Best travel debit cards for going to Europe

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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.

Finding a great travel debit card is very different than finding the best travel credit card. Your debit card is tied to your bank and it is a lot more difficult to change banks. So, the most important thing is to first understand the international transaction fees your current debit card comes with.

Understand your debit card’s fees

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 This fee varies from 0 to 3% of the amount of cash withdrawn.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%.

Learning how to minimize foreign transaction fees is a great way to stretch your travel money.

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 NameForeign Conversion FeeForeign Usage FeeFees for $100 withdrawalFees for $1000 withdrawalForeign Purchase Fee
Capital One 360NoneNone$0$0None
Charles SchwabNoneNone$0$0None
Wells FargoNone$5$5$53%
Bank of America3%$5$8$353%
Union BankNone$5$5$52%
US Bank3%$2.50$5.50$32.503%
TD BankNone$3$3$3None
Navy Federal Credit Union1%$1$2$111%
Pentagon Federal Credit Union2%None$2$202%
Nationwide Bank1%$1.50$2.50$11.501%
Sun Trust Bank3%$5$8$353%

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.

If you are planning a trip, don’t forget about a safe and comfortable money belt for keeping your money and credit cards safe and available. It has always been a lifesaver for me.

Should you switch banks to get a better travel debit card?

While getting a great travel credit card is easy, switching banks just to get lower foreign transaction fees really depends on how much frequently you travel overseas and how much you spend on your international trip. Why?

The best travel debit card can save you about $30 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.

    Article Series: How to maximize your travel budget.

  1. 10 simple rules for using your Debit and Credit Cards in Europe
  2. Best travel credit cards
  3. Best travel debit cards
  4. Get the best foreign exchange rate
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