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Wells Fargo debit cards

For more than a decade I've had a Wells Fargo debit card that worked flawlessly while traveling internationally. On two recent trips, however - Colombia in early February 2019 and later that month Spain and France - it did not work. I had plenty of cash in the bank and when I returned home it worked fine. After much correspondence, Wells Fargo has said that "some international banks are not properly routing withdrawal request to Wells Fargo." To me this indicates that other banks have lost faith in Wells Fargo and are no longer doing business with it. Wells Fargo did not indicate what, if anything, they are doing to correct this and said that if " the customer has a Check Card, the international bank will assist with an over-the-counter cash disbursement." In other words, I will have to go into a bank during banking hours and wait in line as we used to have to do before ATMs came into effect.
I have asked Wells Fargo if they are going to warn other customers who might go abroad only to find that their card didn't work and they had no access to cash. No answer.
I think that Wells Fargo customers need to be aware of this and need to protect themselves with support from another more reliable bank.
Morgan Smith
Santa Fe, New Mexico

Posted by
2018 posts

I appreciate this heads' up, morgan-smith. My back up card debit card is issued by Wells Fargo and I always had faith it would work as expected, just in case I needed it. My primary is from a credit union and I have never had an issue with it, causing me to not have to use the WF card. I will check with my bank here in my tiny town and see what they say but I don't feel very confident any more😳.

Posted by
279 posts

I also have a Wells debit card. What area of France were you in when you tried to use the card? Thanks.

Posted by
6866 posts

I love Wells Fargo's computer system for their checking/ATM, and I've never had the first problem with them. But they charge $5.00 and 5% for cash advances--too much.

We use a credit union ATM card that doesn't come with such high charges.

Our credit cards are used primarily when we travel, and we get by on surprisingly little ATM cash acquired on trips. But we do travel with 2 credit cards and 2 ATM cards--having a backup.

Posted by
2916 posts

they charge $5.00 and 5% for cash advances-

And I thought Bank of America was bad.

Posted by
5455 posts

David, debit cards don’t have cash advances, but revolving credit cards do. Debit cards make account withdrawals. Which card do you have, please?

Posted by
7671 posts

Leaving for Asia tomorrow with our two Wells Fargo debit cards. Yikes. They have been notified of our travel plans. I will report back in May.

Posted by
7671 posts

We don't pay any fees or have charges when withdrawing money from ATMs in other countries with our WF debit cards.

Posted by
18296 posts

David, when was the last time you used your Wells Fargo ATM card?

  1. Even when WF charged a percentage at the ATM, it was only 3%. I have never been charged 5%, and I have been using them for ATM withdrawals in Europe since at least 2004.

  2. 5% is what WF charges account holders in Denver to get euro before you leave.

  3. The last time I was in Germany (Fall, 2017), they only charged me a flat $5 for using the ATMs. When I came back I asked them about that, and they said that was their current fee for foreign withdrawals. I doubt that they charge different fees for customers from different states.

Posted by
3491 posts

Sounds perfectly acceptable to me. The posting, not the lack of access to funds. The opinion expressed just might not be the real reason the withdrawals did not work.

Sometimes things happen and debit or credit cards simply don't work at a specific place and time. There can be interruptions in the international card networks that unfortunately happen at exactly the same time you attempt to use your card. The machine may misread a card resulting in the transaction never making it to the right bank for authorization. There can be some international banks that simply don't want to deal with other certain banks for reasons only they know.

And no, the international bank will NOT help you with an over the counter disbursement. Maybe in some parts of the world this is possible, but not in Europe. European banks have zero interest in helping anyone not their customer with anything beyond maybe assisting with getting a card out of an ATM that was swallowed by that machine. Also, the fees for the over the counter service service if it is offered make the transaction more expensive than a credit card cash advance.

The question I do have is did the card not work at all anywhere on those trips? Or was it only at one location for one attempt? If it was everywhere for every attempt, then maybe you should think about carrying a backup ATM card from some other bank for this situation. If it was just a single location that failed, well that happens even here at home.

Posted by
4670 posts

Mark,

Perhaps I’m wrong...

You bring up a good point!

The question I do have is did the card not work at all anywhere on those trips? Or was it only at one location for one attempt?

