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credit or debit card without foreign transaction fees

My daughter is working in Budapest for 2 years, doing an internship with a non-profit organization. She's been there less than a month and has already racked up over $60 in transaction fees, conversion fees, etc. using her American debit card for cash advances and to pay for purchases.

Does anyone have a suggestion for a credit card she could apply for that would not charge all of this? The internship, like so many, does not pay much and she is going to go broke paying all of these fees. Help!

Thank you!

Posted by
2265 posts

Our Schwab card is chip and pin, no ATM fees, no foreign transaction fees, and can be used as debit card, especially important for automated ticket terminals (and we did so in Budapest last month). Our CapOne ATM card has no ATM fees, no foreign transaction fees, but is not a debit card - but can always be used to obtain necessary cash. They are both supported by bank accounts that we can move funds to electronically from our local bank account whenever we need to.
Our CapOne Mastercard has no foreign transaction fees.

I know there are other options, these are simply ours. You could get any one of these and then get her a card in her name, although the bank cards will require you to back and forth paperwork for her signature before they issue hers - unless you simply give her your card, since machines won't be checking for the name.

You say she is using her debit card for "cash advances". Do you mean she is using a credit card for cash from ATMs? This is going to do a lot more than just add foreign transaction fees, these all generate interest from the moment cash has been taken against them until it is all repaid, since it is credit transaction and not a withdrawal (while cash taken against a bank account by the ATM/debit card of that account is a withdrawal, not a cash advance). Living there she will be making lots of small purchases at places that do not accept credit cards, she needs a bank card. Even more so than a credit card, as all places take cash.

Posted by
715 posts

Capital one has a 360 checking account with no foreign fees.

Posted by
6570 posts

Capital One has the best card right now with a 2% payback. Charge $3K first 90 days and they give you 400,000 points--equal to $400 credit against travel expenses. $59 annual fee after the first year. You can use it 1 year and cancel it, however. Capital One gives you 100% back on currency conversion computed daily.

Posted by
6758 posts

The above are very good suggestions, but I'm not sure your daughter would qualify for all these cards, especially 2% cash back - CapitalOne like others give their best/most generous cards to people with long credit histories and excellent credit (most young people don't fall into that category yet - but it's worth a try).

This is a great website for comparing credit cards based on several criteria:

I have a credit union debit card so that costs 1% of each ATM withdrawal. It's easier to get a credit card with 0% foreign exchange fees than a debit card that has 0 fees. I use my Capital One card as well for foreign travel (but not for cash withdrawals, obviously).

Posted by
1068 posts

If she can get it, I would vote for Capital One. My local credit union also forgoes foreign fees.

Posted by
3470 posts

The Capital One 360 Debit card would seem to be the best option here.

There are no minimum balance requirements on the attached checking account, anyone can open the account online, there are absolutely zero fees (including no foreign transaction fees) and the exchange rate is exactly what Google posts (no markup). You could combine this with a Capital One credit card which also charges zero foreign transaction fees for purchases that she would like to make with a credit card. I have both and the combination really saves a lot on fees over other options when I am traveling.

IF your daughter is getting "cash advances" -- tell her to stop! That is the least cost effective method of getting cash anywhere. Use a regular ATM Debit card and just withdraw cash from a checking account at an ATM like she would in the US.

Posted by
2525 posts

It's easier to get a credit card with 0% foreign exchange fees than a debit card that has 0 fees. Hmmmm....obtaining the Schwab debit card, with no (including foreign transaction) fees, is a piece of cake or esterhazy torte.

Posted by
908 posts

Is she taking out a lump sum of cash periodically and paying cash until it runs out then going to the ATM again or is she literally paying for small purchases with her debit card or credit card as she would here in the U.S. ? Agree with others, cash advances are not what she should be doing. And, if she is using her cards for everyday purchases, it may be time for her to use cash a little more frequently.

Posted by
2525 posts

Both the checking and brokerage accounts for the Schwab debit card have no minimum balances, monthly fees or fees for low balances. What's no to like?

Posted by
3319 posts

If your family has access to a credit union. they typically have very minimal fees for international transactions. My debit/credit cards through my credit union have fees that amount to no more than pennies for any transaction I make when overseas.

Posted by
544 posts

Consider getting an account over there and wire the amount of money from the US account in one transaction.
Then you can have a European bank card and account that can come in handy. After the internship, either wire any money leftover home or keep the account open after the internship is over and keep using it when you travel. I have an account in Norway that I use for travel since it's debit card works almost everywhere with no fees.

Posted by
351 posts

I know every country is different, but for Austria, my son was required to open a local bank account to get his long-term visa. We converted a year's funding requirement into Euro and had it wired. This way he can pay for his rent and national health insurance (also required) electronically. It wasn't too expensive and I was sure relieved once he could see it in his account.

Posted by
11272 posts

For a debit card with no fees, you could open an account at TD Bank. I see there are some in and near Baltimore:|1:1|2:0|3:0|4:0|5:0|6:0|7:0|8:0|9:0|10:0

For their Convenience Checking, you only need a $100 minimum balance to avoid fees. You then pay $3 per foreign ATM withdrawal, but there are no other fees (no 3% surcharge like many other banks). For their Premier Checking, you need a $2500 minimum balance, but there are no fees for foreign ATM withdrawals.

I have no connection to TD Bank other than as a satisfied customer.

However, if she's going to be living in Budapest for 2 years, opening a local account makes sense (this is quite different from those of us who go to multiple countries as tourists, each for short periods of time).

Posted by
12582 posts

One suggestion was to open a bank account over there. I have an account in Hungary. The banks in most of Europe are different than what you would expect here. You pay fees to withdraw and to receive wire transfers, you even pay a monthly fee just to have the account. International Wire transfers out of a US bank can also come with a hefty charge. Best to use an American ATM card and withdraw as large a sum as possible each time and run on cash. Might cost her $3.00 for each withdraw. If you pull out money in 60,000 forint chunks that would be about a 1.5% fee and most ATMs will let you pull 100,000 forint chunks or more. I use a Bank of America ATM. Don't know if it is better or worse than average; but works fine for me and the business. Just be sure if given the opportunity you choose to let the US bank make the conversion. AND, only use major bank brand ATM's and not the no-name ones you find in some of the tourist places. The biggest bank in Hungary is OTP and they serve pretty well. Mom and Dad can top off the US Account when needed so the ATM money keeps flowing. After having a business in Budapest for the last half dozen years I don't think there is a more convenient way. As for credit cards, some are better than others; but they are still credit cards.