Please sign in to post.

Beware Bank of America ATM Global Alliance!

Bank of America is in a "global alliance" with other banks in Europe (Barclays in the UK, BNP Paribas in France, BNL in Italy, Deutsche Bank in Germany) that allows you to avoid a $5 fee when using their ATMs.

However... Some time last year they began to charge a "foreign transaction fee" that amounts to 3% of the money that you take out. So now the global alliance is basically a scam. I found out the hard way on a recent visit to Italy. One would be better off charging everything on a Visa card and incurring the 1% fee.

Time to find a new bank, or join my local credit union.

Posted by Tim
Wyckoff, NJ, USA
2862 posts

I can confirm Al's experience. I wrote to Sallie Krawcheck (senior executive) last year, cited my exalted "Platinum Privileges" and asked why I should pay 3% for a withdrawal of my own money? No reply. So I opened a credit union account.

Posted by Edgar
Medford, OR, USA
4065 posts

I had the same BofA experience using the DB ATM at the FRA airport connecting to Salzburg. No ATM usage charge but a 3% foreign transaction fee.

Using my credit union ATM card in Austria, a small fee from the Austrian bank (ATM owner) was only one or two Euro, less than the 3% fee on my 300 Euro withdrawal. Lesson learned is don't use your BofA ATM card overseas.

Posted by Nancy
Bloomington, IL, USA
9345 posts

A lot of us here have been saying this for a long time: credit unions are the best way to go for low-fee or free ATM usage in Europe. No hunting for a "partner bank", and the foreign transaction fees can easily be 1% or even free. The per-use fee that BofA charges has always been outrageous, in my opinion, since European ATMs associated with banks don't charge fees to foreign users anyway. That is a charge by BofA (plus the foreign transaction fee). With my credit union card, I can withdraw money from any ATM, not just special banks, for free. My second card is with an online bank which charges 1%. There have always been better deals out there.

Posted by Douglas
Oak Park, Illinois
4221 posts

Most banks charge up to a 3% foreign transaction fee. A few don't. Most credit cards charge the same fee. A few don't. Waiving the out-of-network fee ($5 is pretty high) is a big benefit if you want to take out smaller amounts of cash each time.

Nothing wrong with opening another account or changing banks if you really want to or if you travel a lot. But for a two week trip to Europe once every few years? To save about $50 each time? It's not very useful advice in my opinion for the vast majority of people that come here with travel questions.

Posted by David
Missoula, Montana
204 posts

Those residing in Northern Virginia (DC-area) may want to consider opening an account with the local, family-owned Burke & Herbert Bank (doing business since 1852). It does not assess fees for withdrawals from any ATMs, whether they're located down the street or abroad. Not a penny. Going to France? No fee. Traveling in China? Same deal. Spending a month in Italy? Buy another gelato instead of giving money to your bank!

In preparation for a late summer trip to Eastern Europe, I verified this with B&H today, while also learning that my non-chip-and-pin ATM card will work just fine with any ATM anywhere in the world, whether or not it uses C&P technology.

Of course, foreign banks are not as nice as B&H and assess their own fees for making withdrawals from their ATMs. I've not followed this topic of late, so would appreciate hearing from those who are traveling or have recently traveled in Europe (especially Eastern Europe, e.g., Hungary and the Balkans) as to just what percentage - or fixed fee, if that's the case - banks there charge for using one's own money.

Posted by Douglas
Oak Park, Illinois
4221 posts

@David - European banks, on the whole, do not charge to use their ATM machines. And be sure that your local bank doesn't charge the foreign transaction fee - the topic of this thread.

There are two kinds of fees:

Foreign transaction fees are a percentage tacked on to the charge if it is in a currency other than your own local currency. It is typically 1 - 3%. It is generally charged even if you opt for what is known as dynamic currency conversion, which appears to charge you in your own currency (don't ever opt for that since you get a terrible rate and still pay the conversion fee).

Out-of-network fees are usually a fixed dollar amount for using an ATM not in your bank's network. That is the fee you describe. Many large banks have agreements with foreign banks to avoid this fee.

It is worth noting that in most cases, the fee totals for using a European ATM amounts to no more than 4-5% and often less.

Posted by David
Florence, AL, USA
5036 posts

I was aware of my big Box Bank's 3% discount plus $5 charges in Europe. And you don't always get the correct exchange rate--to the bank's favor.

My credit union doesn't discount the transaction plus there no charges. And they don't rip you off on the dollar/euro conversion.

Find yourself a good credit union to do business with.

Posted by Douglas
Oak Park, Illinois
4221 posts

And you don't always get the correct exchange rate--to the bank's favor.

The exchange rate is set by the network, not your bank. You get the current network rate at the time of your transaction.

Posted by Lee
Lakewood, Colorado
16611 posts

"you get the current network rate at the time of your transaction."

That must be new because in the past I've read the fee schedule on cards, and it said they could select any rate within some time period, something around 24 hours.

But whether the bank "discounts" the exchange rate anywhere from 0% to 3% depends on the bank.

Posted by Douglas
Oak Park, Illinois
4221 posts

you get the current network rate at the time of your transaction."
That must be new because in the past I've read the fee schedule on cards, and it said they could select any rate within some time period, something around 24 hours.

We are both essentially correct. The rate is established by the network, but your own bank might retain the right to adjust depending on when a transaction gets posted. You bank isn't about to pay for you to take money out of a foreign ATM if the rate changed from when you used the ATM and when it gets posted. So the 24 hour window makes sense. But except in rare moments of volatility, the rate isn't going to change more than a few tenths of a percent in a 24 hour period.

The poster I responded to made it seem as though their bank could choose any rate they wanted, but in fact it's based on the network rate.

Posted by David
Missoula, Montana
204 posts

You were right to remind me, Douglas. My bank (Burke & Herbert) does not charge a foreign transaction - or any other - fee for ATM withdrawals.

Posted by Teresa
Seattle
775 posts

Is the point that BoA raised the foreign transaction fee? I've always (since 2009, anyway) been charged 1% -- not 3% -- for using an international, "global alliance" ATM, and the $5 fee is waived. ??

Posted by Edgar
Medford, OR, USA
4065 posts

Yes Teresa. BofA's foreign transaction conversion fee apparently bumped up to 3% during my January 2014 trip.

Posted by Teresa
Seattle
775 posts

Thanks, Edgar. Al's initial post made me think there was an entirely brand new fee.