Bank Charges to withdraw money from ATM

I have called my bank and inquired about the bank charges when I am abroad. There is a $5 flat fee plus a 3% international fee, that comes out to $35 for every $1,000. Would it be less expensive to do the exchange while I am still in the US although the exchange rate will be a little higher? The cost to do the exchange in the US for any amount is $10.
I haven't done this before so I would appreciate your input. Is there any bank that would charge less than 3%? I live in Southern California. Thank you.

Posted by Andrea
Sacramento, CA
4877 posts

My credit union charges 1%. No other fee. And the ATM's in Europe don't have a charge. Check your local credit unions to see what they charge.

Posted by Nancy
Bloomington, IL, USA
7683 posts

There are lots of banks that would charge less than that. My credit union charges absolutely nothing, and my online bank charges 1% (and neither has a per-withdrawal fee). Shop around. Better deals are everywhere. While your bank's charges come to "$35 per $1000", it would actually come to more than that because in order to get $1000, you would have to make more than one withdrawal because of the bank's daily limit for ATM withdrawals.

Posted by Vivian
Diamond Bar
15 posts

Thank you for very informative answers.
We only plan to visit Europe once, do you think it's worth the trouble looking for a credit union bank/Charles Swab account to avoid the fees? How much are we saving if we plan to withdraw about max $2000 while we are abroad. We will be on a cruise for 12 days so everything is paid for except for onboard expense which we'll have to put on a credit card (Capital One). All our hotels (5 days before and after cruise) are booked and paid for already. So, we only need to bring cash for food and gifts to bring home. We have already contact our bank (Wells Fargo). They raised our ATM limit up to $1000/withdrawal.

Posted by Ed
Pensacola
7978 posts

You answered you last question in the original post: $70. If you restructured everthing, you might save most of it. For one trip it's not worth the bother.

Posted by Larry
Elkins Park, PA
575 posts

Try, among others, CapitalOne's Hi-Yield Money Market Account. You can transfer to it electronically, no ATM fees at their end, and the interbank exchange rate applied on foreign withdrawals (which is about 0.8% and can't be beat). I believe they will also refund some out of network ATM fees, not certain since it hasn't come up. Most of Europe does not have fees for using bank-owned ATMs. BTW, CapOne's basic Mastercard has no foreign transaction fee, along with 1% cashback and 2% on gas and groceries, no annual fee.
Their customer service has been excellent.

Posted by Allen
Lafayette, LA
194 posts

It will be more expensive to exchange a large amount of money in the US prior to the trip. Your current bank's charges for overseas ATM use will be cheaper than exchanging, but you can still find a better deal. Charles Scwhab Bank has a Visa Debit Card with no extra 3% international transaction or ATM fees. Only problem is that you have to link the checking account to a Schwab brokerage account.

Posted by Harold
New York, NY, USA
2852 posts

To clarify the other posts: it's more expensive to exchange in the US because they use a poorer exchange rate. When you use an ATM abroad, they start with a good exchange rate (the best you can get), then tack on their fees. When you exchange cash in the US, the rate is about 5-10% worse; and, in your case, they're adding $10. Banks are not in the business of not making money from customers. So, all we can do as customers is limit the damage. Accept that you'll have to pay something at some point when you get foreign currency, whether it's in exchange fees, surcharges, and/or hassle. Yes, there are banks that have better fees. I don't know if you could set up an account at TD Bank (I don't think they have locations in CA, but you should be able to bank by mail and online). They have 0% surcharge for foreign withdrawals (so far). If you have a checking account with a $100 minimum balance, it's $2 per withdrawal; for the account with a $2500 minimum balance, it's $0. I have no connection to them other than as a satisfied customer.

Posted by Suz
Denver, USA
223 posts

Harold's explanation is good. What he fails to mention, is noted by Andrea above: credit unions. My credit union's checking account has a VISA ATM/debit card which gives me TEN free ATM withdrawals a month (after that they charge two bucks per transaction) - regardless of whether the ATM's in Peoria or London. In other words, there's no "foreign transaction" fee. The only charge I paid for using my ATM card in the UK was a 1% "foreign currency" fee which I believe is levied by the VISA system (probably similar with MasterCard). Because the exchange rate I got using the ATM was better than at currency exchange counters (banks or elsewhere - see Harold's comments), I'm happy to have saved a bit of money by only paying that 1% fee. If you have time before your trip, and want to avoid those fees your bank quoted, find a local federally-insured (NCUA is the credit union equivalent of the banks' FDIC) credit union. Ask about their ATM fees; I'm sure they'll beat your bank hands down. You could decide that joining a CU just to save a few bucks on fees isn't worth it, but it's an option.

Posted by Andrea
Sacramento, CA
4877 posts

Just one more note about how I bank at the credit union. I actually have 2 separate accounts. One is my regular account, which I use for all my normal banking. The second is a checking/savings that I use exclusively for travel. I can transfer money back and forth online. If my travel card was to be compromised I have the other as a backup. And of course with whatever type of bank you choose, you need to notify them of your travel plans. I also ask them to increase my daily withdrawal amount while I am traveling. Carry their 24 hour fraud number with you in case you have a problem.

Posted by Nancy
Bloomington, IL, USA
7683 posts

Vivian, just so you know, even with a higher withdrawal limit you still may not be able to get $1000 at one time. The ATM itself probably has a daily limit or withdrawal limit, too. Quite often, this is lower than your own bank's limit. You could just go to another ATM to get the rest of your daily limit, but that would be a second withdrawal, too.

Posted by Darcy
Lewiston, Idaho, USA
1202 posts

Nancy took the words right out of my mouth. Some ATM's you might be able to take their maximum amount two times in a row, one right after the other but then of course some banks will charge the per transaction fee twice.

Posted by Allen
Lafayette, LA
194 posts

For just one trip, I would not bother applying for the Schwab card. But still, using your current bank card would be much cheaper than either trying to exchange US dollars before the trip, or bringing US dollars to exchange there. And if you are bringing a Capital One credit card, good! No foreign transaction fees. Use that card to pay for things whenever possible and you minimize the need for cash.

Posted by Vivian
Diamond Bar
15 posts

Thank you for all your help. We can't wait until the departure date.

Posted by Edwin
Arlington, VA, USA
248 posts

Avoid using a Capital One ATM card. They charge 3% foreign transaction fee along with a $2 per use fee for overseas withdrawals. The $2 use fee can be avoded if you have certain accounts types, however the 3% can not be avoided. This applies to any and all accounts opened up in person at any Capital One bank center or any bank which Capital One took over.

Posted by Brad
Gainesville, VA
7211 posts

It doesn't have to be a credit union. Many banks charge a flat one percent on a foreign ATM transaction too. I use USAA; you don't have to be military to use their banking. Originally, I opened a travel account only to avoid Wells Fargo's foreign ATM fees. Since then I've closed out Wells Fargo completely. If you need more than the daily limit, you can exchange in advance, make ATM withdrawals over several days to get what you need, or open more than one travel account - each will give you a daily limit.

Posted by Vivian
Diamond Bar
15 posts

I got so many great suggestions. Thank you. Will get a debit card from Charles Schawb and bring my Capital One credit card.