I actually remember having trouble making a cash withdrawal at a bank in Orvieto back in 2017. I usually withdraw €500 per transaction since WF charges a $5 fee per transaction. When the ATM didn’t work, I walked into the bank and asked for assistance, and it was explained to me that “for security reasons”, the maximum limit was only €250/ transaction So I withdrew €250, then walked to another bank and withdrew another €250.

I hope the OP answers your questions as that would shed some light on the issue.

Posted by
347 posts

To Suki - I have a WF debit card and I am charged $5 per withdrawal internationally. How do you not get charged? Would love to eliminate the charge.

Posted by
5782 posts

While WF is my primary local bank, my WF ATM/Debit card is only my FX back-up that I have not had to use.

https://www.wellsfargo.com/online-banking/service-fees/

Non-Wells Fargo ATM Transaction (International) Cash withdrawal
transactions at ATMs outside the U.S.

$5 each

Fees charged by the non-Wells Fargo ATM owner/operator may apply.

International Purchase Transaction Fee This fee is charged for each
purchase made with your debit card in a foreign currency that a
network converts into a U.S. dollar amount.

3% of transaction amount

Posted by
46 posts

In this morning email from Johnnie Jet, a subscriber had the same issues. They were not aware of this prior to their trip,, nor was Wells Fargo very forth right about explaining this upon their return.

Posted by
18296 posts

Note that per the above description of fees from Wells Fargo, read the entire fee schedule linked by the poster. The two fees are in different tables. The $5 fee is for an ATM withdrawal while the 3% fee is for a POS purchase transaction. Nowhere does it say that both fees apply to the same transaction.

Before my last trip, I considered my credit union card, which charges $1 plus 1%, to be my primary ATM card. When the credit union card, for some reason I haven't determined, was denied at FRA, I used my Wells Fargo backup. Wells Fargo charged me only $5, which was just over 1% for my almost $500 withdrawal. My credit union would have charged me almost $6, not a big difference, but it just shows that Wells doesn't charge as much as my credit union for a maximum withdrawal.

Posted by
18296 posts

some international banks are not properly routing withdrawal request to Wells Fargo.

The transaction should be routed by Plus (Visa) and Cirrus (M/C). Plus and Cirrus are part of what is called collectively "the Network".

Posted by
6868 posts

Why would anyone do business with a bank as sleazy and ethically compromised as Wells Fargo? It's one scandal after another with them on top of leadership incompetence in cleaning up the mess. They will be a case study in business school curricula.

Posted by
2564 posts

I would hazard a guess that this was just a glitch, not really related to Wells Fargo. It takes lots of computers in lots of places to process international credit card and debit transactions, lots of players.

And not to start a flame war, but I wouldn't use a debit card on vacation, not anywhere. Too risky to have your checking account drained if anything goes wrong. Unless you open an account specifically for your trip. With a credit card, you lose nothing and are out nothing. Just pay the bill immediately upon return and it costs nothing.

Posted by
18296 posts

Why would anyone do business with a bank as sleazy and ethically compromised as Wells Fargo?

The only problem I have ever had with Wells Fargo was when I wanted to have my Soc. Security check direct deposited. A banker told me I should open a special account just for the SS check deposit. So I did, but it was with my knowledge and consent.

Not true with another national bank with which I used to do business. I had multiple checking accounts each linked to a savings account so there were not supposed to be monthly fees. One day I checked the account and found fees for the last couple of months. I went to the bank and was told that the checking accounts were not linked to savings accounts. I told him they had been linked. So he relinked the accounts and refunded the fees.

About six month later same fees, same explanation. Accounts relinked and fees refunded. This happened three or four times in a few years. Finally I moved to a different bank.

Then I got an airline mileage credit card offered by that same bank. I opened a checking account to have direct bill pay for that card and a savings account to link it for no fees. Some months later a rather large fee appeared on the checking account. Banks explanation, they had discontinued that checking account type and switched me to a different type account, all without notifying me. They had three other checking account types, two without fees if linked, one with large fees regardless. Guess which account type they had switched me to without notice.

I immediately withdrew all funds from that bank, cancelled my mileage card, and have never done business with that bank again.

Basically, I don't think that there are any banks that are not sleazy and ethically compromised. I'll stay with the one that hasn't screwed me yet.

Posted by
4670 posts

Since the OP has not returned, I decided to do a quick google search and I found this article which may explain what happened.

