Credit cards without foreign-exchange fees

A stack of credit cards

Credit cards. Photo: Andres Rueda / Flickr Creative Commons

They’re the bane of long-term vagabonders: those irritating fees for foreign currencies and doing transactions while abroad. Hitting up an ATM or paying with a credit card can trigger charges you may not have expected. This can smear the memory of a great trip.

The New York Times Bucks blog had a post about 3 Credit Cards without Transaction Fees. For more great tips, check out the reader comments to see what other people recommend.

Capital One was a lightning rod in the comment thread. Some praised the company, others complained about them. TD bank was new to me, since they’re a Canadian company.

The suggestion that really came out of left field was the Pentagon Federal Credit Union. It never even occurred to me that non-military people would be eligible for membership. Apparently, you can join a nonprofit troop support group for US$15, then become a member of the Pentagon credit union. However, being affiliated with the military might clash with some people’s beliefs.

In a past article, I remember readers saying Charles Schwab offers debit cards with no ATM fees, and that it will refund any foreign ATM fees that are charged. Can anyone confirm this? The downside is that they’re a brokerage firm, so they don’t have the wide network of branches that other banks have.

I’d also love to hear from our readers about this. Have you developed any great strategies for beating the fees? Please share your tips and tricks in the comments.

Posted by | Comments (1)  | November 19, 2010
Category: Expat Life, Money Management, Travel News

One Response to “Credit cards without foreign-exchange fees”

  1. Elena Says:

    I have used a Charles Schwab debit card since a trip to SouthEast Asia in 2000. I highly recommend their service. They are not just a brokerage firm; they also have an investment bank. If you do not want to use them solely, you can arrange to transfer money from your primary bank into an account at Schwab bank over the internet while traveling. You can then take out money at any ATM worldwide (that is if the country has a reliable ATM system.) If the machine charges you a fee, just press Accept. It will later be refunded by Schwab. Since you will receive money in the currency of the country you are in, you will also save money-changing fees and not be at the mercy of street money changers. I’ve used Schwab in 6 countries in SE Asia, New Zealand, and 10 countries in South/Central America.

    Do ask around when you arrive for limits on withdrawal amounts or varying monetary practices. In Buenos Aires, the machines usually ran out of money on Fridays. Indonesia was also sometimes difficult before a weekend or major holiday. Oh, and in Indonesia, if you have American dollars, they must be new. They won’t take crumpled money.

    If you have difficulties with your account, you can call Schwab collect and they will help you. I called them from France and they were great.