When it comes to spending money abroad, ignorance can be bliss. Unfortunately, it can also be expensive. That’s why you should be up on how much your trip will actually cost you, when it comes to financial fees and exchange rates.
As you budget your overseas vacation, keep the following in mind:
The exchange rate:
Of course — as per Foreign Travel 101 — you know that other countries have their own currencies. But will you remember to factor them in when you budget your vacation?
Start by going to an online currency converter and get the exchange rate between the U.S. dollar and the currency of the country you’re visiting. Then find out how much things cost at your destination (you can ask someone at your hotel or at the tourism bureau, or you can just do some research on the Web). If an average restaurant meal there costs 40 euros per person, you’re actually spending roughly $52 a head (based on the exchange rates when we went to press). In the United Kingdom, that same meal would translate to almost $65 based on an exchange rate of $1.62 dollars per British pound.
The transaction fee:
Many credit cards will add a transaction fee (typically around 3 percent) to all your overseas purchases. So remember that the 100 euro sweater you want to buy will actually cost you 103 euros. Check to see if your credit card charges that fee. If it does, consider applying for a card that doesn’t.
The currency at which you’re billed:
When paying by credit, always ask merchants to bill you at the local currency, advises Yahoo! Finance. If the merchant chooses to bill you in dollars instead, he could conceivably choose any exchange rate he wants. Your credit card issuer, on the other hand, will stick with the official exchange rate.
The cost of withdrawal:
It’s smart to have local currency on hand when visiting other countries, since not all merchants accept credit cards or American dollars. Keep in mind, though, that when you withdraw cash from ATMs overseas, you’ll most likely have to pay withdrawal fees. According to MSNBC, you’ll typically have to pay an additional 3 to 8 percent when you withdraw overseas. Ally, though, only charges a fee of up to 1 percent of the transaction amount for the currency conversion and/or cross border transactions.
The wild cards:
Depending on where you’re going, you may be faced with unexpected costs. For instance: In some countries, restaurants won’t serve you tap water, but will charge you a premium for bottled water. Again, contact your hotel or the tourism bureau and attempt to uncover such surprise costs.
Do foreign transaction fees influence you when you’re choosing vacation destinations? What’s your strategy for spending cash overseas?
Comment on this article
Sharon S. on May 15, 2012 at 9:01am
No need to go overseas to see great beaches right here in the US we have some of the most beautiful beaches. Hawaii - my favorite is the North Shore on Oahu, Haleiwa, or the Bkack Sand on the Big Island.
Ally on May 15, 2012 at 9:03am
Thanks for sharing this with us, Sharon! How often do you travel and do you check your finances while traveling?
Daniel on May 17, 2012 at 6:12pm
@Sharon - There are beautiful beaches on every continent. The world is huge and full of exciting adventures, I certainly hope you DO go overseas every once in a while. The United States is great, but there is much more out there. Much, much more.
Ally on May 17, 2012 at 6:15pm
Thank you for sharing, Daniel. Do you have any suggestions on places to vacation outside of the United States?
Stephen on May 18, 2012 at 12:57am
My Ally accounts were my main financial source on a six-month trip around Europe -- I appreciated the low transaction fees and never worrying about any ATM fees! I got blocked a few times due to tripping fraud alerts while in Russia, but having two accounts gave me a backup, and it was always a quick phone call to unblock.
Ally on May 18, 2012 at 1:01am
Thanks for sharing, Stephen. We hope you had a great 6-month trip. If you don’t mind sharing, we’d love to hear more about how your Ally accounts helped pay for your trip across Europe.
Matt on June 19, 2012 at 2:27am
My first step is to compare the fees charged by companies for foreign use of ATM or credit cards. Sadly this blog doesn't mention Ally's fees, which are apparently 1% and the ATM rebate only applies within the USA (according to (http://www.ally.com/help/ says "Ally only reimburses ATM fees charged by other banks if the ATM is in the US."). BTW, the following page is broken: http://community.ally.com/straight-talk/terms-of-service
Ally on June 19, 2012 at 7:01am
Excellent tip, Matt! How often do you travel overseas? And thank you for your feedback, just wanted to clarify that the charge for using an ATM in a foreign country is due to the currency conversion and/or cross border transaction , not an Ally Bank fee. The charge can be up to 1% of the transaction. In addition, the Terms of Service page has been fixed and should now be working just fine.
Ryan on March 17, 2013 at 7:51pm
Doesn't Mastercard charge a 1% fee? Does the charge of "up to 1%" from Ally represent the Mastercard foreign transaction fee or is it in addition to that fee?
Joe on March 31, 2013 at 10:36pm
I have to disagree that getting your card turned back on after the fraud protection people shut it off only takes a "quick" phone call. I was on the phone for 20 minutes my second day in Scotland September 2012, and was transferred among three different people, to whom I had to re-explain everything, read off my account number, answer password questions, etc. I am still annoyed about the international roaming charges on my cell phone because of that (more than $30), and I can't seem to find a way to alert Ally to my travel before I go so that my card is not deactivated or put on hold. My credit cards have easy links on the websites to alert them to the dates and countries where I will be travelling. Why is it not that easy with Ally?
