We value our editorial independence, basing our comparison results, content and reviews on objective analysis without bias. But we may receive compensation when you click links on our site. Learn more about how we make money from our partners.
The best debit card for traveling overseas
Save money on international transaction and foreign ATM fees.
- Lower conversion fees
- No monthly fee
- No foreign transaction fee
Editor's pick: TransferWise Borderless Account
Send and receive 40+ currencies right from your phone, but with a better exchange rate and low fees.
- Free ATM withdrawals up to $250 every 30 days
- Hold multiple currencies in one account
- Send money overseas
Compare debit cards
Best debit cards for overseas travel
Quick look at the best debit cards for traveling overseas
Best for getting cash at foreign ATMs: Aspiration Spend & Save Account
When you’re hoping to withdraw cash abroad without paying your bank every time you use an ATM, an account with Aspiration may be the solution. Aspiration offers free ATM access worldwide.
Note that the network and the bank the ATM belongs to can still charge a fee.
Best for foreign purchase fees: NBKC Personal Account
For making purchases abroad, you may want to look into an NBKC Personal Account, which offers a 0% foreign transaction fee. You’ll also benefit from no fees at over 32,000 Moneypass ATMs, and up to $12 refunded per month for fees from any other ATMs.
Best for currency conversion fees: Charles Schwab Bank High Yield Investor Checking Account
Use your Schwab Bank Visa Platinum Debit Card to make purchases abroad and withdrawals from overseas ATMs without worrying about foreign transaction fees. Your account gets charged the US dollar equivalent, typically as calculated by the bank or network the transaction is with.
While Charles Schwab doesn’t charge a currency conversion fee, the network or bank still might.
How did we choose the best cards?
In determining our picks for the best debit cards to use while traveling outside the US, a number of debit cards were primarily evaluated based on currency conversion, foreign transaction fees and branch or ATM access. Secondary factors that were considered include monthly fees, minimum balance requirements, customer service and interest rates.
What happens when you use your debit card overseas
When you use your debit card oversea, or while shopping at an overseas store, you’ll generally be charged extra fees.
Your checking account will usually charge a foreign transaction fee when you purchase something in a foreign currency. You may also have to pay a margin on the exchange rate, which means that your bank sells you foreign currency at a higher price than you’d pay elsewhere.
Debit card readers in stores and hotels can often detect that you’re using a card from another country, and they may ask to debit the purchase in US dollars rather than the local currency. While this can help you save on foreign transactions fees, it often means you’ll pay a significantly worse exchange rate, and is generally the more expensive option.
For ATM withdrawals
Your normal bank account will usually charge the following fees: Foreign ATM fee, foreign transaction fee, exchange rate markup and, in most cases, the ATM itself will charge a third-party fee. These fees can make withdrawing money at a foreign ATM very expensive.
Debit cards for overseas travel
Your debit card is linked to a checking account, and choosing a bank that offers both card and account features for travelers can help you save.
Look for an account that offers a Mastercard or Visa debit card, which are accepted worldwide. You’ll also want to choose a bank that belongs to a strong ATM partner network to cut down on ATM fees while you’re traveling — and that has reasonable foreign ATM fees for when you’re not able to use an in-network machine.
The best checking accounts for international travel offer fee-free foreign transactions, so look for an account that offers low or no foreign transaction fees.
What are the features of a debit card?
The features that come with your debit card will vary from card to card, but here’s some of the standards you expect:
Access your own funds and not worry about interest
Using a debit card will allow you to access your own funds while traveling overseas. Unlike a line of credit, spending your own money can help curb your spending and keep your budget in check.
Easy account management
You can manage your account and keep track of your travel budget using online account management. Most banks offer online banking and mobile phone apps, so you should have no trouble managing your funds on the go.
Easy to apply
Getting a debit card is easier than getting a credit card because you don’t have to meet minimum income or age requirements. You simply need to have a checking or savings account.
