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You can avoid ATM withdrawal fees when you're traveling internationally by using an in-network ATM from a bank that doesn't charge foreign transaction fees or using a bank that refunds your ATM fees. If you're using a credit card as well, you'll also want to consider how to avoid paying the card's foreign transaction fees while you're overseas.
Types of International ATM Fees
You might have to pay several fees when you use an ATM to withdraw cash in a foreign country.
- Out-of-network fee: The fee your bank or credit union charges you to use an ATM that isn't part of its network.
- ATM operator fee: The company that operates the ATM may charge you a separate fee for using its machine.
- Your bank's foreign transaction or exchange fee: You may have to pay an additional fee, often around 1% to 3%, of the amount you withdraw. The fee may apply even if you use an in-network ATM.
- The ATM operator's currency conversion markup: Some ATMs use a dynamic currency conversion and offer to convert the currency for you rather than having your bank or card network convert the amount. While there isn't an explicit fee for this service, the operator might make money by giving you a bad conversion rate.
The exact amounts can vary depending on your bank and the ATM operator, but they can quickly add up. For instance, your bank might charge $2 to $5 for using an out-of-network ATM plus 3% of the withdrawn amount, and the operator might charge you another $5. This means you might have to pay $13 in fees to withdraw $100 worth of foreign currency.
What Is a Foreign Transaction Fee?
A foreign transaction fee is a fee that credit and debit cards may charge when you use the card outside the U.S. or when you purchase products or services in a foreign currency. The fee is generally around 1% to 3% of the transaction amount.
There isn't a great way to avoid foreign transaction fees aside from getting a debit or credit card that doesn't charge this fee. Travel credit cards often waive this fee, for example, and you may even find a good option that doesn't have an annual fee.
If you're traveling to a country where many stores only accept cash, or if you're hopping between countries and frequently need to withdraw cash, it might even be worth opening a new bank account. Some accounts don't have minimum balance requirements or monthly fees, so you keep the account as your "travel account" without worrying about fees when you're at home.
How to Avoid ATM Fees When Traveling Abroad
You can avoid some of the cash withdrawal ATM fees based on how and where you use your debit card. But you also might find that opening a new account is the best way to save money. Review these options to see what might make the most sense for your next trip.
Use an ATM in Your Bank's International Network
You can avoid the out-of-network and operator fees by using an ATM that's part of your bank's network. Some large banks have branches or ATMs in other countries. Even when that's not the case, your bank may partner with other banks or be part of ATM networks that offer fee-free withdrawals. However, an exchange rate or conversion fee could still apply.
Use Your Debit Card to Get Cash Back at a Store
You can also avoid ATM-related fees by using your debit card to get cash back when shopping at a store. However, your debit card may then charge a foreign transaction fee on the purchase, which is similar to the exchange or conversion fee on ATM withdrawals.
Don't Use the ATM's Conversion Offer
While it's nice to see the exact exchange rate you're getting on your withdrawal, accepting an ATM's offer to convert the currency could be costly. Instead, let your bank or card network convert the currency and you might get a better rate. Plus, even if you use the ATM's offer, you still might have to pay your bank's foreign transaction fee because the ATM is outside the U.S.
Use a Bank That Doesn't Charge International ATM Fees
If you want to avoid all the fees, you can use a bank that doesn't charge any conversion or foreign exchange fees and incorporate one of the approaches above. For example, the Capital One 360 checking account doesn't have out-of-network or foreign transaction fees, which means you can get cash for free at its in-network ATMs.
Use a Bank That Refunds ATM Fees
Another option could be to open an account with a bank that refunds the ATM fees you pay. Betterment checking accounts, for example, offer unlimited ATM fee refunds worldwide. Some accounts from major banks, such as Chase, also reimburse ATM fees and waive foreign exchange fees on their premium bank accounts.
Use a Credit Card Without a Foreign Transaction Fee
Another option is to use a credit card without a foreign transaction fee instead of cash. While it's not an option everywhere, many retailers accept credit cards. You may also earn rewards and receive purchase protections and benefits when you use a credit card.
Plan Ahead to Save Money
Knowing that you may have to pay several fees every time you withdraw money from an ATM, it may be worth dedicating some of your trip-planning time to review your current account's fees and ATM network. You may find easy ways to avoid fees where you're going, or decide to open a new bank account. If you're looking for a new credit card, you can use Experian CreditMatch™ to easily compare cards that don't have foreign transaction fees.