With free lodging, many things already paid for and a credit card that doesn’t have foreign transaction fees, our vacation to Europe in July didn’t require having much cash on hand. Still, it’s smart to always have some local currency in your pocket when traveling, and a local ATM is the best way to get it.
Or so I thought.
ATM fees added up during our trip to nearly $200, mainly because I erred in figuring out which banks in Europe had a relationship with our bank in the U.S. That’s not a ton of money lost in fees, but it’s annoying because I thought I could get away without paying much in ATM fees.
ATM fees added up
Before getting into the ways I learned to get around ATM fees — beyond just using a no-transaction fee credit card during the entire trip — it’s worth quickly explaining how they work. There are different charges by different parties when you use an ATM:
- Your U.S. bank will charge a flat fee of $5 or so each time you use a foreign bank’s ATM. This can be avoided by using a partner bank.
- The foreign bank will charge a percentage fee on the amount withdrawn. I was charged from 3-8% in transaction fees, though when using a bank affiliated with my U.S. bank, the fee was 3%.
- The foreign ATM sometimes charged a $5 fee also.
- A $5 fee was also charged when using my U.S. debit card at a grocery store.