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Debit Card advice

I've seen reference to using a debit card to pay for expenses in the UK. My debit card isn't good for use outside the US, is this typical or do I need to change banks?

It's with Wells Fargo so maybe I need to talk to them about an upgrade. I can use my Visa card for cash but fees apply.

Posted by
166 posts

That is very surprising to hear. I also have a Wells Fargo ATM card, and had not problem using it to get cash last year in Prague. If you haven't already, you might want to visit your local branch on this. I know you have to let them know what dates and countries you will be traveling in, so the bank knows the charges are legitimate.

Posted by
23 posts

I haven't been outside of the US since getting the WF card some years ago. I know I've tried using it for internet transactions with vendors in the UK and it will not go through. Maybe it's different for cash advances, etc. I will drop by my bank shortly to discuss, it'd sure make life easier if I could use it

Posted by
21718 posts

I see some confusion about cards and usage. You never want to use a credit card to obtain cash at an ATM. That is basically a loan to you (cash advance) and lots of fees and a high interest rate kicks in the moment you withdraw the money. That is a big NO NO unless it is an emergency and you have no other options.

Second, a debit card in Europe should only be used to withdraw cash from your checking account. If you use it for other purposes, you increase the risk of your accounting being compromised or frozen. For routine expenses in Europe use a credit card and get cash with the debit card.

Posted by
3491 posts

If you have a Wells ATM ONLY card (one without a Visa or MasterCard logo on it), what you have been told is correct. A Wells Debit card having the Visa or MasterCard logo on it will work outside the US. You may be able to use a Wells ATM only card to get cash from an ATM at your destination, but there will be fees. Lots of fees. You must inform them when traveling outside the country of where and when you will be gone. Also, making online purchases from a foreign country often requires the same notification.

Getting cash from an ATM with your debit card is not a cash advance (unless you have a line of credit attached to that account and don't have the money in your primary account to cover the withdrawal). It is simply a withdrawal just like getting cash at home from your Wells ATM. Cash advances are done with credit cards and as others mentioned should only be done in a last desperate option emergency situation.

When you add in the fees that Wells charges for foreign transactions, I would say you should get another bank account. Not necessarily dumping your current bank completely, just open an account for your travel needs. There are several out there that charge zero fees for foreign transactions. Most mentioned around here is Charles Schwab and Capital One 360. I have the 360 account and have never paid so much as a penny in foreign fees. Their Debit card has worked for me everywhere in the world to get ATM cash.

Posted by
6869 posts

Check with Wells.Fargo customer.service. They can open it for international withdrawals.
My problem with them is their $5 and 5% service charges per withdrawal.
I use a credit union ATM card for withdrawals reserving my Wells Fargo card as a backup.
We really don't use much cash when traveling. We try to use a Capital One Visa to charge everything possible.

Posted by
9706 posts

If it is a DEBIT card that would not be a cash advance, that would take the money directly out of your bank account. If it is a CREDIT card that would be a cash advance if you use it at an ATM. The cash advance usually has interest accruing on it right away which is why people suggest using a debit card instead.

Some banks and credit unions do charge a fee for debit card use so ask specifically about that. My credit union charges 1% for use internationally. Some banks charge 3% or 5%, so find out ahead of time. If you are not traveling soon, you might want to open an account at a credit union which may have lower fees. Use that account for your travel account.

I also saw your post on the London transportation thread about the hotel you are staying in. Just wanted to make sure you had checked Trip Advisor reviews which look pretty bad for that one. Not sure how soon you are traveling and whether you can change or not without penalty.

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Hotel_Review-g186338-d218407-Reviews-Royal_National_Hotel-London_England.html

editing to add: Wow, 3 people were posting while I was thinking, lol. Some of my advice is repetitive but I'll let it stand.

Posted by
23 posts

Our son stayed t the Royal National last Mayas part of a student group. He had no real complaints at least none like the flurry of ones appearing on the site linked to. we are sort of locked into staying there but it's just a couple nights so we're hoping for the best.

The more I read about ATM cards vs Debit cards, fees, etc the worse my confusion is. I'll talk to WF this week and see what they say. Thanks.

Posted by
4685 posts

Debit cards issued in the UK are processed either through the Visa or Mastercard system' in fact predominantly the former (*). There is no separate interbank network used for purchases (although there is for ATM withdrawals). So your card has to work on these.

(*) Maestro, Visa Electron or UnionPay are also supported although cards issued in the UK are minimal at the most

Posted by
523 posts

Does your Wells Fargo card have a Visa Logo on it and do you have a 4 digit pin? If so you can use it internationally, just notify your bank of your travel plans and make sure of how much you can withdraw daily. Most Debit cards by default are limited to $300 (US) daily, you need to go to the bank and they will raise it.

Posted by
2658 posts

You need to let your local branch that you will be using it in the UK, even when you are going to use it with a purchase, deposit, etc. when you are home. If they don’t know that you will be using it in the UK they will decline it, thinking it is a fraud purchase.

Added:........Your debit card has to be connected to a checking account only. You don’t have a choice between checking or savingslije you do here.

Posted by
56 posts

I agree with the poster who said that you should only use that debit card for atm withdrawals otherwise you increase the risk of your card being compromised.

We used one credit card that offered 0% international fees for about 1/2 our purchases recently. The other half were cash purchases.

One thing we did to increase our security: we opened up a new checking account (visa/mc compatible) with chip/pin through our bank. We then deposited money into this account, and we made sure it was not linked to our other account at the bank. We didn't put overdraft protection on it or linkage at all. It allowed us to use a bank card to access money, but to know that there were limits for withdrawal, even if it should be compromised.

Posted by
31471 posts

bl,

I agree with the others that it's best (safer) to only use a debit card for ATM withdrawals. Also as mentioned, be sure to notify your financial institutions that you'll be travelling, so they don't "freeze" your card when they detect overseas transactions.

Hopefully your hotel doesn't turn out to be like this - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0VA9p8rgsoM .

Posted by
638 posts

One thing we did to increase our security: we opened up a new checking
account (visa/mc compatible) with chip/pin through our bank. We then
deposited money into this account, and we made sure it was not linked
to our other account at the bank. We didn't put overdraft protection
on it or linkage at all. It allowed us to use a bank card to access
money, but to know that there were limits for withdrawal, even if it
should be compromised.

That's very smart, in my opinion. I do something similar, to "silo" my checking accounts. If one gets compromised - card lost or stolen, or account hacked - the others aren't taken down too.

I belong to three federally-insured credit unions. NONE of them charge international transaction fees for their debit/ATM or credit cards (there's the VISA system currency conversion fee but that's all). My main checking account and VISA card are with Credit Union #1. I use the VISA debit/ATM card issued by Credit Union #2 as my traveling card - put enough money in my account there for my trip needs but not much more. I carry my cards with CU #1 as backup, in case of any problems with the chosen ATM card, but so far haven't need it.

Posted by
3657 posts

I agree with the poster who said that you should only use that debit card for atm withdrawals otherwise you increase the risk of your card being compromised.

I don't agree with this in a situation where your PINless credit card is not accepted (say pay-at-the-pump), then the debit card will be accepted and save the day.

Posted by
23 posts

Wells Fargo advises me my Debit card is perfectly good for ATM use in the UK. There may be fees for conversion to pounds but apart from that no issues. I know I tried to use that card a few times in online transactions for purchases from the UK and Canada and got turned down, although this wan't recently.

I do not plan to use it for anything other than cash withdrawals. Any shopping will be on my Visa card.