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Using a debit card abroad

The right debit card can help you save on international transaction fees and foreign ATM fees.

Using your debit card abroad or online to make non-Euro purchases will typically mean your bank will charge you a foreign transaction fee for the privilege. And that’s in addition to any other fees or charges your bank decides to throw your way. These international handling charges will also be applied when you make a local currency withdrawal from an overseas ATM.

However, there are debit, credit and travel cards available with little or no international transaction fees. Some even offer other travel perks.

Not planning an overseas trip for a while (thanks, Coronavirus)? These debit cards can still save you money when you shop online from overseas stores and retailers.

Compare a range of debit cards in Ireland

Name Product Maintenance fee Fee period ATM transaction fee
VIALET Current Account
€2 + 2% per withdrawal
An IBAN account you can use to manage your money and spend in over 200 countries worldwide, fee-free.
N26 Bank Account
€2 per withdrawal
Benefit from no monthly fee, no currency conversion fees and a raft of in-app budgeting features to help you save.
Wirex Standard
2% per withdrawal

Get a Welcome Bonus of $15 USD in WXT when you sign up with Wirex through Finder.

Benefit from an array of digital payment features, including a free prepaid Wirex card and unlimited fee-free transfers at interbank rates - with zero monthly subscription fee.
Wise Multicurrency Account
€0.50 + 1.75% per withdrawal
Wise (formerly TransferWise) is an international account with over 50 currencies, instant and very convenient money transfers, a card to spend in any currency, bank details to be paid in 30 different countries and multi-currency direct debits.
Revolut Standard
€1 + 2% per withdrawal
Enjoy no monthly fee, no currency conversion fees up to €1,000 per month and hold an array of currencies in your account.
AIB Student Account for 2nd Level Students
A current account for students aged between 12 and 18 years, who are in part time or full-time second level education. If you apply for a debit card, AIB will cover the annual Government Stamp Duty.

Compare up to 4 providers

How does using a debit card abroad work?

You can use your debit card overseas just as you would when you’re home in Ireland. You can use the debit card to make purchases in-store or to withdraw cash from overseas ATMs. A debit card comes linked to your current account, giving you easy access to your own money while you’re travelling abroad. A Mastercard or Visa debit card can give you the broadest accessibility abroad, as can having a strong ATM partner network.

Choosing a debit card or credit card that charges little or no overseas ATM fees and no foreign transaction fees is the best way to avoid unnecessary fees while you’re travelling. These debit cards can be used anywhere you’re travelling internationally and help you save big on 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 can expect:

Access your own funds when travelling

Using a debit card will allow you to access your own funds while travelling abroad. Unlike a line of credit with potential interest, spending your own money can help curb your spending and keep your budget under control.

Visa or Mastercard global acceptance

As long as you have a globally accepted debit card (such as a Visa or Mastercard), you should be able to easily access your funds internationally. You can use such a card to withdraw cash from ATMs and to make purchases online.

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 for online

Getting a debit card is much easier than getting a credit card because you don’t have to meet minimum income requirements. In some instances, you can apply for a debit card online in a matter of minutes and receive your card in the post a few business days later.

There’s world-class security and fraud protection

Most modern day debit cards use microchip technology, which provides more protection against fraud than cards that rely on magnetic strips. Both Visa and Mastercard have online security programs to give you extra peace of mind when your card details are used online.

You can take advantage of zero liability

Both Visa and Mastercard have zero liability policies in place, so when you, as a cardholder, are smart about using your card overseas, your card provider will not hold you liable for fraudulent and suspicious transactions.

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What will I be charged when using my debit card abroad?

We’ve put together a table to show you what fees you’ll be charged when you use your debit card for non-Euro purchases and overseas ATM withdrawals.

BankForeign ATM chargesNon-Euro purchase charges
Bank of Ireland3.5% of the withdrawal amount (minimum charge of €3.17 and maximum charge €11.43 per withdrawal)2% of the purchase amount (maximum €11.43 per transaction)
An Post3% of the withdrawal amount. Plus €0.90 per transaction.3% of the purchase amount with no limits
AIB2.5% of the withdrawal amount. Plus 1% commission (minimum €2 and maximum €6)1.75% of the purchase value (minimum €0.45 and maximum €11)
KBC3.50% of the withdrawal amount (minimum €3.17 and maximum €11.43)1.75% of the purchase amount (minimum €0.46 and maximum €11.43)
EBS1% of the withdrawal amount (minimum €1.91 and maximum €6)1% of the purchase amount (minimum €0.30 and maximum €6)
Ulster Bank2% of the withdrawal amount (minimum €3 and maximum €12). Plus exchange rate transaction fee of 1.5%)

*Free cash withdrawals when using RBS and NatWest ATMs in the UK.

