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Banks and Fees

all of my accounts are at Chase which I've read is the worst for fees when withdrawing $ from an ATM internationally. I am travelling to Spain for 8 days on Oct. 8. Chase says they'll charge 3% fee of the total of each ATM withdrawal. I think that's outrageous.

But how do I get around that? I am actually considering taking the money I've saved for the trip and opening a new account at a bank that's more internationally friendly just for the trip. Is that a crazy idea?

If I withdraw $500 Euro I'm going to get charged a 15 Euro Fee? Am I doing the math right? That seems like alot.

Any suggestions? We, of course have credit cards, but expect to be paying for some if not most things with cash.

BTW, we're spending 4 days in Seville and 4 in Madrid.

Posted by
2759 posts

Click on "Travel Tips" on the left hand margin and then on "Money" for a large listing that the RS folks can answer most all of your questions. I dumped Chase after they cancelled my Debit Card attached to a checking account while I was in Ireland. Later they said I did not include Ireland on a list of countries I was planning on visiting in Europe. Ireland was the only country I visited that year and had told them so. I now use a Debit Card tied to a checking account at a local credit union that charges a total of 1% total fees for getting local currency from European ATM machines. I have never, in 12 monthly visits to Europe, ever incurred a charge from the ATM machine owners. I always try to use an ATM machine tied to a bank that is open just incase anything goes wrong - never has one of them eaten my plastic card.

Posted by
5484 posts

BofA is worst in that they not only have a 3% foreign currency transaction fee on foreign exchsnge but add a $5 charge for uding a non-partner bank's cash machine. And the foreign bank or cash machine owner could add a "non customer" fee on top of the BofA fees/charges.

The 3% transaction fee is charged against your account in USD.

To use you 500€ example assuming an interbank rate of 1€=1.30usd, the interbank cost should be $650.00. Your bank will withdraw the $650.00 plus $19.50 or $669.50usd from your account. The effective conversion is a Euro (1.00€) is costing you $1.339usd wwhen the interbank rate is $1.30 USD per Euro. And as said, some foreign banks have non customer use fees on top of what your bank charges.

PS. While Charlie has not experienced a bank user fee an Austrian bank did add a small fee shown as such on my credit union statement.

Posted by
20597 posts

However, even with a 3% currency conversion fee for a debit card withdrawn, that is still cheaper than any other method for obtain foreign currency. But just think what you are getting. You can walk up to any bank owned ATM in any country with just a piece of plastic and walk away a pocket full of cash. Don't have to carry large amounts of cash during your trip, don't have to worry about cashing traveler's checks, get close to the wholesale exchange rate, etc. All in all a convenience that must be paid for one way or another. Shop around. Credit unions often have no fees or just 1%. At the end of the days, the currency conversion fee will be about 1 % of your total expenditures.

Posted by
11153 posts

" I am actually considering taking the money I've saved for the trip and opening a new account at a bank that's more internationally friendly just for the trip. Is that a crazy idea?"

No - that's what I've done.

My Chase account charges 3% plus $5 for each foreign withdrawal. So, yes, I've opened another account, at TD Bank. Their checking account with a $100 minimum charges $3 for each foreign withdrawal with no percentage markup, and their checking account with a $2500 minimum charges $0 and 0% for each foreign withdrawal. I don't know where you live, but if you have local TD branches, you can open an account and get a full ATM card (not a "starter" card) right away (the branches have machines to make the cards on the spot). I have no connection to them other than as a satisfied customer.

If you don't have a nearby TD Bank, there are other ones that don't have fees.

"If I withdraw $500 Euro I'm going to get charged a 15 Euro Fee?"

If you use your current account, yes. That's why my Chase account is for emergencies only.

Be sure to check your credit cards to see what they charge for foreign transactions. My CC also charges 3%; that's why I try to do as much with cash as possible. Others have CC's with 0% or 1% surcharges, and charge as much as possible. There's more than one "best" way, as long as you're paying the lowest possible fees you can reasonably get.

Posted by
6542 posts

I went to my credit union and got a no charge ATM card linked to my share account. We called and told them the countries visited and dates of our trips and they upped the daily withdrawal limit exceeding my needs. No problems were experienced withdrawing money in three different currencies.

We use a Capital One Visa that gives us the daily conversion rate vs. the Euro--and doesn't rip us of on purchases. We use it for rental cars, hotels and every restaurant that takes it. Our actual currency conversions were very minimal in the countries we visited as we carried little cash.

Posted by
4436 posts

I am actually considering taking the money I've saved for the trip and opening a new account at a bank that's more internationally friendly just for the trip. Is that a crazy idea?

It is not crazy. I did that. Just make sure you can get a card before you leave.

We, of course have credit cards, but expect to be paying for some if not most things with cash.
Does your credit card have a fee? I use my card with no international transaction fees anywhere that they take it.

Posted by
507 posts

If I withdraw $500 Euro I'm going to get charged a 15 Euro Fee?. It seems a 3% currency conversion charge is the norm for the big banks.

