. Additionally, Capital One doesn’t charge any withdrawal fees, but you do have to pay any fees charged by the local bank.
Finally, ask your local bank or credit union. Not charging ATM fees has become a widespread practice over the last few years, so make sure to ask your local bank.
Here are some suggested ATM cards for non-US travelers:
Canada: Scotia or Tangerine are a part of the Global ATM Alliance.
Australia: ING, Citibank, or HSBC have no feed cards.
UK: UMonzo or Starling let you avoid ATM fees abroad.