1% of the purchase amount (minimum €0.25 and maximum €6). Plus exchange rate transaction fee of 1% (minimum €0.25 and maximum €6)
permanent tsb3.5% of the withdrawal (minimum €3.17 and maximum €11.43)1.75% of the purchase amount (minimum €0.46 and maximum €11.43)
Revolut2% of the withdrawal amount per transaction (minimum €1). This fee is applied after your specified free monthly withdrawal limit has been reached. You may also be charged a currency conversion fee once you exceed your free conversion limit.Currency exchange transaction charge of 0.5% of the purchase amount. This is applied after you exceed your currency exchange transaction limit.
N26Free with You and Metal plans. Standard users will be charged 1.7% of the withdrawal amount.Free
bunq€0.99 for each withdrawal after you have reached your specified free monthly withdrawals.Free
Monese2% of the withdrawal amount per transaction. This fee is applied after your specified free monthly withdrawal limit has been reached.2% of the purchase amount per transaction. This is applied after you exceed your foreign currency spend limit.

Please note that the ATM you use may have its own transaction charges and withdrawal limit. This can also vary depending on the country you are visiting.

How can I save money when shopping online at international retailers?

Even if you’re not going abroad any time soon, you can still save money with a travel debit card. These debit cards often charge little or no international transaction fees for overseas transactions, and this includes transactions made online.

If you make an online purchase from a retailer located outside of the Eurozone, you’d usually need to pay a foreign transaction fee percentage on the value of your transaction. However, if you opt for a debit card that waives this fee, you can potentially save a fair bit of money.

What else should I consider when using a debit card abroad?

Before you get a debit card, know that not all are the same, even if they come with Visa and Mastercard affiliations. As a result, the following aspects require your consideration as well.

Is there a Global ATM alliance so I can get fee-free withdrawals abroad?

When you use your debit card to withdraw money from overseas ATMs, you might have to pay ATM fees. But some financial institutions may have ATM alliances with international banks, giving customers fee-free access to specific ATMs.

Does the card charge international transaction fees?

An international transaction fee is charged when you make a transaction in another currency that’s not EUR. When you’re shopping overseas, these will slowly add up so you may want to get a card that doesn’t charge this fee.

Does the card come with linked travel insurance?

Some debit cards come with complimentary travel insurance. Depending on 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.

Can I use my Mastercard or Visa card to withdraw money abroad?

Yes, you can use your card wherever Mastercard or Visa is accepted and it can be used for multiple currencies.

Why is a foreign transaction fee charged?

A foreign transaction fee is charged when you make a withdrawal, purchase or transaction in a currency other than EUR. The fee is charged for converting currency into EUR.

What are the pros and cons of using a debit card abroad?

The pros

  • You can access your funds anytime, anywhere. A Visa or Mastercard debit card gives you instant access to money in your bank account, no matter where in the world you are; all you have to do is look for the Visa or Mastercard logo.
  • You can avoid overseas ATM fees if you use the right ATM. If you use a partner ATM, you don’t have to pay any additional ATM fees.
  • You can avoid international transaction fees. Just about every Irish debit card you use overseas will require that you pay currency conversion fees every time you use your card. If you use a suitable debit card, you don’t have to worry about paying international transaction fees with each purchase.
  • It’s a safe way to spend your money with fraud protection. Debit cards give you a safe and secure way to access money when travelling abroad, given that multiple security layers work in keeping your information secure.
  • Use it at home or abroad. There’s no need to switch between different banking products when you travel and when you’re at home in Ireland. If you choose the right debit card, you can use the same account for all your day-to-day banking at home and then take it abroad too.

The cons

  • Getting your card replaced abroad is difficult. Replacing a lost or stolen debit card when you’re travelling abroad might not happen in a hurry and you might have to pay a fee for the same.

What’s the best debit card to use overseas?

This depends on what features are important to you and how you like to access your money when travelling. However, selecting a debit card with the following features is a great way to save money when you’re overseas.

  • No overseas ATM fees (or access to an ATM network that charges no fees)
  • No foreign transaction fees (or the option to have these waived when the account conditions are met)
  • A good mobile banking app to keep track of your money when you’re on the go exploring a new country
  • 24/7 customer service: it’s nice to know there will be someone available to help you if something happens to your card late at night or early in the morning.

Looking for the best debit card for overseas travel?

There’s no single bank account that’s best for everyone as all our needs are different and what’s best for you might not be best for someone else. Carefully consider all the features that you want in a debit card such as fees, interest rates, ATM network, mobile app etc. before deciding on the one for you.

Bottom line

Use a globally accepted debit card to gain access to your own funds without the temptation of overspending. Just remember that the fees and rates that come with using your card will vary from card to card. So make sure to compare your options to ensure the cost doesn’t outweigh the benefits.

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