Are you wanting to save money on international ATM and foreign transaction fees? I know the feeling.
Credit cards and digital wallets are unreliable payment methods in many parts of the world. So, having a debit card to use abroad is vital for taking out cold hard cash.
But not all debit cards are equal.
I’ll help you sort through the best debit cards for international travel. I’ve picked these cards using several criteria, from no foreign transaction fees to ATM-friendly terms.
Popular reading: The Best Debit Card for Travel.
In a world where the Internet teems with influencers accepting sponsorships, it’s worth throwing this out there: I’m not receiving a penny, peso, or any other currency or perk for writing this post.
I also haven’t used all of these debit cards myself.
But I’ve done due diligence in speaking with other travelers and assessing each company on this list to feel comfortable presenting you to them as options.
An Overview of the Best International Debit Cards
Short on time? The chart below cuts to the chase on the must-knows of each debit card I’ll cover.
|Charles Schwab Visa Platinum Debit Card
|Americans traveling internationally
|SoFi Debit Card
|High APY (3.25%)
|Betterment Debit Card
|Cool perks (cell phone insurance, cashback rewards)
|Capital One Debit Card
|Early ACH deposits
|Wise Debit Card
|Using multiple currencies
|Chime Debit Card
|Avoiding credit checks
|Yotta Debit Card
What to Consider When Choosing a Debit Card
Picking the best-fit debit card for travel looks differently than a card to use in your home town.
Below are some key items to look for:
- No foreign transaction fees
- Fee-free or low fee ATM withdrawals
- Zero liability (protects you from fraud)
- Backed by a major issuer (Visa, Mastercard, etc.)
A bank’s annual percentage yield (APY) offer is another factor you might want to consider.
In either case, you’ll need to open a checking account to receive a debit card with whichever bank you choose. Although checking accounts offer notoriously low APYs, some companies have made strides to change this, offering more enticing APYs.
But even the relatively high APYs won’t make you rich, and you’ll need to keep a substantial amount of money in your account to receive any notable amount of money. However, a few extra dollars here and there can go far in many countries.
The Global ATM Alliance
Although many banks still have tight regulations around which ATMs their customers can use without fees, the Global ATM Alliance is changing this.
Banks that partner with the Global ATM Alliance allow their customers to withdraw money at in-network ATMs across the globe without fees.
Several of the debit cards I’ll be recommending are part of the Global ATM Alliance, with some offering more ATM choices than others.
7 Top Debit Cards to Use Abroad
1. Charles Schwab Visa Platinum Debit Card
Best for: Americans traveling internationally
I’ve been the happy owner of a Schwab debit card since 2018. In my opinion, Schwab’s Platinum debit card is the best choice currently on the market for Americans who travel abroad.
And, no, Schwab isn’t paying me to say this. I just truly love how much they’ve saved me in fees when traveling.
Schwab offers an outstanding ATM rebate program. As long as you withdraw money from one of their 1+ million partner ATMs, they’ll refund you 100% of the ATM fees you pay.
Best of all, you don’t need to jump through hoops to receive the rebate. Simply log into your checking account on the last business day of the month, and you’ll see your rebate.
In addition to fee-free ATM withdrawals, the Schwab debit card also comes with zero transaction fees and no minimum balance requirements.
However, transferring money via the Charles Schwab mobile app takes several business days, meaning you’ll need to plan accordingly if you want to deposit or withdraw money.
If you’re interested in learning more about how the Schwab debit card operates, check out my article on the Schwab Debit Card for Travel. And because no bank is perfect, I put together a guide on 21 pros and cons of using Schwab’s debit card.
2. SoFi Debit Card
Best for: High APY
It’s hard to beat SoFi’s offer if you’re looking for a debit card to use abroad that’ll also yield a decent return on the money you keep in your checking account—they offer a 3.25% APY.
Furthermore, SoFi prides itself on its fee-free approach, given that it’s a 100% online bank.
You’ll pay zero fees for items that traditional banks usually hound their customers for, including:
- Monthly maintenance
- Wire transfers
The biggest downside to SoFi is that they have a maximum withdrawal limit of $1,000 per day.
Like Schwab, it’s also impossible to deposit cash at an ATM. So, if you have cash that you want to put into your account, you’ll need to convert it to a check.
3. Betterment Debit Card
Best for: Cool perks
Betterment knows the competition is fierce in the international debit card space.
So, they offer great bonuses for their customers, including cellphone insurance if you pay your phone bill with your debit card and cashback rewards.
Of course, places like Dunkin’ might not be at the top of your list when you’ll have new cuisines to try abroad. But cashback rewards can still add up when you’re home taking a break from traveling.
Betterment offers among the best debit card for overseas travel because they reimburse all ATM fees.
They also offer a 3.20% APY that’s nearly on par with SoFi.
However, you won’t be able to withdraw more than $500 at a time with your Betterment debit card. They also don’t offer the option to send wire transfers or write checks.
4. Capital One Debit Card
Best for: Early ACH deposits
If you’re searching for debit cards to use abroad that come with the backing of a traditional brick-and-mortar bank, Capital One is an excellent option.
Capital One’s debit card has zero transaction fees, and they’re part of an alliance that’ll grant you access to 70,000+ ATMs across the globe.
However, 70,000 fee-free ATMs is a small number compared to many other options on this list. So, if you travel to a specific destination frequently, it’s worth checking that they have a compatible ATM before signing up with Capital One.
