How to Avoid Paying ATM Fees Worldwide

“This bank charges a transaction fee of $5 for using this ATM. This charge is in addition to any fees that may be assessed by your financial institution. Are you sure you want to continue with the transaction?”

Seeing this message 2-3 times a week followed by an obligatory press of the “Yes” button can be debilitating and costly while on the road. Even in the States, going on vacation for a week or to a wedding out of town can result in ATM fees that add up over time. On top of the ATM fees, often times banks charge a fee for using an ATM from another institution outside of their network of banks. While abroad, most banks also charge a “foreign transaction fee” for withdrawing cash of 3-5%. We recently had to use our BofA card to withdraw $100 of cash, which cost us $112 in total with all the fees.

That $l*t just aint gonna work. Especially when most countries are cash economies and a lot people don’t even know what a credit card looks like.

Solution: Charles Schwab High Yield debit card

This card is freaking awesome. Not only do they not charge any ATM or foreign transaction fees, they will also reimburse you for any ATM fees charged by all other banks at the end of every month. That’s right, absolutely zero fees whatsoever anywhere in the world. In seven weeks of travel, we’ve saved close to $150 by using our Charles Schwab checking instead of Bank of America. You could probably get two nights at a Four Seasons around here with that kind of dough. It’s free to open an account and there is no minimum balance.

On top of all this, their customer service is spot on. Not some dude you can’t understand and has no idea what’s going on. 24/7 support from people in Denver who are smart and overly helpful. A few weeks ago, I was talking with a customer service rep via their chat option (since we can’t call them) and our WiFi got cut off at the guesthouse, not an irregular occurrence. A day later, I checked my email to find a detailed message from the customer service rep outlining way more than I needed to know about my questions.

We’ve had such a good experience with the Charles Schwab High Yield debit card that we will probably use it as our operating card when we get back to the States. You can’t beat the freedom of being able to use this thing anywhere with no fees. At the least we’ll use it as a backup and for trips away from home where we’d otherwise be charged ATM fees.

The ONLY drawback I can think of with this card is that it takes 3 business days from date of transfer for the funds to be “eligible” to be withdrawn so it’s best to give some leeway in between the transfers and when you’ll need to access the cash.

An added benefit of having no ATM fees is we don’t have to withdraw a bunch of money every time we go to the ATM in an effort to avoid the fees. It makes us feel safer not having to pull out $1,000 of cash to pay for a $2 tuk tuk in the street surrounded by locals we don’t know.

So get one of these things…and then buy us a beer with some of the $ you save when we get back.

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