If there was one thing I learned after traveling overseas, it’s to be cautious of foreign transaction fees.
What many people don’t realize is that for using your debit/credit card overseas, a lot of banks charge transaction fees. And if you eat out, purchase a lot, withdraw from an ATM overseas, you will find out quickly that the fees can add up to more than what you have expected.
And when you come back home and look at your bank account, you realize that somehow, you amassed hundreds or possibly over a thousand dollars in fees.
Some people may set aside money just in case they have transaction fees that total that much, others go with a foreign bank and obtain a card that doesn’t charge foreign transaction fees.
When I traveled as a college student, I always stayed within a fixed amount, which I withdrew. As I got older, you tend to make more (sometimes more expensive) purchases which require the use of a card. But in hindsight, I should have been proactive of taking more out and not use the card at all, unless I really had to withdraw money. But it was no doubt a lesson learned.
Many debit/credit cards do charge a fee and for those that do not charge a fee, some require a purchase of a thousand dollars on the card. So, you really need to do your research, as you may find a card without any foreign travel fees incurred.
Personally, if you are living in the U.S., the best alternative is the Charles Schwab High Yield Checking Account. No monthly fee, no minimum dollar amount and no foreign transaction fees.
Here are a few sites with tips on how to prevent the foreign transaction fees: