ATM fees abroad: All charges to use cards at ATMs abroad detailed

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man learning atm fees and charges abroad

Are you taking off on your international holiday and wondering if ATMs abroad have any charges to use them? Or did you just come back from a foreign trip and find your bank statement have a whole bunch extra money taken from your account? Then the chances are when you were abroad, an ATM or your bank charged you some form of “fees”! Read on to find out the various ATM Fees abroad to use your debit or credit card to withdraw cash in a foreign country.

The four types ATM fees abroad

ATM withdrawals abroad can have four types of fees for you: 

  1. Two fees from the ATM side – ATM Usage Fee and Currency Conversion Fee
  2. Two fees from your bank side – Foreign Transaction Fee and Currency Conversion Fee (Forex Mark-up Fee).
types of atm fees and charges abroad for cash withdrawal

1. Fees from the ATM itself

1.1 The ATM abroad has an “ATM usage fee”

In many countries, ATMs charge foreign card holders (debit card or credit card) a fee to use its cash withdrawal service. This is called an “ATM usage fee” or simply “ATM fee.” E.g.:

  • You withdraw = 1,000
  • ATM Fee = 5
  • Your account balance reduces for = 1,000 + 5 = 1,005.
ATM owners collect this ATM Fee. The ATM owner is usually a local bank or an independent ATM operator. 
bancolombia atm fees abroad for foreign card holders
An ATM in Colombia displaying the ATM Fee

1.2 The ATM abroad has an optional “Dynamic Currency Conversion fee”

Currency Conversion fee sounds complicated. It’s actually pretty simple. It is a fee that the foreign ATM will charge, if you withdraw cash, at the ATM’s fixed exchange rate

Let’s decode this. Say you’re from UK. You tell a foreign ATM, “I have money in my account in British Pound (GBP or £). Can you give me money here in Colombian Pesos (COP or C$) – 100,000 COP . This conversion from £ to C$ is an “exchange of currency” and is done at a “currency exchange rate.”

So now you have 2 options, Use the currency exchange rate (1) set by the ATM or (2) set by your own card. These 2 options are offered by the foreign ATM on the ATM screen as “Accept Conversion” / “With Conversion” or “Decline Conversion” / “Without Conversion”. This means:

  • Accept Conversion: You want to withdraw money at this ATM’s set exchange rate. In our example, the ATM, at its own exchange rate, will give you 4,707 Colombian Pesos for every £1, so 100,000 Colombian Pesos for £25.11. That is a margin or “extra fee” or 6.5%!

  • Decline Conversion: You want to withdraw the money at the exchange rate set your own card i.e. by Visa, Mastercard, or logo on your card. The ATM will follow the exchange rate fixed by Visa and will give you 5,077 Colombian Pesos for every £1, so 100,000 Colombian Pesos for only £19.99.

servibanca atm fees abroad conversion for foreign card holders
ATM in Colombia displaying Currency Conversion option to a UK card holder

Which is better - Accept Conversion or Decline Conversion?

When it comes to ATM fees abroad, in most cases, choosing “Decline Conversion” or “Without Conversion” and using your own card’s exchange rate is better. That’s because the ATM’s set currency exchange rate, charged when you Accept Conversion, comes with higher fees. In our example, it has 6.5% extra fees for you. 

You should check your card’s fees for currency exchange (explained below) and take the decision of which fees are lesser and choose the option accordingly.

2. Fees from your bank or card company

2.1 Your bank or card company has a Foreign Transaction fee

To use your card abroad for cash withdrawal, your bank may also charge a fee. This fee is generally called a Foreign Transaction Fee. E.g., Your card was issued by a UK bank. You use it at an ATM in Thailand. Your UK bank can charge you a Foreign Transaction fee to use your card in Thailand at an ATM. This fee can also be called “cash fee.” E.g.,

  • You withdraw =100
  • Foreign Transaction Fee = 1.50
  • Your account balance will reduce for = 100 + 1.5 = 101.50.
HSBC UK's foreign transaction fee for atm withdrawal abroad
A UK bank showing how much it charges to use its card abroad for cash withdrawal

2.2 Your bank has a Currency Conversion Fee (Forex mark-up fee)

Your bank or card company may charge one more fee – A Currency Conversion Fee or Forex Mark-Up Fee. A fee to convert the currency of your account money into the local currency in which you want cash. E.g., If you use your UK card at an ATM in Mexico, you’re withdrawing British Pounds in Mexican Pesos. For this, your bank may charge you this type of fee. E.g.:

  • You withdraw = 100
  • Forex mark-up fee = 2.99% of the withdrawal amount
  • Your account balance will reduce for = 100 + 2.99 = 102.99
hsbc uk's currency conversion fee for atm withdrawals abroad
A UK bank's website showing its forex mark-up fee for cash withdrawal overseas

Do all ATMs abroad have fees and charges for foreign card holders?

When it comes to ATM fees abroad, the simple answer is that some foreign ATMs do not have ATM Fees and some charge at least some ATM Fees.

With regards to Currency Conversion Fees, most foreign ATMs offer the option of Currency Conversion Fees, it is up to the user to Accept or Decline conversion and bear the extra fees. Only a handful of ATMs in the world have this compulsory i.e. If you Decline Conversion, it will not give you any cash. 

Do all banks and card companies charge fees to its own card holders to use the card abroad?

Again, the answer is no. There are many banks and card companies that offer cards without any fees to use the card abroad. 

It takes a little bit of research to find out if there are such banks and card companies in your country. But it’s worth spending time to find the most cost-efficient card for international use. Read more on how you can do this here – Withdrawing cash abroad? 9 best ways to save foreign ATM fees

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