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No-FTF debit cards and fee-free ATMs

I was piggybacking on a thread about the Wise debit card and realized I needed to start my own thread rather than usurping the OPs. [feeling chagrined]

I'm on a quest for a no-FTP (foreign transaction fee) debit card and fee-free ATMs at the Zurich airport and throughout northern Italy. After my own research and suggestions on the other thread, I decided to open a CapitalOne 360 Checking acct and use their no-FTF debit card. First problem solved. After a conversation with their Support line, though, I learned that this debit card could still incur fees imposed by the owner of the foreign ATM unless they are part of the fee-free networks that CO360 uses: AllPoint, MoneyPass, and CapitalOne. I did a search, and I can find no AllPoint or CapitalOne ATMs where we'll be, and the couple of MoneyPass ATMs in country seem nowhere near where we'll be.

For those of you who have used the CO360 debit card internationally, what is your experience in finding no-fee ATMs?

One other things I learned in my conversation with CO Support: they no longer rebate any ATM fees imposed by the ATM owner. This is one of the perks that drew me to them, but alas it's not available, at least for new accounts. Perhaps existing accounts are grandfathered and still have this benefit.

Posted by
832 posts

I can't answer your question about the CaptialOne ATM card as I don't have one. I do have a Charles Schwab ATM card that does not have any fees of its and and does reimburse you for any fees imposed by the local bank/ATM owner. It has become my primary ATM card when traveling abroad. You need to open a brokerage account (but not fund it) in order to open the checking account. Please notify them of your travel plans a few days before you leave.

Posted by
1821 posts

I have a no FTF debit card from Fidelity as part of a cash management account. Their approach is to refund any fees charged so I don't worry if the atm is charging a fee because Fidelity pays me back.

Posted by
836 posts

I have a no FTF debit card from Fidelity as part of a cash management account. Their approach is to refund any fees charged so I don't worry if the atm is charging a fee because Fidelity pays me back.

I have the same Fidelity cash management account and debit card, all ATM fees refunded to my account.

Posted by
27070 posts

The ATM-fee situation varies from country to country as well as from bank to bank.

I was in southern Italy in February-March of this year. I paid no fee at ATMs belonging to the following financial institutions:

  • Banco di Credito Popolare in Salerno (Rome branch closed; sort of doubt it has branches in the north)

  • Banco di Credito Cooperativo in Rome (if I'm correct about the name, this bank has quite a lot of branches in Rome; I don't know whether you'll find any at your northern Italy destinations.

  • Deutsche Bank in Rome

Noting the similarity of names of the first two on that list, I'd be inclined to try any "Banco di Credito....." ATM I encountered. Maybe those are customer-friendly institutions sort of like US credit unions?

The Unicredit Bank ATM I tried to use was going to charge me a fee, so I walked away from that one. It's not that long ago that Unicredit was reported not to charge fees. The situation is in flux. It's possible the places that worked for me in March have now changed their ATM policies.

You'll have to decide how much of your precious vacation time you want to devote to ATM-shopping. The good thing about ATM fees is that they will be disclosed on the screen; you won't be blindsided after you've completed a transaction. Sometimes the fee is a flat amount, like 5 euros; I've seen some that were such odd amounts I thought they had to be some percentage of the amount being withdrawn.

In figuring out how much money to withdraw from an ATM, keep in mind that many lodging places expect the local hotel tax to be paid in cash even though they're happy to accept a credit card for the hotel room itself. That tax is usually a few euros per night per person. It tends to increase as you climb the hotel-quality ladder, with the tax on a 4-star hotel being higher than the tax for a 3-star hotel. There may be exceptions to that rule, and children may not be counted when the tax is assessed.

Posted by
194 posts

CapitalOne 360 Checking ATM/Debit card works anywhere there's a "Maestro" logo (which is basically the MasterCard network), and In the 10ish years I've used mine, I've never checked on whether it was an All Point ATM, and never saw a FTF charge.

Standard advice about only using physical bank ATM, yada yada still applies... : )

Posted by
7520 posts

What others are saying, I do not believe the Schwab or Fidelity cards restrict to specific ATM networks, at least my Schwab card has refunded all fees.

Two other points not yet mentioned though:

First, all bets are off if you accept Dynamic Currency Conversion (DCC) where they make an offer in USD (assuming you are American). You will not be reimbursed any added cost for DCC.

Second, Use of an ATM is fast becoming a rare thing. In 3 weeks in England, I used one once. In Spain and Italy in the past couple years, again, in a trip, it was maybe once or twice. In all cases, withdrawals were just for some pocket money as back-up, maybe 50 euros. Point being, in the event you pay a fee, it will be a small expense in the overall picture. The days of using an ATM regularly are long gone.

Posted by
424 posts

Another satisfied Fidelity ATM user(Cash Management Account). I pay no fees at home or abroad.

Posted by
179 posts

You all have provided some great info. Thank you!

I do not have a Fidelity account, but it looks pretty easy to create a brokerage account (unfunded) and a checking account with Schwab. It sounds like the most straightforward approach to get the cash we might need during the trip (not a lot, but some), and it has the added benefit of us using a debit card that's not tied to our regular checking account should the card be stolen. Also, I read about a guy who had a Schwab checking account and auto-transferred a couple of hundred bucks a month into it, socking away travel money for when they wanted it. Interesting idea.

One thing I'm hoping is that I won't need any cash during the 1.5 day we're in Switzerland before heading into Italy. I don't want to have to get CHF if I can avoid it. Hoping Switzerland doesn't have a cash-only city tax like Italy does.

Posted by
14955 posts

Another vote for Schwab.

You get a brokerage account as well but you don't have to put anything into it.

Posted by
4 posts

I wholeheartedly recommend the Schwab debit card/bank account (if you have or want a Schwab investment account, any size), which I used around Spain in April/May (2023). I had a different (Visa) credit card which often did not work in taxi cabs, ATMs, and other places: the Schwab debit card worked everywhere. In fact, although I use a fair bit of cash at home, everything in Spain was "tap"-friendly that I used the debit card for almost all expenses. Not only were there no Schwab-side charges, they also reimbursed any Spanish-side charges (e.g., rare use of an ATM for cash, otherwise, no charges for purchases). The account is simple to open; no monthly, minimum or other charges . (Should you need budgeting/spending help, deposit just your trip-spending budget or a portion of it). They usually set up an automatic overdraft protection, should you want.
Also (you likely already know), chose the Euro option (rather than the "local" US dollar conversion) for best rate when using the card.

Posted by
905 posts

A vote for both a Schwab and Fidelity ATM cards. We carry both in case we have not had an issue with either one.

Posted by
41 posts

I also use the Schwab debit card for all ATM withdrawals in Europe and have also used it in China. However, I have not used the debit card for ticket purchases in ticket machines that require a PIN. Many machines now ask for a pin when inserting a credit card so I am wondering if anyone has used the Schwab debit card or any other debit card that has a PIN to purchase tickets for train, metro, bus , or tram tickets.

Posted by
161 posts

Rick Steves warns to avoid independent ATMs such as Travelex, Euronet, etc. I have used my Capital One debit at bank ATM’s in Italy, France, Spain, Portugal, Canada & Mexico to get local currency. I’ve never had any fees and I always select the option to have the transaction processed in local currency. I avoid the “Dynamic Currency Conversion”. As mentioned earlier, the hotels want the local tax paid in cash. I might purchase an ice cream cone or post card with local currency but all else is on my Capital One Master Card or Citi Visa credit cards.