How to Access International ATMs

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20 Pound Sterling NoteMy wife and I still use Bank of America as our primary checking account and I called them the other day to let them know we’d be traveling and how we might be using our debit card abroad. I don’t plan on using it (we have a Capital One card for purchases) but I wanted to ask them about using ATMs abroad.

The past few days I’ve been researching the best way to exchange money, trying to keep the fees low and the accessibility high. I’ve discussed things with my friends over there and the consensus was that ATM was probably the best way. Between ATM access and us simply paying with our 0% transaction fee Capital One card, we should be paying as little in fees as possible.

Global ATM Alliance

It turns out that Bank of America has partnered with a few international banks to form their “Global ATM Alliance.” When we use a Global ATM Alliance ATM, we avoid a $5 access fee. If we use any old ATM, we would be assessed a $5 access fee. Otherwise, ATM transactions incur a 1% transaction fee to cover the exchange of currency.

Here are the partners in the Global ATM Alliance:

  • Barclays (United Kingdom)
  • BNP Paribas (France)
  • China Construction Bank (China)
  • Deutsche Bank: (Germany)
  • Satander Serfin (Mexico)
  • Scotiabank (Canada)
  • Westpac (Australia and New Zealand)

Call Your Bank

If you’re traveling abroad, call your bank to see what your international options are. I should have done this from the start, rather than poke around and waste time researching the best option. One simple phone call would’ve yielded the simple advice of “Try to find a Barclays, you can use their ATMs.” The 1% transaction fee, which covers the currency exchange, is probably the leanest you’ll ever find. You will always have to pay a fee to exchange money and it’s either listed as a fee or integrated into an exchange rate that doesn’t match the prevailing rate (this is how credit cards used to “hide” the currency transaction fee and the reasoning behind the foreign transaction fee lawsuit).

Time to pack for London!

(Photo: funkypancake)

{ 11 comments, please add your thoughts now! }

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11 Responses to “How to Access International ATMs”

  1. Scott says:

    Hmm, I’ve never seen a fee (not even 1%) when using my BofA card inside the Global ATM Alliance in the UK, Germany, or China. But maybe it was built into the exchange rate, although I thought I was getting a pretty good rate while I was there (not that 1% really shows up that much). And if I used a non-alliance ATM I would see two fees hit my checking account ($5 plus 1%) but saw no fees hit when using an alliance ATM. Regardless, 1% (worst case) is really good.

    As a quick addon to what Jim wrote above, it should be noted that while certain alliance banks like Scotiabank have ATMs in many countries, only the ATMs in Canada qualify for no fees (the alliance is specific to the countries listed).

  2. Chris says:

    While in Vienna, Prague and Budapest I was able to use none of the above partners, I have BOA, and the key was to make sure you know whether to take out cash and pay the ATM/exchange fee, or to use your credit card and pay that exchange fee.

    Lots of basic math comes in handy.

  3. Phil says:

    I’m in London right now for 6 months and don’t have BoA. I had Commerce Bank which was bought by TD Bank. Neither Commerce or TD has ever charged any fees and checking the exchange rates online it seems to be %.5 or less from the previous day rates.

    Sadly, some of the ATMs charge fees. Barclay’s or any other bank generally won’t but the street corner ATMs can charge up to $10.

    Because of my length of time I now have a Barclay’s account but their charges are horrible. Even in the Global Alliance they can charge 3-5%, outside they charge even more. They do have amazing interest rates though, anywhere from 3.5-5%.

  4. Elyssa says:

    I lived in Australia and used my BofA debit card constantly with the Westpac Alliance. I avoided all ATM fees and the 1% fee was barely noticed. It’s important to look up ATM locations in the vicinity of your hotel, because if it is not easily accessible this another key factor to the amount taken out.

  5. jim says:

    We’ll be staying with friends and they said they have Barclays ATMs nearby.

  6. Eric N. says:

    Yeah I never saw the 1% explicitly so it must have been built into the exchange rate. Regardless it came in handy immensely in Australia. 🙂

  7. Gates VP says:

    For anyone planning to visit Canada, there are like 5 banks. Scotiabank and TD (Toronto Dominion) are available pretty much everywhere. As are the other 3: Bank of Montreal (BMO), Royal Bank (RBC) and Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce (CIBC).

    With so few banks, they all tend to cluster in major commercial regions, so if you have access to one while visiting Canada you’ll be just fine.

  8. If you can get an account at USAA (requires some military connection usually), I highly recommend it. We go to any country and never worry about International ATMs or fees associated with them.

  9. AverageJoe says:

    Very Important–Always tell your bank when and where you are traveling, so the fraud department doesn’t cancel your card for “suspicious activity”

    And I can vouch for TD Bank’s policy–First, they absorb the 1% currency exchange fee, do NOT pass it on to the customer. Second, they also DO NOT charge a fee to their cardholder for accessing a non-TD ATM. Third, if your account has a minimum daily balance of $2,500…they will REFUND your foreign ATM fees charged by the banks that own the ATMs you’ve used throughout the month.

    Hard to beat that deal……..

  10. shirley robinson says:

    I am going to south africa. Is there a Barclays atm machine there? Or who could I use to get best rates?

  11. Lachma Balanin says:

    Forget about calling I went to a Scotiabank branck in Brampton at Hurontario and Ray Lawson and asked the attendant there and she was most useless- didn’t know a sweet goose egg
    about ATM global alliance program- best to do your own digging around and then go accost the people working in the branch.

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