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Debit card

For Americans traveling in Greece this summer, what bank do you recommend getting a debit card from? We were looking at BofA, but there are no BofAs in Greece, much less ATMs. Which bank do you recommend we get our debit card from? And do you have ATM tips? Thank you.

Posted by
3499 posts

Charles Schwab and Capital One 360 both offer fee-free ATM/debit cards that should work for you. You can open the 360 account online without ever stepping into a bank branch. The 360 card has worked for me everywhere I have ever been in Europe without issue (have not been to Greece, but don't foresee issues there either).

Best ATM tip is to only use those that are associated with a bank and avoid those in small shops and restaurants as they may charge fees. The Travelex ATMs at many European airports have also been reported to be bad about using inflated exchange rates that cost you money. If any ATM or merchant offers to charge you in USDollars "for your convenience", refuse and demand to be charged in Euro. This will also save you lots of money on bad exchange rates.

Posted by
3079 posts

You don't need a BofA bank in Greece. Your BofA debit card will work just fine in any Greek bank's ATM. I use Charles Schwab and Capital One. Schwab and Capital One don't have any transaction fees, and neither do the Greek banks, so they're the obvious choices. BofA does have a fee but I'm not sure what it is these days although I think it's tied to the amount you withdraw, so the best strategy is to withdraw as much as you can at one time so you don't get dinged for a lot of small withdrawls.

Be sure you notify any bank whose ATM cards you use that you will be using them and where you'll be so they don't freeze your account because of suspicion of theft or fraud.

Posted by
2640 posts

For a bank card, you can open an account at either Schwab or CapitalOne. Only difference is CapitalOne gives you an ATM card only, while Schwab gives you a debit card with chip-and-PIN, so it can be used for other than ATM machines. Neither of these charge a fee for ATM use,. European banks do not charge a fee for ATM use, so make sure you are using a bank-owned ATM, as opposed to one owned by the grocery store next to it, as these will charge fees. If you can open a joint account, you should be able to get two independent cards, important as the daily limit for withdrawals from your bank applies to each card individually. Always make certain your home bank knows what country your card will be used in and which dates. And if an ATM machine offers to do the conversion in your own currency, refuse it. They will collect a surcharge of several percent for the privilege of this not being converted behind the scenes by the interbank network.

If you search this board you will also find a plethora of recommended credit unions for this.

(Edit -I guess I should have re-checked the page first, as an almost identical reply went up while I was typing!)

Posted by
3256 posts

I wish I had even a nickel for every time this question comes up!! I even have a little "Stickie" on my desktop with an explanation, to save time ... here it is, adapted for you:

First, you've been given good advice about which ATMs to use -- not the ones in grocery stores or free-standing somewhere... they may add fees. Also, what happens if for some reason, a card sticks. My prudent "belt + suspenders" approach is, use an ATM attached to a bank or in a bank lobby, if possible when bank is open. Extra precaution, in case u need help (thankfully, it's been OK in 12 trips to Greece but who knows?).

Be sure that any ATM card you use belongs either to the “Cirrus” or PLUS networks — those will be shown on the back of card. About charges (or not) there are 3 aspects of charges for the convenience of an ATM, and the biggie (translation: greedy) banks take full advantage of #2 & #3. These are:

(1) A 1% currency conversion fee levied by VISA or MASTERCHARGE, the worldwide clearinghouses. ALL transactions have this, and it’s built into the rates that any bank or CU quotes, so it’s not in the calculation.
(2) A per-transaction fee; for biggie banks this is either $3 or $5 … unless you have some fancy “Big Spendah” card; i do not.
(3) A PERCENTAGE of the amount u withdraw. The b iggies all now charge 3%.
… as I noted, #2 & #3 can result in you paying $14 just to get $300 worth of Euros. Highway robbery!

What’s the work-around?

(A) — In the USA & Canada -- Credit unions! Mine charges ZERO transaction, ZERO percentage, others have a small transaction fee. Many credit unions that can be joined by local residents, not limited to certain kinds of employees. You can use Google to find out more. I do not know. If you belong to a credit union or if you can join one, ask about its arrangement for foreign ATM use.
(B) — Online banking. as other mentioned, Capitol One is the best-known. Usually no transaction fee/percentage fee.
…. NOTE: If you do get an online account just for travel, just transfer most of your travel-budget funds into it… and use your “regular” biggie-bank card as a back-up … that’s what I do with my Wells-Fargo account.

Also realize that Credit Cards (except for "big Spendah" Special cards) ALSO charge for overseas use... even if like me you pay bill off in full monthly. Abroad, an ordinary Credit card charges 3% of amount of Purchase. Why?? Because they CAN, only reason. I take my CC, but reserve it for important purchases, for this reason.

For EITHER a ATM or CC, it is vital to (1) Inform Card issuer that you'll be using it in Europe between (date) and (date). Otherwise, on first attempt, your account will be frozen on suspicion of fraud. Also, request that ATM card issuer raise your daily withdrawal limit (which usually is about $250) -- to $500 or $750. It's not that you plan to spend that amount in one day (!)... it's just that being able to take out more Euros at once enables you to make fewer trips to a machine.

Posted by
3499 posts


Whoever you spoke to misinformed you about the Capital One Debit card.

It is fully functional debit card. Works anywhere to make purchases like any other debit card. While there might be ATM only cards available from Capital One depending on where you are located, most of them as noted on their web pages for both Capital One and Capital One 360 state:

"Your debit card is accepted everywhere MasterCard® debit cards are accepted—that's millions of retailers worldwide. Your debit card provides the flexibility to shop in stores, online, over the phone. You can also use your card to make automatic, recurring payments, such as gym memberships, mobile phone or Internet providers. And, of course you can use your debit card at an ATM. "

But be careful because only the Capital One 360 account has zero foreign exchange and usage fees. Some of the non 360 accounts do have debit card fees now.

PS: Just used my Capital One 360 debit card to buy groceries for dinner. Worked like a charm.

Posted by
2788 posts

I recently visited Greece and found ATMs all over the place that accepted my credit union issued debit card tied to a checking account. Just make sure to avoid those ATMs that are not bank owned or are not in your card's network. That does not mean that you should only use ATMs that are in your card,s network since I find very few of those.

Posted by
6919 posts

I think that the issue is that BoA charges such high fees for use ($5 per transaction then 3% of transaction as a Foreign Transaction Fee) that they pound into their customers to use only BoA ATMs, or partners, to avoid the $5 fee (but not the 3%) that they frantically look for the rare ATMs.

At those rates, a $200 withdrawal costs them ~5.5%, about the same as getting euros in the US from a good bank or about the same as doing Cash Advance from a credit card under best conditions.

Yes, the answer is just find a better bank or card.