Which Banks Don’t Charge International ATM Fees

by joeheg

For years, travelers have limited international travel because of the restrictions on entering other countries or the requirements to re-enter the United States. Now that the world has relaxed rules on testing and vaccination and the US has removed all COVID entry rules for US citizens, many people are considering taking overseas trips they’ve had on hold since 2020.

It’s understandable to have forgotten the fees banks add when using your ATM card outside the US. If you’re not paying attention, you’ll pay three or four different surcharges if you use the wrong ATM and pick the wrong options to receive your cash.

Of course, you can avoid these fees if you pay with a credit card that doesn’t charge a foreign transaction fee. In addition, you need to avoid the Dynamic Currency Conversion scam.

However, there are times when it’s helpful to have cash with you, like when we went to Germany to visit the Christmas Markets in 2019. While many shops took credit cards if you bought over a certain amount, it was easier to buy food or drinks using cash.

a city with many buildings and tents

Unfortunately, when we were looking for an ATM in Munich, the only ones we could find were from Euronet, which I knew were the most egregious scammers of all the ATMs. Fortunately, I had a debit card that insulated us from most of the inflated charges.

While I have a card that doesn’t charge for international ATM transactions, I didn’t know that it was one of the few cards that don’t tack on a fee just for taking money out of an ATM outside of the US.

As it turns out, most US banks will charge a fee just for using your debit card to get cash from an ATM outside the US. Major US banks like Bank of America, Chase and Wells Fargo charge a flat $5 fee to withdraw money from an international ATM.

That’s on top of any fees charged by the ATM and any currency conversion fees.

So how could we avoid these fees when traveling outside of the US?

Fortunately for us, I transferred our accounts to Fidelity a while ago and opened a Cash Management Account. Our Fidelity account works like any other online banks we’ve used for the past 2 decades. In addition, I’ve never paid a fee to use any ATM around the world and have received an instant refund of any ATM fee, no matter how high (including EuroNet fees and the $7 fee to get cash for the casino on a Royal Caribbean ship.)

Your account will automatically be reimbursed for all ATM fees charged by other institutions while using a Fidelity® Debit Card linked to your Fidelity Cash Management Account at any ATM displaying the Visa®, Plus®, or Star® logos. The reimbursement will be credited to the account the same day the ATM fee is debited from the account. Please note that there may be a foreign transaction fee of 1% that is not waived, which will be included in the amount charged to your account.

Fidelity works for us because I have a Fidelity Rewards 2% cash back card and use them for my investments, but you can open a Cash Management Account with no fees and no minimum balance.

However, Fidelity isn’t your only option for an account with no international ATM fees. In fact, another bank is the consensus pick of all the other websites.

The Charles Schwab High Yield Investor Checking account has no fees or account minimums and offers unlimited ATM fee rebates worldwide.

FWIW, I think this sounds very similar to the Fidelity option. I’d feel good saying either is a good choice. The only difference is that I have personal experience with Fidelity not charging any fee to use ATMs in England, Ireland, Japan, Austria and Germany and reimbursing any fees within 24 hours.

While I’ve seen posts listing other accounts that don’t charge international ATM fees, many banks require keeping a minimum balance or charging a monthly fee. There are a few that seem to offer accounts with no international ATM fees while not charging monthly fees or having a minimum account balance. They include:

So there are 4 choices (5 if you’re eligible for a USAA account from military service) where you can get an ATM card with no international ATM fees with minimal to no deposit limits or account fees. That means there’s almost no excuse to pay excessive international ATM fees if you regularly travel outside of the US.

However, if you only plan on taking 1 or 2 trips outside of the US, you might be OK to pay the $5 fee for international ATM transactions. As long as you know you’ll pay the extra fee every time you use an ATM that’s not in the USA.

But if you’re a regular international tourist, it would make sense to get a bank account that waives the fee to use an ATM outside of the US

Cover Image by Peggy und Marco Lachmann-Anke from Pixabay

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derek October 16, 2022 - 2:45 pm

A good review article would be how to get money overseas. I know not all countries are the same. For now, I use credit cards that don’t have a foreign exchange fee and I bring a relatively small amount of US dollars to change for local currency.

My current strategy is:
Canada: exchange money in Canada. The VCBE in Vancouver (roughly 3 locations) gives a good rate.
The VCBE also gives decent exchange rates for selected major currencies, unlike banks or exchange places in the US

UK: exchange money at an exchange place outside Victoria Station London. I have my favorite one but there are several. Save enough cash for the next trip’s train or underground ride into London. All my paper money is outdated but it’s possible I have enough coins for one person to get to London.

Singapore: exchange money at an exchange shop near St. Andrew’s Cathedral. There are more than one place.

As one can see, it’s usually a money loser to exchange US dollars into foreign currency in the US.

Randy October 18, 2022 - 10:55 pm

Anyone can join USAA BANK, it is the insurance arm that requires military service.


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