Accessing your Money Abroad

Tracy Stewart, August 01, 2007
Fares from Washington DC:

    Q: In a previous Q&A you wrote that it's best to use at ATM when obtaining currency in a foreign country. However, you neglected to mention that US banks extract a 3% currency conversion fee, making the exchange rate less favorable. Also, some banks charge a flat fee for each ATM transaction.



    A: Actually, not all banks charge these fees, and those that do have fees as low as 1 percent. (Read the rest of the answer...)

    My bank, Commerce Bank ( http://www.commerceonline.com/), which operates in Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Florida, and Pennsylvania, charges no conversion fee and no per transaction ATM fees, either in the US or abroad (as their slogan says, friends don't let friends bank anywhere else).

    Here are some other major banks' policies:
    • Wells Fargo: conversion rate 0%; ATM fee: $5
    • Citigroup: conversion rate 3%; ATM fee $0
    • Bank of America: conversion rate 1%, ATM fee $5
    • Wachovia: conversion rate 2%, ATM fee $2
    • Washington Mutual: conversion rate 1%; ATM fee $3
    • HSBC: conversion rate 1%, ATM fee $1.50

    Another proviso is that the overseas bank may levy its own ATM fee. Some US banks will cover this fee as well, up to a limit; check with yours, shop around, and go with the best deal.
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