The Top 11 Checking Accounts for Avoiding Foreign ATM Fees
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By now we all know to look out for foreign transaction fees on the credit cards that we use while traveling abroad – no one likes paying a 3% premium simply to make everyday purchases just because you’re not doing so in the US. But what might slip your mind is whether or not your ATM card will charge you fees for withdrawing cash abroad, which can be equally if not more onerous than the fees credit cards charge. In fact, it can actually be two charges – a flat ATM use fee of $2-5, and a transaction fee that’s usually a percentage of 1-3% of the withdrawal. So you can really save by knowing what your bank charges.
With that in mind, here is a roundup of banks and the checking accounts/debit cards they offer that will let you avoid foreign transaction fees when withdrawing money abroad – I know it’s a Top 11 list, but I’ve just arranged them alphabetically, not by the breadth of their benefits.
This information changes all the time, though, so if you have any updates on this information, or know of any other banks that offer the benefits of waiving foreign withdrawal charges, please share in the comments below and I’ll add them in!
1. Ally: Strictly speaking, Ally does charge a 1% fee, but because it’s low, I thought it was worth mentioning. Per their FAQ page, “If you use an ATM in a foreign country, you may be charged a fee of up to 1% of the transaction amount for the currency conversion and/or cross border transaction. Ally only reimburses ATM fees charged by other banks if the ATM is in the US.”
2. Capital One: If you just bank through them online (so your state does not have actual brick-and-mortar locations) through Capital One 360, there are no fees on any withdrawal outside the Capital One network, even if the network or issuer, like Mastercard, charges a fee. MasterCard will charge a 1% fee, but that is “covered” by Capital One, so you shouldn’t find it on your statement. However, as readers have commented below, if you bank through an actual Capital One physical location, you will be assessed fees as high as $2 per withdrawal and 3% of the transaction amount, meaning your costs could add up quickly.
3. Charles Schwab: Receive full reimbursements at the end of every month for any ATM fees incurred, anywhere if you have the Schwab Bank Visa Platinum debit card, a High Yield Investor account, or a Max Rate checking account with at least a $5,000 balance. Per the Charles Schwab checking account page: “Unlimited ATM fee rebates apply to cash withdrawals using the Schwab Bank Visa® Platinum check card wherever it is accepted. ATM fee rebates do not apply to any fees other than fees assessed for using an ATM to withdraw cash from your Schwab Bank account. Schwab Bank makes its best effort to identify those ATM fees eligible for rebate, based on information it receives from Visa and ATM operators. In the event that you have not received a rebate for a fee that you believe is eligible, please call a Schwab Bank Client Service Specialist for assistance at 888-403-9000. Schwab Bank reserves the right to modify or discontinue the ATM fee rebate at any time.”
4. Citibank: With numerous international locations, customers can avoid fees by withdrawing money from Citi-branded ATM’s. Citibank actually has branches abroad, with over 4,000 locations in more than forty countries. To find out whether your destination is included, go to this page. Asia-Pacific travelers can also visit Find My Citi. If you can’t find a location in your destination, non-Citibank ATM withdrawals outside the US result in a $2 fee plus the 3% international transaction charge you always get hit with, though both of those are waived for Citigold members. Detailed fee information is available here. Per the Citibank foreign ATM info page, foreign withdrawals are fee-free for Citibank customers when they use a Citibank branded ATM or an ATM found at MoneyPass or Publix Food Stores, and fee-free altogether for Citigold clients.
5. Fidelity: Clients with Cash Management accounts receive the following waivers: “All Fidelity ATM withdrawal fees will be waived for your Fidelity Cash Management Account. In addition, your account will automatically be reimbursed for all ATM fees charged by other institutions while using a Fidelity Visa Gold Check Card linked to your account at any ATM displaying the Visa, Plus, or Star logos. ATM reimbursements will be credited to the account when the transaction posts. Please note, there is a foreign transaction fee of one percent that is not waived, which will be included in the amount charged to your account.” In practice, however, several readers have noted being charged percentage fees of 1-3% by Visa because it processed withdrawals as cash advances, so be sure you select withdrawal and checking account from the ATM.
6. First Republic Bank: Their ATM Rebate Checking account offers free use of more than 800,000 ATMs worldwide, unlimited ATM access, and even interest on balances above $3,500. ATM withdrawal fees are refunded from other banks worldwide and international card usage fees are waived. There are free ATM withdrawals to available limits as well. You must have a minimum opening balance of $500 and minimum average balance of $3,500 to avoid monthly fees.
7. PNC: Though PNC does not have international partners and will charge you a $5 fee per transaction plus 3% of the transaction amount, if you are a Performance and Performance Select customer, these fees are waived. You can get a complete overview of the fees by inputting your zip code here. Per their terms page on service charges, the fee for the first two domestic or international non-PNC Bank ATM transactions made on your Spend, Reserve or Growth accounts during a statement period will be reimbursed to your Spend account at the end of the statement period. Fees in excess of two per statement period will not be reimbursed, and remember this might not include the fees the foreign bank charges you for withdrawals – so if you are taking money out, be sure to do it in two big withdrawals rather than lots of little ones and you might be able to dodge the fees.
8. TD Bank: This brick-and-mortar chain charges a flat $2.50 fee for ATM withdrawals with no foreign transaction fees. The fee is waived for TD Premier and TD Relationship account holders with a daily minimum balance of $2,500 in their account.
9. USAA: Strictly speaking, you do get charged a fee for withdrawing money from your USAA account, but I wanted to include it here because it is pretty low. According to USAA’s Secure Checking Accounts page, “USAA Bank refunds up to $15 in other banks’ ATM usage fees each month and does not charge a fee for the first 10 ATM withdrawals. Subsequent transactions will be charged $2.00 each. A 1% foreign transaction fee applies to withdrawals outside the United States.” So if you are just making a few withdrawals, you’ll just be paying that 1% charge.
10. US Bank: With no foreign partners or international ATM locations, US Bank also adds fees to all debit card transactions abroad including a flat fee and a 2% withdrawal charge for those made in US dollars and 3% in foreign currency. However, the $2.50 fee is waived for Platinum and Premium Checking customers, while Gold Checking customers can get two fee waivers every statement period. To compare the different accounts, click here.
11. Wells Fargo: Though Wells Fargo will charge most of their customers $5 for foreign withdrawals, per their debit card FAQ page, customers with PMA Package accounts will receive a total of up to 2 free non-Wells Fargo ATM withdrawal transactions (combined U.S. and International) per statement cycle; and the fees are all waived if PMA qualifying balance is $250,000 or more.
Avoiding These Fees
While the fees you pay depend on the bank you do business with, many waive fees for customers with premium accounts or those that carry large balance requirements. It’s also worth looking at whether your bank has physical branches in other countries, such as Citi since their US customers can often use these locations for ATM withdrawals (and many other transactions as well), and whether they have other international partner banks where you can withdraw foreign currency without fees while abroad.
This was the list of banks with no fees, or low flat fees, but for a more comprehensive list of banks and what they will charge you to withdraw money abroad, check out this post.
TPG Reader Tips
Some of our readers also have some excellent suggestions on this matter, which I will continue to update as we hear them.
-Republic Bank refunds all ATM fees for four non-Republic ATMS and no foreign exchange fees.
-Bank of America’s Global ATM Alliance has no foreign exchange fees.
-State Farm Bank has free ATMs worldwide.
-It’s free for HSBC Premier customers to use ATMs worldwide.
-Check your local credit union. Sometimes you can set up accounts specifically for foreign travel that allow you to put just the amount of money in your need for your trip, and later just leaving your balance at $5, reducing the risk of fraud while traveling.