A great perk about using a Capital One debit card is that they often deposit paychecks two days earlier than other banks.
So, you’ll have your hard-earned money faster when traveling.
If you’ll be using a debit card overseas to perform wire transfers, it’s best to look elsewhere, though. Capital One doesn’t offer international wire services, and they charge a massive $40 fee for domestic wires.
5. Wise Debit Card
Best for: Using multiple currencies
If you’re looking for the best debit card to use abroad that’ll allow you to store multiple currencies in your checking account, Wise fits the bill.
Not only will you be able to choose among 50+ currencies to hold in your account, but you can also connect up to five bank accounts.
Furthermore, Wise prides itself on finding the lowest rate for currency conversions when you use your debit card abroad.
That said, Wise isn’t a “wise” choice if you plan to withdraw a lot of money from an ATM.
They allow customers to take out $100 twice per month. If you need to withdraw money beyond that, Wise charges $1.50 per ATM transaction or 2% over $100.
They also don’t offer an APY on the money you store in your account. But on the positive side, they don’t have a minimum balance policy.
6. Chime Debit Card
Best for: People wanting to avoid credit checks
If you’re on the brink of applying for a mortgage or are working on getting your credit score in better shape, Chime won’t put you through a credit check like many banks.
They also have other customer-friendly policies in place, including:
- No overdraft fees
- No minimum opening deposit
- No monthly service fee
Furthermore, the over 60,000 fee-free ATMs Wise has partnered with around the globe makes them among the best debit card to use abroad.
That said, should you use an ATM that isn’t in-network, Chime charges a flat $2.50 fee on top of the ATM provider’s fees.
7. Yotta Debit Card
Best for: Cryptocurrency enthusiasts
Of all the debit cards to use abroad on this list, Yotta is the most unconventional. And that’s a good thing for the right customer.
For starters, you must open a savings account with Yotta before you can become eligible for a checking account (and thus, receive a debit card).
Once you’re the proud owner of a Yotta debit card, they’ll put you into their lottery ticket system whenever you use your debit card or make a deposit.
Yotta is also cryptocurrency-centered, offering its clients the option to deposit money into a stablecoin Crypto Bucket.
You’ll pay zero ATM fees by using your Yotta debit card abroad, and they uphold a no foreign transaction fee policy.
However, despite the potential Yotta prizes you can win, they offer a low APY of only 0.2%.
Do You Need a Debit Card Abroad?
Having a debit card abroad is vital. I’ve experienced many situations where my credit card was denied, requiring me to use my debit card to pay a merchant or take cash out of an ATM.
Furthermore, many developing countries rely on cash as a primary payment method. A cash-dependent economy is practically a given if you’re traveling around smaller towns in such regions.
So, regardless of the best debit card for overseas travel you choose, the important thing is that you have a debit card for your trip.
Tips for Using a Debit Card Abroad
Now that you have a feel for the great debit cards to use abroad, below are some items to keep in mind before you travel.
1. Notify your bank
It’s always best practice to notify your bank before you travel. Doing so lowers the chances of them cutting off access to your debit card when they see an overseas transaction.
Should your bank pause your debit card transactions, there’s no need to panic. You just need to contact them to let them know you made the transaction they flagged (assuming it wasn’t fraud, of course).
2. Don’t Accept the ATM’s Exchange Rate
ATMs charge an outrageously high exchange rate. Luckily, most ATMs abroad will ask whether you want to accept or decline their exchange rate conversion.
Don’t bother pulling out your calculator—always choose “decline.”
Your bank will then run a conversion for you that’s fairer, and you’ll be able to immediately see what amount they charged by logging into your checking account.
3. Download the Bank’s App
Having quick access to your checking account is vital when you’re traveling abroad. So, download your bank’s app, which will let you check your balance, transfer money, and more.
Most banks offer excellent app security, complete with 2-factor and biometric authentications.
4. Carry Emergency Money
It would be impossible to count how many times I needed to fall back on an emergency stash of cash while traveling. Credit card/debit card machines and ATMs don’t always work.
So, I like to keep a combination of local currency and USD at my accommodation in case of an emergency.
The USD is helpful because it’s pretty much universally accepted, so I don’t feel like I need to use it up before leaving a country.
5. Have a Backup
To expand upon having cash as emergency money, it’s also wise to have other backup options. Some of the best backups if your debit card isn’t working abroad include:
- Credit card
- Second debit card
- Prepaid debit card
Traveler’s checks could also be an option. But I’ve found that many banks abroad no longer accept them, so it’s best to use alternative methods.
6. Don’t Use Your Card at Merchants
Whether you’re home or abroad, it’s always best practice to pay merchants with a credit card. That’s because if fraud is at play, you lose your money with a debit card.
In contrast, if fraud happens to your credit card, it doesn’t affect your bank account; the credit card company gets hit, not you.
The Bottom Line
I hope this list of debit cards to use abroad has helped you narrow down a good fit. Using a debit card overseas is mostly the same as in your home country; it’s just the nuances of foreign transaction and ATM fees that make the difference.
If you’ve used a debit card overseas, I’d love to hear about your experience in the comments section. What card do you recommend? Are there any tips you’d add to those I shared here?
P.S.—If you’re in the market to overhaul your banking, check out my guide on the Best Bank for Digital Nomads. Also, don’t forget to check out my guide on the Charles Schwab Debit Card for fee-free ATM withdrawals abroad.