Negative Changes to BOA Debit Cards and the Global ATM Alliance - Points Miles and Martinis


One of our older posts on how to take out money free internationally using a Bank of America debit card with the Global ATM Alliance has received a flurry of comments lately from readers across the globe sharing that they are now being charged a 3% on all transactions.

Interestingly the Global ATM Alliance wiki page has always stated the Bank of America debit card would incur a 3% fee on international transactions when using ATMs from banks in the Global ATM Alliance though for years that was never the case.  I used my card around the globe never once incurring a 3% fee.

Unfortunately it appears that has ended.  Readers are reporting that as of November 8th, 2013 the 3% fee will apply to all transactions at ATM’s within the Global ATM Alliance.  The only ‘savings’ you now receive is the 5 USD non Bank of America ATM fee.  How generous.

The Global ATM Alliance fee waiver was the only reason I held on to this debit product.  I don’t see any benefit to maintaining this debit card product going forward.  Previously I had recommended this card as one of the best three debit products for international travelers.  Now my list is shortened to two products.

Capital One 360 Checking (Formerly ING Direct Electric Orange)

For years I have been using a no-fee ING Direct Electric Orange checking account as my primary checking account which includes the ability to mail checks electronically and an ING Direct debit MasterCard. I don’t have the same motivation to jump around checking accounts for promotions and signup bonuses as I do with credit cards because of the higher switching costs (time!) involved. ING Direct (and now Capital One) has been good to me so I stick with them.

As part of a restructuring agreement of the Dutch financial behemoth ING Group, the company was forced to sell off ING Direct which was picked up by Capital One. One of the very first changes Capital One announced to its customers was that as of November 1st, 2012, the Capital One 360 debit card no longer charges any Foreign Transaction Fees. This used to be around 3% charge so for me this is a nice savings. The elimination of foreign transaction fees on the debit card means Capital One won’t charge a percentage of the total a customer takes out of the ATM abroad though the ATM itself may issue a surcharge which is generally a flat fee.

If you are in the market for a No Foreign Transaction Fee debit card, the 360 Checking account is currently offering a 50 USD signup bonus and my 20 USD referral link is here.

Schwab Checking

The Schwab checking account advertises unlimited fee rebates from any ATM worldwide and no foreign transaction fees. There are no minimums on the account but does require a link to a Schwab investment account which also does not currently have minimums. I am not a consumer of this product as I am the other above so I can’t vouch for the product itself but it sounds like a great option for international travelers.

  • D said,

    I’ve been a BofA customer for nearly 10 years as I began a job that required significant domestic US travel and the ATM coverage at the time best-suited me. Recently, I became a Schwab checking customer specifically because of the ATM fee rebates; I didn’t even realize at the time that no foreign transaction fees were charged. Ultimately, I’m most pleased with the service. As you mentioned, I have an associated investing account but there are no minimums, so there’s no reason to keep money in the checking account for easy access.

  • Simon said,

    Wow thanks for the update. Sometimes its hard to find one in Europe so I usually just pay the 3% as its the best option to get cash considering the exchange rates.

    I usually use it in China to get cash without any fees. I guess that’s about to change.

  • KevininRI said,

    I’ve used E-Trade Bank as my main checking account for years and have been very satisfied. No monthly fee if you have either direct deposit or $5000 min balance. No charge for ATM use and unlimited ATM fee refunds both domestically and internationally. They only charge a 1% fee for all foreign transactions. And free transfers to other accounts, so you can keep a local checking account for check transactions and transfer money between accounts for free.

  • Robert said,

    I used to use my Schwab debit card at international ATMs. I would get a fee rebate that was equal to any amount over a multiple of $5. So if I withdrew $24.95, I would get back $4.95. This is in addition to no foreign transaction fees. So I would make money each time I walked to the ATM. I don’t think this works anymore, but maybe someone can confirm.

  • DaninSTL said,

    It makes it a little more tough to hang on with BofA when you use their ebanking product that doesn’t allow you to interact with people without a fee and now you will be restricted to BofA Atm’s. Add that to the disappearing Alaska Debit card and my days are short there I’m afraid.

  • M said,

    well i figured this, and here’s the thing: i switched from a DEBIT card (with visa or MC logo) to a simple ATM card instead (no visa or mc logo). so they can’t use the excuse that visa or mc is imposing the charge, even if the atm fee is waived. result: no fee or FX. but kind of a assle trying to get an ‘atm’ card- they try to mix up the terminology of ‘debit’ card and the old-style ‘atm’ card- remember when they used to be basically one and the same?!

  • M said,

    ps also don’t forget bluebird for foreign ATMs

  • M said,

    pps are you sure re cap one 360 no FX fee- i see 1% fee, but no atm fee? haven’t tried it though, just looking at terms

  • askmrlee said,

    Capital One 360 does not charge an FX fee.

    Also, Capital One 360 does not charge for ATM withdrawals, but you are subject to whatever fee the ATM owner charges and they do not rebate. They are a member of Allpoint, so those ATMs are fee-free.

    @6. I too rid of my debit card from my credit union (since I wanted the security of no online transactions), but in my experience international ATMs have a harder time detecting that it’s a valid card since it’s NOT a Visa or MC.

    However, your argument doesn’t fly that there’s no Visa or MC FX fee because there can still be international fees imposed by PLUS or Cirrus ATM networks. PLUS is owned by Visa and Cirrus is owned by MC, so it’s rather difficult to avoid them.

  • m said,

    re @askmrlee – yes agree re cirrus & plus, but I’m just reporting on actual experience. my comment was for BofA specifically by the way. if you can get a standard ATM card (no visa or mc logo- thus not a debit card to BofA), there is no fx & also no atm fee. t&c show 1% fx ‘charged by visa or mc’ for bofa ‘debit’ cards as of nov. 1

  • Paul said,

    Bluebird has no FX fees. You just pay the ATM fee – in paris, was $2 fee. FX was almost identical to what XE.com indicated as current FX rate. Since it is an Amex product, you can search ATM locations on Amex’ website. I found dozens in Paris – almost every other block where I was staying.

  • Paul said,

    BoA is a crap bank anyway. Other than churning cards, it’s poorly run in every respect. And now they are killing off the only decent product they have (Alaska debit card), they’ll never get my business again.

  • Henry J said,

    I’m a current BoA customer and am now seeing these fees on my banking statements. In general I found BoA decent for a network bank given that I wasn’t charged fees as long as I didn’t go overwithdraw etc. But I found that BoA now continues to reduce the “free” services they provide making them less and less desirable to bank with. Honestly, in exchange for storing your money in their institution (which they invest and reap the returns) they continually charge their end-users with any imaginable fee. If there is a cost of doing business for transferring money into other currencies, it would do the bank well to communicate this and pass the direct costs to the user, but not an inflated one where profits are generated.

    Now a former Bank of America customer.

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