Best No-Fee Debit Cards with No Foreign Transaction Fees

Traveling outside of the U.S. can be expensive, and one of the fastest ways to break your budget is by swiping your credit card. Below is our list of the best no-fee debit cards with one very important feature–no foreign transaction fees.

Best No-fee Debit Cards with no foreign transaction fees

Anytime you travel, you’ll need to be able to safely and reliably access money, both for everyday spending and emergency expenses. But whether you’re traveling as close as Mexico or as far away as Southeast Asia, you might be subject to foreign transaction fees when you use your card.

These fees can be pretty significant if you’re not using the right card. But what options do you have if you want to avoid fees, need access to funds, yet recognize that carrying cash on your travels is a terrible idea? Well, that’s where the right debit card can come in handy, especially if you choose one that doesn’t charge foreign transaction fees.

Best Debit Cards with No Foreign Transaction Fees

Whether you want to be able to shop online fee-free or you simply need access to cash whilst traveling, there are some great card options out there. By choosing one of the following debit cards, you can avoid foreign transaction fees no matter how you need to spend your money.

Capital One 360 Checking

This online bank offers one of the most enviable checking accounts around, which is chock-full of features. One of the features of the Capital One 360 Checking account is that there are no foreign transaction fees when you use your debit card.

Not only that, but the bank also won’t charge you a foreign currency conversion fee when you buy abroad, nor will they ping you for using a foreign ATM. They won’t, however, reimburse you if the owner of that ATM charges you a fee.

  • Monthly Fee: None
  • Minimum Deposit: $0
  • Minimum Monthly Balance: $0
  • Foreign Transaction Fees: None
  • Foreign ATM Fee: None
  • ATM Reimbursement: Not offered
  • Currency Conversion Fee: None

Varo Money

Taking the online bank one step further is Varo Money, an app-based bank that offers competitive accounts and no fees. Their checking account is free and never charges for foreign transactions.

  • Monthly Fee: None
  • Minimum Deposit: $0
  • Minimum Monthly Balance: $0
  • Foreign Transaction Fees: None
  • Foreign ATM Fee: None from Varo
  • ATM Reimbursement: Not offered
  • Currency Conversion Fee: None

Schwab Bank High Yield Investor Checking

If you want a bank account with a name you know and trust, look no further than Schwab’s High-Yield Investor Checking. Not only can you shop around the world without fees, you can also use ATMs (foreign and domestic) and enjoy unlimited ATM fee reimbursement.

  • Monthly Fee: None
  • Minimum Deposit: $0
  • Minimum Monthly Balance: $0 (if linked to a brokerage account)
  • Foreign Transaction Fees: None
  • Foreign ATM Fee: None
  • ATM Reimbursement: Unlimited reimbursements worldwide
  • Currency Conversion Fee: None

What Are Foreign Transaction Fees?

If you’ve ever bought something with a credit or debit card while abroad, you likely encountered the dreaded foreign transaction fee, sometimes referred to as an FX fee. These can also crop up when you buy something online from another country, even if you’re sitting in your own living room.

It is, after all, a fee for a “foreign transaction.” If the transaction passes through a foreign bank on its way to your bank–even if you request to be charged in U.S. dollars instead of the local currency–those fees are fair game. And they can add up quickly.

Foreign transaction fees cost cardholders, on average, 3% on top of their actual purchase amount. It breaks down into two separate parts. First is the fee charged by the credit card network (MasterCard, Visa, American Express, Discover), which usually runs 1%. Then, a second fee is often added by the actual issuer of the card (Chase, Citibank, etc.), which can be anywhere from 1% – 3% more.

If you’re traveling for an extended period of time and using your card daily for the purchase of tickets, food, transportation, and souvenirs, that could result in tens or even hundreds of dollars in added expense. If your network and issuer fees add up to 3% and you make a $250 purchase abroad, you’re spending an extra $7.50 just to pay.

There’s another downside to foreign transaction fees, too: even though they’re added to your credit card statement and you’ll pay them alongside your original transaction, you won’t earn cash back or rewards on them. These fees are simply more cash out of your pocket.

Debit Cards vs Credit Cards

There are a number of excellent reasons to travel with a credit card, or to use one when you’re buying online. Credit cards offer consumers a range of protections: if your card is compromised, you aren’t responsible for fraudulent charges. If you order an item or make a purchase and it’s not as described, arrives damaged, or isn’t received at all, your issuer will provide you with options for recourse.

This is especially true when traveling abroad. If your wallet is lost or stolen while away from home, you’re safer with a credit card than a debit card. Your issuer is able to not only lock your account but also expedite another card to you and reverse any fraudulent transactions that may have occurred. With a debit card, however, you could wind up on the hook for certain charges that aren’t your own, or your funds could be tied up while your bank sorts the fraud out.

However, there are still good reasons why you might want to find a debit card from a bank that doesn’t charge foreign transaction fees. First of all, you might want to use your debit card to make online purchases, which might pass through a foreign bank. If so, choosing the right debit card can help you avoid fees.

The other reason for choosing a travel-friendly debit card is that you may want access to cash while abroad. Credit cards will charge you a cash advance fee (and often, higher APRs) for doing so. However, your debit card will allow you to use foreign ATMs; with the right card, you won’t have to worry about extra charges to access your own cash.

Summary

Whether you are a seasoned jetsetter or just planning for potential travel, thinking ahead about foreign transaction fees is smart. This is especially true if you shop online, where fees can sneak up on you if you happen to make a purchase that passes through a foreign bank.

A credit card with no foreign transaction fees is great to have on-hand, but so is a debit card that can be used to get cash, no matter where you are in the world. By choosing the right bank, you’ll always have access to your money when you need it and you won’t have to pay high fees in the process.

Topics: Credit Cards

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