Avoid ATM and Foreign Transaction Fees with These Travel-Friendly Cards

A woman traveling to Italy sits on a rock overlooking a city.
Getty Images
Advertising disclosure: Some of the links in this post are from our sponsors. We provide you with accurate, reliable information. Note: Some of offers in this post may have expired since posting  Learn more about how we make money and select our advertising partners.

You planned your international trip down to the last detail. From bargain hotels to discounted museum passes, you made the most of every dollar.

But after returning home, you discovered a whole bunch of unanticipated charges on your credit and debit card bills. Foreign transaction fees? Currency conversion fees? Out-of-network ATM fees?

Though most banks charge a smorgasbord of fees when you use their cards abroad, they’re still never pleasant to come home to.

What if I told you I haven’t paid a foreign transaction fee in years? That my debit card reimburses me for ATM fees charged by other banks?

You’d probably be pretty curious, right?

Below, I reveal the cards I use for international travel — cards that will save you lots of money on your next trip.

The Best No-Foreign-Transaction-Fee Credit Cards for International Travel

Though it used to be tough to find credit cards without foreign transaction fees, more and more are popping up.

Since credit cards usually get you the best currency exchange rate (and in many cases, earn you rewards), they’re the payment method I use most while traveling abroad.

Here are four of my favorite no-foreign-transaction-fee credit cards:

1. If You Have Limited Credit History…

Try the Capital One Platinum Credit Card.

Though it doesn’t come with any rewards, it’s an excellent starter card for a student or newbie credit card user. It has no annual fee, and if used responsibly, is a great way to build your credit.

2. If You Want Simple Cash-Back Rewards…

Check out the Capital One Quicksilver Cash Rewards Credit Card.

This card is a great choice because it has no annual fee and offers straightforward cash-back rewards. You’ll earn 1.5% cash back on every purchase, along with a one-time $100 bonus if you spend $500 in the first three months.

3. If You Want to Travel for Free…

I love the Chase Sapphire Preferred Credit Card.

This card offers a sign-up bonus of 50,000 Ultimate Rewards points when you spend $4,000 in the first three months. (Don’t usually spend that much? Here are some creative ways to meet minimum spending requirements.)

These points are super valuable, because you can transfer them at a 1:1 ratio to 10 different hotel and airline partners.

In addition to the sign-up bonus, you’ll earn two points per dollar spent on travel and dining, and one point per dollar on everything else. The annual fee is waived for the first year, and is $95 per year thereafter.

The Best Fee-Free Debit Card for International Travel

Gone are the days of traveler’s checks and wire transfers. Today, most people use debit cards to access cash while they’re in foreign countries.

Only the smartest travelers, however, use a debit card that doesn’t charge them every time they withdraw from an out-of-network ATM.

And here it is:

The Charles Schwab Debit Card.

For international travelers, no other debit cards compare; I honestly don’t know what I’d do without it. It’s perfect for traveling.

There are no ATM fees (no matter what ATM you use), no foreign transaction fees and no monthly fees. As if that weren’t enough, Schwab also reimburses you for fees charged by other ATMs. (Like this idea? Click to tweet it!)

Here are some further tips for using your debit card in a foreign country:

  • Always withdraw cash in the local currency — you’ll get a better exchange rate.
  • For the best rates, use ATMs at banks, not in convenience stores or hotels.
  • Try not to exchange money, especially not at the airport. You’ll get much better rates with your credit or debit card.

Bank fees are the last thing you want to worry about while on an amazing trip abroad.

By using the cards and tips above, you’ll be able to use your hard-earned money for more important things, like guided tours, souvenirs or mai tais — whatever tickles your fancy!

Your Turn: Do you use credit or debit cards while you travel? Which are your favorites?

Advertiser Disclosure: Many of the credit card offers that appear on this site are from credit card companies from which ThePennyHoarder.com receives compensation. This compensation may impact how and where products appear on this site (including, for example, the order in which they appear). We do not feature all available credit card offers or all credit card issuers.

Susan Shain, senior writer for The Penny Hoarder, is always seeking adventure on a budget. Visit her blog at susanshain.com, or say hi on Twitter @susan_shain.