16. January 2019

How to get the lowest fees when withdrawing cash abroad

We all know it: on vacation, we don't want to turn every penny twice. A cappuccino here, a souvenir there and to celebrate the day a nice visit to a restaurant - and the first batch of cash is already gone. So off to the ATM. Unfortunately for you, all kinds of fees have been invented to make this a potential fee-trap. But you can avoid it, if you remember three things: use the ATM of a large bank, do not convert to CHF at the ATM and check the fees of your bank to make sure you're using the right card. But why?

1. Do check the ATM operator


Many ATMs charge a fixed fee per withdrawal, 5 to 10 CHF is not unusual. This is especially true for smaller banks or ATMs that do not belong to a bank but a private operator (e.g. often those in the corner of a supermarket). If possible, look for an ATM belonging to a large bank. This gives you the best chance of low (or even no) fixed fees.

2. Don't convert to CHF


Some ATMs offer you the option of converting the local currency immediately so that you can pay in your own currency. This sounds practical, but is often done using exchange rate that includes a surcharge of up to 10%. For comparison: if you use the local currency, your Swiss bank will convert using their exchange rate, which includes a surcharge of usually 1.5-3%. (The more exotic the currency, the higher the surcharge.) Withdrawing even 200 CHF, this can make a difference of up to 15 CHF.

3. Do check your bank fees

Fees may also be imposed by your bank or credit card issuer. They are sometimes a fixed amount (e.g. 5 CHF per withdrawal) or a percentage (2% of the total amount withdrawn). You can read more about this in another one of our posts, «Understanding bank fees abroad», but long story short: whether you use a debit card (e.g. Maestro) or a credit card (Mastercard, Visa) and whether you withdraw a small or large amount can often make a big difference.

What about neon?

Cash withdrawals abroad with our neon Mastercard always incur a 1.5% fee. No exchange rate surcharge - we give you the Mastercard-Reference exchange rate (0% bank fee). No matter the currency, the amount, whether it's during the week or at the weekend, it's always just the 1.5%. (That means Revolut is cheaper for the first 200 Euros per month.)

In short: check the fees of your own bank, choose the card with the lowest fees, withdraw at an ATM of a big bank and always use the local currency. And with those fees saved, perhaps enjoy a cappuccino or two.

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