How to Minimize Foreign Transaction and ATM Fees While Traveling

Minimize Atm Fees while travelling

Traveling to foreign destinations is an exciting adventure, but it often comes with additional costs, such as foreign transaction fees and ATM charges. As seasoned travelers, my husband and I have discovered some strategies to minimize these fees and keep more money in our pockets. In this blog post, we will share our tips on how to navigate foreign transaction fees and reduce ATM charges, ensuring a more budget-friendly travel experience.

We always like to do a little google before we arrive in each country. Sometimes it is better to exchange a couple dollars at the airport to get to your accommodation instead of using the ATM’S. Airport ATM’S almost always charge waaaay more than everywhere else in the country.

  1. Choose the Right Travel-Friendly Credit Cards: Before embarking on your journey, research credit cards that offer favorable terms for international transactions. Look for cards with no foreign transaction fees, as this can save you a significant amount of money. Additionally, consider credit cards that offer travel rewards or cashback on purchases, further offsetting your expenses. We elected to get a credit card that had no foreign transaction fees and used this whenever possible. If you bank offers it (ours did not) get a credit card that has no foreign cash advance fee. We found the rate for an atm withdrawl using visa was often very good but the cash advance fee negated the benefit
  2. Have 2 different types of bank cards.
    Notify Your Bank and Credit Card Companies: This is no longer super relevant as they all seem to have moved to their “smart fraud detection” We highly recommed having at least 2 different banks you can use. Our cards ended up on hold or just straight up didnt work in so many areas it was crazy. In some parts of the world visa barely functions and mastercard is preffered or vice versa. After the Russian Ukraine conflict purchasing flights and hotels with North American credit cards can be a real issue in the east. Plan ahead for this in Uzbekistan it took us about 3 days to buy a flight we needed having to call our banks back and forth.
  3. Research Local Banks and ATM Networks: Research the local banks and ATM networks in your destination country. Some banks offer partnerships with international networks, allowing you to withdraw cash with minimal or no fees. Sometimes you can use this to minimize withdrawl costs. HSSBC seemed to have a lot of atms in asia. We also noticed that atms seemed to have wildely different charges for transactions. Its good to look this up first to avoid nasty suprises.
  4. Optimize Withdrawal Amounts: When withdrawing cash from ATMs, consider making larger, infrequent withdrawals rather than multiple smaller transactions. ATM fees are often charged per transaction, so withdrawing a larger sum reduces the overall fee percentage. However, be mindful of safety precautions and only withdraw an amount you’re comfortable carrying.
  5. ATM withdrawl types – Never choose the atm offered conversion rate. Always press no to this option. We stopped and figured some out in Bali just to see the difference and if you selected the machines exchange rate the difference on a 200$ withdrawl could be and extra 15$.
  6. This is the same for the currency coversion option on card purchases. You always want to choose to charge in local currency. When you choose to pay in your home currency the machine dings on an extra percentage so it doesnt look like a foreign transaction at home. This rate when you choose to pay in your home currency is almost always worse. Most small shop will pick their local currency on but sometimes they will ask you your preference.
  7. Explore Prepaid Travel Cards: Prepaid travel cards are a convenient alternative to cash and credit cards. These cards can be loaded with foreign currency before your trip, allowing you to lock in exchange rates and avoid unfavorable conversion fees. Compare the fees associated
  8. Bring cash for two reason. First we always made sure to have a couple hundred dollars in good quality american dollars or euros whenever we went. Its great to have as a safety net in case any of these issues happen to you.
    Second some countries have very exspensive banking systems but great currency exchanges. Looking at you Indonesia, Thailand, and the Balkans. The ATM fees were so high in these placed you could loose up to 10% per ATM withdrawl in addition to the ATM fee. Thailand charged 250 baht or 8USD in most ATM’S as well as a percentage. Despite the ATM’S being a horrible deal the currency exchanges in banks were very close to the online rates and were a great option. However, DO NOT DO THIS this in AIRPORTS OR BUS STATIONS, they are the exception.