World-class security and fraud protection
Most debit cards have microchip technology, which provides increased protection against fraud when compared to cards that rely on magnetic strips. Both Visa and Mastercard have online security programs in place to offer extra peace of mind when your personal information is in the online world.
Always notify your bank when you plan on leaving the country. This way your bank or credit card can expect purchases from abroad. Visa and Mastercard have zero liability policies in place, so when you use your card overseas, your card provider does not hold you liable in the case of fraudulent and suspicious transactions.Back to top
What are the benefits and drawbacks of using debit card while traveling?
- Access your funds anytime, anywhere. A debit card with the Visa or Mastercard logo gives you instant access to money in your bank account, no matter where you are.
- Avoid fees if you use the right ATM. If you use a partner ATM, you don’t have to pay any additional fees.
- Avoid international transaction fees. Just about every US debit card will require that you pay currency conversion fees every time you use your card overseas. Though, some cards will waive the international fee.
- Safe way to spend your money with fraud protection. Debit cards give you a safe and secure way to access money when traveling overseas, given that multiple security layers work in keeping your information secure.
- Getting your card replaced overseas is difficult. Replacing a lost or stolen debit card when you’re traveling overseas can take up to 10 business days, and can be costly.
What else should I consider when choosing a new account?
Before you open a new travel-friendly checking account with a debit card, consider the following:
Is your card part of the Global ATM Alliance?
The Global ATM Alliance is a group of major international banks that allow their customers to use international ATMs without charging additional fees. Bank of America debit cardholders, for example, can access ATMs across Europe for free.
Does the card come with linked travel insurance?
Some debit cards come with complimentary travel insurance. Depending what you’re eligible for, you could find that these come in handy if you lose or misplace your luggage or find yourself confronted by a medical emergency or flight cancellation.
Are there any international Visa and Mastercard benefits?
Visa and Mastercard debit cards give cardholders access to a range of special global offers and promotions.
What happens if I think my account has been scammed overseas?
If you think you’ve been a victim of fraud, contact your bank or card issuer immediately to cancel the card and begin the process of recouping any lost funds.
How do I send funds to someone overseas?
Check what options the account has for transferring money overseas — and how high the fees are.Back to top
Alternative travel money options
Many travelers like to have more than one way to access their money while overseas. Other popular options include:
- Credit cards. Using a credit card overseas makes sense if you need access to credit, and in such a scenario you should look for a card that charges little or no foreign transaction fees. Plus, a credit card can come in handy if you need more funds than expected in the case of an emergency. However, avoid overspending and keep in mind that everything you buy will need to be paid back, usually with interest.
- Prepaid travel cards. A prepaid travel card can be a good way to load multiple currencies on one card. Plus, you can avoid the negative impact of fluctuating exchange rates by locking the rate in at the time of loading. Keep in mind though that loading and reloading your card can incur a fee and it can take up to a few days for the funds to appear on your card.
- Traveler’s checks. These used to be one of the most popular options, but they’re quickly fading from favor. While each check comes with a unique number and is not difficult to replace if lost, the bulkiness of carrying around multiple checks does not work in their favor. In addition, you have to cash these checks before you get access to funds.
Should I use a debit card or a travel card?
Which option is best for you depends on whether you favor affordability or convenience — and whether your checking account and linked debit card are travel-friendly.
You can continue to access your regular account with a debit card without having to pre-plan or convert any cash beforehand. The drawback is that depending on the account you have, withdrawals, transactions and currency conversions could attract fees — which can all add up. If your account has low or no foreign transactions fees, this tends to be the best option.
A travel card is a prepaid card that can be loaded with multiple currencies. This can be useful if you are traveling to multiple places in one trip. The card can be reloaded, but it can incur a fee. These cards are useful for people who have checking accounts with unreasonably high foreign transaction fees.
Use a globally accepted debit card to gain access to your money without the temptation of overspending. The fees and rates that come with using your card will vary from card to card, so compare your options to ensure the cost doesn’t outweigh the benefits.
Need extra help?
Ask an Expert