The WF national power outage seems to coincide with the dates the OP had issues with his WF debit card.

I wonder why the OP waited so long to post about it?

Has anyone had any issues with their WF debit card recently?

Posted by
5 posts

To respond to the question as to why I waited so long to post this issue. Actually I think I moved very quickly. We returned from France and Spain on March 6 and I immediately contacted Wells Fargo. I didn't get the letter from which I quoted until April 2 and then I joined this Rick Steves program. To me, the responses I've received from Wells Fargo suggest that they are not concerned about customer service. Therefore, I am looking for other venues in which to describe this experience. Thanks to all of you who have commented. Your reactions have been invaluable. Morgan Smith

Posted by
4670 posts

My apologies for assuming that this was spam.

This topic is important because some of us bank with WF, and it would definitely be a problem if our debit cards didn’t work while traveling internationally!

It would be helpful if you would please elaborate on your experience, especially about not being able to withdraw money from an ATM.

Did your debit card not work at all during the entire time you were on your recent trips, or only at certain ATMs, or at certain times?

Thank you!

Posted by
5 posts

First, as background I have had this debit card for probably ten years and had used it numerous times on international trips with no problems. In this situation, we went to Bogotá, Colombia and I tried unsuccessfully to use it there on February 9. I only tried once and then we used my wife's US Bank card with no problems.
When we were in Spain and France from February 20 to March 6, I tried it probably a dozen times in each country. It did work once at a Bankia ATM but didn't work with Bankia when I tried a day later. I tried many different ATMs, often in daytime but also in the evenings.
Also I made a withdrawal with it the day before leaving the US, had several thousand dollars in my account and called Wells Fargo to say that I was going to be traveling, something I have never done before. Obviously I would have been in a mess if I hadn't been able to rely on my wife's US Bank card. Changing banks is a hassle; that's why I've been hoping that Wells Fargo would show some interest in fixing whatever the problem is. I think that these other banks no longer trust Wells Fargo and aren't going to deal with it. Morgan Smith

Posted by
4670 posts

Morgan- Smith,

Thanks for answering my questions and explaining what happened.

I’m sorry this happened to you. I can understand how frustrating this must have been for you. It’s a good thing your wife had a different debit card from a different bank!

We’ve been banking with Wells Fargo for over 20 years and have not had any problems with them.

Regarding your comment here:

Changing banks is a hassle; that's why I've been hoping that Wells Fargo would show some interest in fixing whatever the problem is.

As frustrating as this must be, I think it may be difficult for WF to fix something after the fact, if you know what I mean.

One more question. Does your WF debit card have a chip?

Thanks again!

Posted by
6868 posts

Changing banks is a hassle

Any poor performing business counts on this perception, and inertia keeps people tied to things that aren't ideal for them. I can assure you it's not a hassle (I opened up two new accounts just recently so I know what's involved). You can easily and quickly move funds electronically somewhere else. Vote with your feet/money. Wells Fargo should be a pariah because they act like one.

A comment by another poster was made that all banks are sleazy. In that case, deal with a credit union. I do. They may not be state-of-the-art, but they're not constantly nickel and diming you with fees and they wouldn't just open up fake accounts that people didn't ask for. They're the anti-sleaze.

Posted by
31465 posts

I can't provide any comments on Wells Fargo as banking options are different here. However, a general comment regarding the issue that the OP described.

I've had occasional problems with ATM cards not working in Europe. Most often these occurred at times the computers at my home bank were "down" for maintenance in the wee hours of the morning. Simply waiting an hour or so corrected the problem.

However on one occasion, my primary ATM card would not work at all. I tried different banks and various times of the day, but no luck. I resorted to using my backup card and that worked fine. After a day or so, I received a phone call at 03:00 from my home bank asking if I was having problems with my card (one of the benefits of travelling with a mobile phone). I confirmed that I was having problems, so they suggested just continuing to use my backup card while the investigated the cause of the problem. After I returned home, I stopped by the branch to have a chat with them. It turned out they had been doing some computer upgrades and there was a "coding error" which caused my ATM card problems.

It's always been my practice to travel with one (and often more than one) backup for important things like ATM cards, and in this case that proved to be good idea. On recent trips, I've carried three ATM cards (on different accounts) and three credit cards.

