How foreign transaction fees work

You could be charged one of these 4 fees on your next foreign purchase.

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Accessing your money overseas — whether it’s online shopping at a foreign store from home or withdrawing cash at an overseas ATM — can get pricey. Familiarize yourself with the fees you could be facing, and consider switching to a more competitive checking account if the costs are starting to add up.

A guide to foreign transaction fees

Foreign transactions come with additional fees and charges, including:

Compare foreign transaction fees

Name Product Monthly fee ATMs ATM transaction fee Out-of-network ATM fee ATM fee rebates Foreign transaction fee
TransferWise Borderless
$0
Free at any ATM in the world
$0
$0
You can withdraw $250 every 30 days with no fees
0%
Send and receive 40+ currencies right from your phone, but with a better exchange rate and low fees.
North Loop International Student Account
$0
Get free access to 32,000 ATMs across the US
$0
No account fees. No account minimums. No ATM fees. No incoming wire fees
Chime Spending account
$0
38,000 fee-free ATMs nationwide
$0
$2.50
0%
Linked checking and savings accounts from a mobile-first bank that’s light on fees.
Zero Checking
$0
No access to ATMs
$0
$0
At the Carbon level, all ATM fees, including what the ATM owner may charge, are refunded.
0%
A mobile banking experience consisting of an app, a credit card called Zerocard, and a checking account called Zero Checking.
Chase Private Client
$0
$0
0%
$2,000 Welcome Bonus when you upgrade by March 06, 2020. Within 45 days, transfer a total of $250,000 or more in qualifying new money or securities to a combination of eligible personal checking, savings and/or investment accounts, (excludes any J.P. Morgan retirement accounts and CDs), and maintain that balance for 90 days. Offer available to existing Chase customers only.

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How can I save on foreign transaction fees?

If foreign transaction fees are eating into your bank account, you may want to consider getting a debit card for foreign transactions.

What are the features of debit cards for foreign transactions?

Debit cards geared towards users who make foreign transactions generally include features such as:

  • Low currency conversion fees. Some debit cards have low fees or waive these fees altogether.
  • Low ATM fees. Some cards don’t charge you to use foreign ATMs at all, while other have low fees or international ATM networks.
  • Competitive exchange rates. Using a debit card from a bank that charges exchange rates as close as possible to the mid-market rate can save you a considerable amount of money on foreign transactions.
  • Global money transfers. If you regularly make foreign purchases or payments then you may want to look for a bank that offers low-cost or free international transfers.
  • Rewards programs. Some debit cards let you earn rewards points for eligible purchases which you can use to claim travel benefits. Take a look at whether your card is linked to a frequent flyer program or a dedicated provider rewards program.

Other considerations

Foreign transaction fees aren’t the only debit card issue to be concerned about. If you’re a frequent traveler or you regularly use foreign currencies, you may want to consider:

  • Access. Check how easy it is to access your money while overseas. For example, does your bank have partner ATMs overseas? Do you have a debit card that’s widely accepted internationally, like a Visa or Mastercard?
  • Online banking. If you travel often, you’ll likely want access to online banking when you can’t get to a branch. Some banks will even let you add travel notices to your card online so your account doesn’t end up getting frozen while overseas.
  • Prepaid options. Card providers have come out with various prepaid debit card options for travelers that allow you to load your card with the money you want to spend. These cards let you save on currency conversions and also some foreign transaction fees. If you like your current debit card for everything other than foreign transactions, you can get a prepaid card to use when traveling.

Bottom line

Foreign transactions fees can get pricey, especially when they’re being charged on top of each other. For example, if you withdraw money at a foreign ATM, you can be charged an ATM fee, currency conversion fee and exchange rate markup. To make sure you’re getting the best deal, compare checking accounts to find one with a debit card that works for both your domestic and international purchases.

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