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Debit cards for travel

Debit cards for travel

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Pick the right debit card for your trip abroad to avoid paying ATM fees.

Debit cards are the best way to get access to your money while you’re overseas. Carrying too much cash on you is risky, making you vulnerable to thieves.

But the fees for debit cards can be excessive. If you choose the wrong card, you can pay anywhere from $2–$10 per withdrawal at an ATM, not to mention 3% foreign transaction fees.

Some debit cards will waive those fees and even will reimburse you for ATM operator fees. Banks that are members of the Global ATM Alliance waive the ATM fees with their partner banks around the globe.

Let us help you sift through you’re options for the best debit cards.

Debit cards for travel

Why debit cards work for traveling.

  • Global ATM alliances. Bank of America and Barclay Bank are American banks that are members of the alliance. If you have an account with these banks, avoid withdrawal fees and currency conversion fees when you use one of their partner banks.
  • Access your savings. Travel debit cards allow you to manage your spending by using cash, rather than credit.

Considerations when choosing a debit card for traveling.

  • Booking services. When you book with a hotel, vehicle or other rental agency the holding fee can often take a few days to return. The fee, sometimes a $100 or more, can lower your account balance, causing trouble when you need your money.
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What are the different types of debit card to take overseas?

Debit cards with no foreign transaction or ATM fees

If you can find a bank that waives the foreign transaction fee and ATM fees, you’ll not only save money at the ATM, but you’ll also save money on purchases you make with your card.

We found that Capital One 360 and Discover Bank both offer debit cards that waive the foreign transaction and ATM fees.

  • Tip. If your card doesn’t waive ATM fees, save by taking out the maximum amount each time you withdraw.

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What are the pros and cons of using a debit card when you’re overseas?

Pros

  • Spend only what you have. Debit cards are not a credit so you can only spend what you’ve deposited into the account. This is great for travelers on a budget.
  • Protected from card fraud. Visa and Mastercard offer no liability protection for fraudulent transactions on your account, giving you a full reimbursement.

Cons

  • No emergency cash. There’s no access to cash through a cash advance facility if you find yourself in trouble and in need of funds. We recommend having a credit card on hand for emergencies.
  • Fees and charges. Unless you have an account that waives the foreign transaction and international ATM fees, using an debit card overseas costs a fortune, especially for frequent ATM withdrawals.
  • No backup. If you lose your debit card, or it’s stolen, it could take a couple of weeks to get a replacement.

Avoid this if you use your debit card abroad

Avoid making frequent ATM withdrawals while you’re abroad. Even if you have an account that does not charge for you for international ATM withdrawals — local operator fees still apply.

Frequently asked questions about using a debit card in another country

Leah Fallon

Leah Fallon is a writer and editor for finder.com. She's here to fix annoying apostrophes, elusive infinitives and the muddled em and en dash. When she's not helping people with their finances, you can find her wrangling her two sprightly girls in Leesburg, Virginia.

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4 Responses

  1. Default Gravatar
    BenOctober 15, 2018

    I am travelling to Japan in January and wondering if I should continue using my Westpac Debit Mastercard or should find another bank and get a strictly travel use only debit card. Whats the best option?

    • finder Customer Care
      nikkiangcoOctober 16, 2018Staff

      Hi Ben,

      Thanks for reaching out. You can definitely use your Westpac Debit Card for your trip to Japan but be sure to check fees related to using this card internationally. You may be interested to check our page showing travel money options you can bring to your travel to Japan.

      As a friendly reminder, review the eligibility criteria of the card before applying to increase your chances of approval. Read up on the terms and conditions and product disclosure statement and contact the bank should you need any clarifications about the card.

      Hope this was helpful. Don’t hesitate to message us back if you have more questions.

      Regards,
      Nikki

  2. Default Gravatar
    ConnieMarch 21, 2018

    Just wondering if I can get a prepaid vanilla visa at target and use it in Spain?

    • finder Customer Care
      MayMarch 24, 2018Staff

      Hi Connie,

      Thanks for your inquiry. If you’re pertaining to the MyVanilla Prepaid Visa, you can get it at any one of these retailers: Family Dollar, 7 Eleven, CVS Pharmacy, Dollar General, Fred’s Super Dollar, Speedway, Walgreens and Walmart. If you can find any of these retailers at Target, then you should good to go.

      The MyVanilla Prepaid Card can be used in Spain and everywhere Visa debit cards are accepted.

      Cheers,
      May

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