As the holidays approach some of us may be planning a vacation.  Along with our travel accommodations, it is important to research banking options for travellers.  If we choose to use our debit card or credit card as a form of payment; it is important to know what banking options are available to us as we travel abroad.

Many countries, especially in Europe, also use the chip and pin technology and therefore our VISA, MasterCard’s, and Debit Cards will be accepted at any ABM or Local Bank Branch where we see the Cirrus or Plus system symbols.  We should be aware that withdrawing cash or using our credit card as a form of payment abroad could be costly.

 When we pay for our purchases with our VISA or MasterCard (or any credit card) our transaction is charged at the foreign exchange rate of VISA or MasterCard on that day.  Most financial institutions and credit card companies also charge a foreign transaction fee of 2.5% of the total amount of the transaction.  These are fees that cannot be waived or avoided.

Just as the case in North America, many foreign financial institutions charge an ATM fee for people who withdraw cash from their ATM, but who are not clients of their bank.  Very often is the case that our own financial institution will also charge us a fee (i.e. $2.00) to withdraw money from another financial institutions ATM.  The fee is even higher for withdrawals from foreign financial institutions. A standard $5 fee usually applies for withdrawals from a foreign financial institutions ATM.

These ABM fees can be waived if your financial institution is a member of the Global ATM Alliance.  Of course all account level transaction fees apply, but the actual ATM machine transactions and accessing fees from foreign ATMs will be waived. 

The Global ATM Alliance is a partnership between 6 major international financial institutions that allows clients to save on excessive ATM fees while travelling abroad. Bank of America, Scotia Bank, BNP Paribas, Barclays, Deutsche Bank, and Westpac are the 6 major international financial institutions that form the Global ATM Alliance.  The Alliance offers access to over 35,000 ATMs in over 40 different countries.

The Bank of America offers access to 18,000 ATMs in the United States of America. 

Scotia Bank offers 2900 ATMs in Canada, as well as several ATMs throughout the Caribbean, Chile, Guyana, Peru, and Mexico.

BNP Paribas is the National Bank of Paris and they offer access to 3650 ATMs in France, 1900 in Italy and 600 ATMs in Ukraine. 

Barclays is a well known financial institution in the UK.  They offer access to 3800 ATMs in the UK, as well as many more ATMs in Gibraltar, Spain, France, and the Bahamas.  They also have over 190 ATMs throughout Africa including Kenya, Uganda, and Zimbabwe.

Deutsche Bank offers access to over 2600 ATMs in Germany, Poland, India, and Spain.

Westpac offers over 2100 ATMs in Australia, New Zealand, and throughout the South Pacific.

Before you leave on your next vacation, visit your financial institutions website to learn more about banking options while travelling abroad….it could save you a fortune in foreign ATM fees.

Tahnya Kristina

Tahnya Kristina

Tahnya is 30 years old and lives in Montreal Quebec. She graduated in 2005 from Concordia University, and she currently works for a major International Financial Institution. She recently launched You can follow her on Twitter @TahnyaP.