Posted by
67 posts

I had no problem using a Wells Fargo ATM card in Sicily in November 2018. There is a $5.00 fee for each use of a non-Wells Fargo ATM outside of the USA. I did have a problem about 15 years ago on a trip to France where my card didn't work at a few different machines on that trip. But it worked fine after I returned home. No problems on any other foreign trips (on more than 10 such trips).

Posted by
3019 posts

Hi, Morgan. I'm curious if you tried to call Wells Fargo while you were traveling to see what was happening with the card.

I've had a couple of instances where my debit card hasn't worked in an ATM or two in Europe (usually on a weekend) and called my bank after 2 declinations because I didn't want a machine to eat my card because it thought I was a fraudster. Both times the bank had not received a request for money, so I just tried another machine.

Posted by
5 posts

I did call and the person I talked to said that they had no information that I had attempted the transfer and that the failure wasn't their fault. I said that I thought that the bank - banks actually - were refusing me because it was Wells Fargo, that someone needed to see if that were the case because a. the card had worked before I left, indicating it wasn't damaged and b. I had lots of money in my account. This was what was frustrating - the suggestion by the Wells Fargo person that maybe I was not telling the truth about having made all these attempts to get cash and the unwillingness to do anything but say that it wasn't their fault.
Sorry fr the lengthy answer. Morgan Smith

Posted by
375 posts

We had some similar issues with our local bank card in Europe. About 4 years ago our small local bank changed their debit card from a Visa card to a Discover card. We had used it in Europe as a Visa. Friends of ours tried to get cash in England with the Discover card in 2017 and it would not work. They tried it in different towns and were desperate for cash. They finally went inside of a Bank of England and were told that Discover is rarely accepted in Europe. They were able to get some cash at that bank to finish their trip. They informed us after they returned, so we didn't even bother taking the Discover card with us on our next trip. We have used a Charles Schwab debit card (no foreign transaction fees) that links to our cash account, but we don't have a back-up card. The Schwab card worked fine in France in 2017. I might consider a travel account at a credit union to use as a backup. My next trip is in September,so I have some time. So sorry that the OP had problems in a foreign country. That can be uncomfortable.

Posted by
7 posts

What a pain! I just returned from Italy and had no issues withdrawing money with my Wells Fargo debit card.

Posted by
48 posts

Thanks so much for the post and for all the responses. Our experience is that we have had no trouble with WF debit cards on eight trips since 2004. There are several steps we always take to ensure things work as expected:
1- setup a travel plan with WF - in the early days this had to be done in person or by phone, now it's easy to do online, naming all countries and start and end dates of the trip
2- select a European bank ATM that uses the VISA/PLUS network, not all banks do.
3- have some idea of the exchange rate and make sure we withdraw below our set maximum amount, also check the time to be sure it has been 24 hours since the last transaction.
We'll be traveling in May so we'll see if this still works...

Posted by
18296 posts

One more question. Does your WF debit card have a chip?

Yes, mine does.

Posted by
18296 posts

How do you not get charged? Would love to eliminate the charge. jvb

You can. Just get a brokerage account with WF with substantial holdings.

Posted by
3491 posts

Most banks offer their high dollar customers reduced fees on most of their products. It is not difficult to get a fee free ATM debit card at any of the biggies. You just have to give them enough of your money to hold onto.

For me, it was just easier to open a separate account at one of the bank companies offering no fee ATM usage for customers at any level of funds. Put just enough money in it to cover my immediate travels. Less chance of losing everything if the debit card gets compromised.

Posted by
347 posts

Thank you for the info on how to get a debit card with no fees at WF. I will pass. No way will I hand over my brokerage account to a bank whose employees were pressured to open accounts and rack up fees to customers without their knowledge. We only have a WF account because their atms are available in many states that we visit.

Posted by
18296 posts

No way will I hand over my brokerage account to a bank whose employees were pressured
to open accounts and rack up fees to customers without their knowledge.

I did have a bank rack up fees to me without me knowledge, on multiple occasions (I left them when I discovered it). It was one of the national banks, so it could be the one you prefer over WF, but it was not WF.

