Best debit cards for traveling to Europe

Traveling internationally is always expensive so anything you can do to stretch your money a little further is great. One area you can save just a bit more is how you use your debit cards when you travel overseas. Debit cards provide basic access to your bank account. But banks vary very much in how much they charge you for using your debit card internationally. Read on to see what major US banks charge for using a Debit Card while traveling internationally.

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Understand the fees the bank charges your debit card

Before diving into how much each major bank is charging you when you use your ATM/Debit Card in Europe, let me explain to you the three main fees that your bank may charge you. These three most common fees are: Debit Cards Foreign Usage Fee, Debit Card Foreign Conversion Fee and Debit Card Foreign Purchase Fee.

The foreign usage and foreign conversion fees have to do with withdrawing cash from an ATM machine in a foreign country, while the foreign purchase fee has to do with making purchases with your ATM Card in a foreign currency.

Let’s take a look in detail at these debit card fees.

A foreign usage fee is a fee charged by a bank when you simply use your ATM card in Europe regardless of the amount you spend. Your bank may call it differently, but it is charged whenever you use your ATM card in a foreign country to withdraw cash. This fee varies from 0 to $5.

A foreign conversion fee is the fee charged by your bank to convert from US Dollars (or whatever your home country currency is) into the local currency in the foreign country your are visiting. This is a fee that depends on the amount of cash you are withdrawing. This fee varies from 0 to 3% of the amount of cash withdrawn.

A foreign purchase fee is the fee charged by your bank whenever you use your ATM card to make a purchase in a foreign currency. This fee varies from 0 to 3%.

Chart with major banks ATM/Debit Card fees

I compiled the following table from information I found on major bank’s websites. It is helpful to see all the fees together because they do vary wildly from one bank to the other. The best thing for you to do is to ask your bank and understand what fees they practice.

Bank Name Foreign Conversion Fee Foreign Usage Fee Fees for $100 withdrawal Fees for $1000 withdrawal Foreign Purchase Fee
Capital One 360 None None $0 $0 None
Charles Schwab None None $0 $0 None
Fidelity None None $0 $0 1%
Wells Fargo None $5 $5 $5 3%
Bank of America 3% $5 $8 $35 3%
Chase 1% $5 $6 $15 3%
Citi 3% $2.50 $5.50 $32.50 3%
HSBC 3% None $3 $30 3%
Union Bank None $5 $5 $5 2%
US Bank 3% $2.50 $5.50 $32.50 3%
TD Bank None $3 $3 $3 None
Navy Federal Credit Union 1% $1 $2 $11 1%
Pentagon Federal Credit Union 2% None $2 $20 2%
Nationwide Bank 1% $1.50 $2.50 $11.50 1%
Sun Trust Bank 3% $5 $8 $35 3%

What are the best Debit Cards for traveling overseas?

I have been using my Wells Fargo ATM card for all my travels overseas. After increasing my daily cash limit to $1000 it has become very cheap for me to get cash overseas…just $5 per withdrawal. However, Wells Fargo is not the best deal for international travel.

If you are looking for something even cheaper look at Charles Schwab Bank and Capital One 360 as they reimburse any ATM fees even when using your debit card internationally. These are the cheapest debit cards to own.

Should you switch banks?

Therefore, switching banks just to get lower foreign transaction fees really depends on how much you spend on your international trip. Why?

The best travel debit card can save you between $20 and $50 for every $1000 you spend in Europe. That’s it!

The most important thing is to look in your own wallet and check with the bank you already use, find out how much they charge you and think about how much you plan to spend overseas. Then see if it really makes sense to open another bank account for your travels.

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2 thoughts on “Best debit cards for traveling to Europe

  1. Hello, I just read your article about using debit cards in Europe and I am also a wells Fargo customer. All the info provided was great, I also checked with my bank before traveling to ensure any details. My question for you is, today I tried to use my debit card at a Atm outside a bank today, in Lyon France, but the card was denied. Do you know what banks work best for wells Fargo customers? Or did I just get the one bad ATM? Also should I have gone inside the bank?

    1. Evan…it looks like you have done everything prior to leaving on your trip…your pin is four digits and you created a travel plan with Wells Fargo so they know you will be in France during this time.

      Then you can try these steps next: first, try another ATM machine from another bank. If it still doesn’t work the only thing you can do is call your Wells Fargo number on the back of your card and ask them. Sometimes their security algorithms lock the card and only them can unlock it. Going inside the foreign bank does not help since they do not have access to your account.

      It has happened to me once as well. I have never had a problem in France though.

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