My understanding from my bank is the 3% currency conversion fee (CCF) will be in USD. The current exchange rate is 1 € = $1.27. So your 500 € = $635. Your fee will be $19.05 against your account. {Deletion of sentence by poster}

Capital One offers a credit card that offers 0% transaction {Edit. . . . fees I can use for large purchases. My credit union CU charges a 1% for CCF & no transaction fee on their debit card. I have a few months to shop around other CUs for a 0% interest debit or ATM card.}

{Edit . . . After checking with another Bank of America I applied & was granted a BoA Travel Card. The paperwork I was given states no foreign transaction fees.. According to the bank manager the currency conversation fee is absorbed by BoA.
(No, I do not foolishly believe everything I am told.). I will not be traveling overseas for a few months. Then I will assess if I was told the truth or not, unless another Travel Card holder tells me different.

This card does have a chip on it which makes it more acceptable to to use in European countries over just a magnetic strip.

Posted by
2525 posts

For those in search of a good debit/ATM card, consider one from Charles Schwab. No surcharges and any fees charged by a bank are rebated. It's easy to obtain and has worked without a hick-up for me worldwide.

Posted by
2 posts

I'm in on Long Island. There's both Charles Schwab and TD Bank nearby. I'm going to look into getting a different account.

Thanks to everyone for your input.

Posted by
2353 posts

We put everything we can on a credit card - it's just easier and we get a good exchange rate - I've never felt it necessary to walk around with a wad of cash in my purse. We do get cash from ATM's as needed but not so much that even a 3% fee would really impact our trip budget. Besides - using the cc we earn points that we can use towards our next trip!

Posted by
214 posts

Schwab has been my unfailing debit card travel companion (both international and domestic), plus they may have the best customer service team on the planet . For credit cards, Cap1 has been my hands down favorite BUT be advised that in countries that require chip & pin cards you won't be able to use the Cap1 mag strip card. In 2013, we used the Cap1 card successfully in Spain (not so much in France).

Posted by
5280 posts

Agree with Bruce and Craig about Schwab debit card -- it even comes with a chip now. No ATM fees, no foreign transaction fees. I believe you can get this using online application if there's no office nearby.

Posted by
27 posts

I would second the recommendation on the TD Bank - I had been a customer for years, until I moved to a part of the country that they had no locations.

They were a great bank to deal with.

Posted by
410 posts

Last year, before we left for Europe, we got a Capital One credit card. No foreign transaction fees. It was our first trip to Europe and I have to admit, we weren't "very educated" for that trip. We converted way too much money before leaving the U.S. and also used a Eurail Select pass.

For this year's trip (thanks in most part to this website) we won't get Euro's until arriving in Frankfurt and I've already purchased most of our train tickets in advance, saving a lot of money.

We also opened a Capital One 360 checking account to use just for our travel expenses. They do not charge for ATM withdrawals while in Europe. Will let you know how it works out.

Posted by
2081 posts

jmlyon5,

my credit union charges a $ 8.00 for currency conversion, but i dont know what rate they use either.

check your banks rates/fee schedule and go from there.

just a comment. I just got a BOA travels rewards credit card for a "backup" since i only have one credit card to my name. I found out i could not do a "cash advance" with it when i was over there. I needed some quick cash to pay a hotel bill (cash only) and forgot to get some earlier. But it was a big surprise when i couldn't do a "cash advance". Going to find out whats going on there and will probably dump this card due to the problems.

just so you know, when it comes to exchanging currency, you WILL get screwed. its a no win scenario. So just accept it and find the least painful way.

one comment. You will find that in many places you have to pay for public toilets. So you will need some change for that. Also having cash is nice for on-the-go snacks, bottle of water, fresh squeezed OJ or some tasty eye candy dessert.

One other thing, if you plan on traveling more and in the future, there is no reason you cant bring back some of the foreign currency home to use in the future. I do and I'm always bring it back too.

if it was me, i would look at changing banks or even look at credit unions too. banks are like underwear and should be changed often especially when they begin to smell bad (greedy fees, charges and such, just because the other guy does it)

happy trails.

Posted by
20597 posts

...... when it comes to exchanging currency, you WILL get screwed. its a no win scenario.......

That is a ridiculous statement. It makes no sense. With a little shopping around you can easily find debit cards in the range of zero to 1%, which is a very fair rate for the convenience and safety of a debit card. However, if you think that all banking services should be free, then, I suppose, any fee is a rip off.

Posted by
17642 posts

"We put everything we can on a credit card - it's just easier and we get a good exchange rate "

Christi, places that let you use credit cards to pay are so much more expensive in the first place - it's false economy.

Posted by
507 posts

BoA has several travel cards. The BoA Travel Card is a VISA.

Reversing my previous post on this thread, I am approved for the above card. See review below. Emphasis is mine.

http://www.cardhub.com/edu/bank-of-america-new-travel-rewards-credit-cards-review/

". . . International travelers don’t have to worry about incurring extraneous costs on transactions processed outside the United States either. All three of the new BankAmericards are no foreign transaction credit cards, which means they do not charge the 2-3% fees for international use that are part of more than 90% of credit card offers, according to Card Hub data. . . . "

When I use my ATM card, I am charged 1% on all withdrawals. Withdrawals will be for maximum amount each time to pay for small purchases.