Posted by
1 posts

I have the same problem with WF debit card. A few weeks ago I went to Peru then to Colombia. Tried to get money from several tellers with my husband’s and my WF debit cards, and neither worked. When I went back to the US went to the branch explained the problem I had, they gave me a new card, I also made sure I told WF traveling dept I was going to go back to Colombia, gave them the dates. They assure me I was not going to have any problems. Before I left the US, I tried the card in Florida and worked fine. Now I am back in Colombia, yesterday I went to about 10 different banks, used their ATMs and still have not gotten a penny out of them. Has been very frustrating.

Posted by
5455 posts

lichalfant, did any of the ATMs have a Cirrus or similar logo on them? Were they physically located on a bank's real estate? I would certainly call your bank's 800 number on the back of the card, immediately, because multiple attempts in a day are only going to make the card look more like it has been stolen.

I know that Colombia is now a relatively safe, popular tourist destination. But it was not so long ago that a bank might have special concerns about that country. See next paragraph:

This has nothing to do with reality, but when we went to Peru 10 years ago, a big-shot doctor in our group told how he had met with his Personal Banker and told him about stories of people being kidnapped by Shining Path, and taken to an ATM each day to take out the daily maximum. He told the Personal Banker that he wanted his card frozen if it was used two days in a row, because he would never do that voluntarily. I'm only telling this paranoid story because of the countries mentioned just above!

Posted by
4670 posts

Two weeks before our trip to Portugal I opened a new account in order to get a new debit card after reading this post.

We just returned from our trip and I’m happy to report that I did not have any issues with my Wells Fargo debit card.
I was able to withdraw money at various ATMs in Portugal.

Posted by
48 posts

Just returned from Ireland and The Netherlands, no issues in either with WF ATM card.
Slightly off-topic, I always seek out local bank ATMs for my transactions, outside the airport when possible. I've noticed this trip that the ATMs inside the arrivals hall in both Ireland and The Netherlands were all Travelex ATMs. Local bank ATMs were outside the arrivals hall in the airport proper.

Posted by
2 posts

My 18 year old is in traveling in Italy right now and has been unable to withdraw money. She has checked to make sure the ATM has a plus sign, she’s not trying to pull out more than her limit and she set up a travel notice before she left. After multiple tries today and multiple calls to WF they just say they can’t even see that she attempted to take money out. She is going to wait 24 hours and try a different bank. It’s so frustrating.

Posted by
5 posts

This sounds exactly like my experience. Wells Fargo has never in all this time told me how I could get an ATM card that would actually work in another country. Morgan Smith

Posted by
1553 posts

Make sure you have a 4 digit pin. Years ago a WF banker told me I needed a 5 digit pin. He got an earful when I got home. Thankfully hubby’s worked.
I just returned from Greece and had no issues.

Posted by
2 posts

She has a four digit code. WF should warn customers, especially when they know they are traveling to countries that might have problems. My daughter will be in Split, Croatia on Thursday. Maybe she’ll have more luck there. If all else fails she’ll have to pull cash out on a credit card 🙁.

Posted by
80 posts

In early June of this year I had a similar problem with my Wells Fargo debit card. When it didn’t work in Barcelona I called back to their customer service in the US. They confirmed that that they had the travel notice I had posted in advance and it must be a problem with the local bank. I tried a different bank ATM in Barcelona and then in Provence with no luck. Luckily I had another card with a different bank that worked with no problem.

Posted by
90 posts

Never had a problem with WF any of the 4 times in Australia including the airports and rural towns in the middle of nowhere.

Posted by
52 posts

We’ve had Wells Fargo debit cards for decades. Obtaining cash got easier on overseas trips when they finally changed to the chip type. We have had issues getting cash from time to time in Europe, but generally we just go to a different bank and that has worked. We always file a detailed travel plan and have separate checking accounts linked to different debit cards than the ones that we use at home. Your post does give me pause as we have a two month trip ahead. I think a call to my banker is in order! Thanks for sharing and oh, WF does always waive the fees when we get home...because we have brokerage accounts.

Posted by
7 posts

For what its worth

I just used my Wells Fargo Debit card in Barcelona (it was my backup card after my Bank of American card didn't work at first) at the beginning of October 2019.

I had let both banks know that I would be traveling to Spain.

Posted by
3335 posts

We have had WF Debit cards for decades. Like others have mentioned, we inform WF that we will be traveling. We also have an account that waves the $5 withdrawal fee. It's also a benefit that we each have our own accounts in case one card is compromised. So far that hasn't happened. Sorry about your challenges last spring.