Ally on April 2, 2013 at 4:46pm
Thank you for taking the time to share your comments and the details of your situation. This is not the experience we want our customers to have with Ally Bank. Please know that they have been passed on to the appropriate teams for review and feedback.
clayton on July 3, 2013 at 11:51pm
I would like a response from Ally on Ryan's question about the foreign transaction fee of "up to 1%"
Amit on July 15, 2013 at 5:45am
I travel overseas often but I have planned for it and I know which debit/credit cards I will take with me and use. Although I am a customer at several banks/credit card companies I do not use them all because the Foreign transaction fess they have when travelling abroad. Sorry but I do not use my Ally debit bank card overseas because of the 1% fee you charge. I have other credit cards and debit cards that don't charge these fees at all. For others, if you are paying fees then you need to look at other options, they are out there. A simple google search of "no foreign transaction credit/debit cards" will search up some options. Hope that helps. Also Ally bank should look in to removing these fees, if other similar banks can afford to not charge fees I am sure you can also.
GaryH on September 25, 2013 at 5:13pm
What ATM networks does ally subscribe too. This is important for overseas ATM access. PLUS, MAESTRO, CIRRUS are networks that would be needed. I travel abroad regularly, so this is very important. Please let me know. Thanks.
Ally on September 27, 2013 at 4:18pm
We are members of all of those networks, Gary. Our cards will work in almost any ATM.
Sally on December 15, 2013 at 7:37pm
How might I find out what Ally's current exchange rates are? Ally's fee is lower than my other bank's, but if the exchange rate is poor, it could still cost me more.
Sally on December 15, 2013 at 7:39pm
I also don't see how to notify Ally of my travel plans. Will my card be cut off when I try to use it overseas?
Ally on December 16, 2013 at 4:35pm
Thanks for reaching out, Sally. Your card should not but cut off but it’s helpful to notify us when you may be traveling abroad. Please give our Ally Care team a call at 1-877-247-ALLY (2559) or chat with us online – we’re available 24/7 – and we can assist.
Ally on December 16, 2013 at 4:35pm
We're sorry for the inconvenience, Sally. We don’t currently offer a foreign exchange rate. We’ll keep the community updated of any changes.
Will on June 15, 2014 at 11:56pm
How do I find out the exchange rate that Ally uses when I attempt to withdraw foreign currency while abroad?
Jack on July 22, 2014 at 10:18am
Im an American living in South East Asia for a few years now. I have an Ally account (MasterCard) and another bank that uses Visa. You should always have both when traveling. You WILL encounter ATM's that only accept one or the other. As for Ally; they do refund every month about $30-$40 in foreign ATM fees no matter what the website says. The only problem I've encountered is the variable discount to MC and or Ally's conversion rate. Small transactions are hit EXTREMEMLY hard. My advice is find out the maximum ATM limit per transaction and use that. The charges are smaller on large single transactions...just pay cash after that. It's funny though, when Ally refunds the ATM fees charged in foreign currency they use the highest most favorable rate for them...when I take money out I get the least favorable rate for me. Last travel tip...no RULE: Always have $500 cash in some usable currency hidden on your person at all times. Never spend it. It's for emergency use only. That's a minimum. I always carry (hidden of coarse) 15 - $100 bills. You never know when you may have to get out fast. I lived in Tacloban City on November 8, 2013. Super Typhoon Yolanda sent me running for high ground. After the storm there were no banks, ATMs, electricity or anything for about 45 days. My emergency fund got me to Manila and got me through the wait for DHL to deliver new cards to my hotel.
Bonny on July 25, 2014 at 8:38am
At my previous bank, I was able to order some foreign currency that was delivered to my home before I traveled aborad. It was nice to have a starter supply of cash on hand when I first arrived. Does Ally have this service?
Brian on November 28, 2014 at 8:33am
To reiterate Will's question, could you please tell us how Ally determines their foreign exchange rates? Other banks publish their rates so that customers can be aware of the amount their accounts will be debited. It is critical that Ally do this as well, if they intend to compete in the frequent-traveler market
Alison on December 29, 2014 at 12:43pm
Is there a way to purchase a foreign currency from Ally Bank prior to travel?
Holly on January 21, 2015 at 9:16pm
Is there a way to purchase a foreign currency from Ally Bank prior to travel?
Katherine on March 15, 2015 at 1:58pm
How much is the foreign transaction fee if I pay a vendor when using the ally master card?
Suzanne on March 4, 2016 at 12:16am
post #24, 25, 26 have gone unanswered for about a year. I read in an earlier post you don't provide exchange rate information, ever. Perhaps ALLY has reconsidered this policy. Thanks for following up.
Sam on August 24, 2017 at 3:12pm
So...can I use my Ally card in England or not...?
Ally on August 28, 2017 at 9:48am
Hi Sam, you should be able to use your Ally card overseas, but you will be charged a fee of up to 1% of the transaction amount for the currency conversion and/or cross border transaction for any purchases or ATM withdrawals outside of the U.S.
Tara on November 2, 2017 at 11:38pm
My husband and I frequently travel overseas to visit family. At our prior bank, we were able to purchase foreign currency before the trip so we had cash on hand. I haven’t found anything on the Ally site to suggest I am able to get foreign currency—does Ally offer this service?
John C. on April 30, 2019 at 10:19am
I received email from your bank. I sold my camera to my customer and he said he already send $12,000 But the email says that I can receive money as long as I pay $1000 for international fee. Is that correct? I was told that I have to pay it through bitcoin.
Ally on May 1, 2019 at 5:30pm
Hi John, if you’ll please give us a call at 1-877-247-2559 or chat with us online at ally.com, one of our team members will be happy to look into this further for you and advise.
Willie f. on April 25, 2021 at 3:30am
How do i get my travel ticket and agenda plan within the next day so i can get home
Jason on February 24, 2022 at 6:37pm
When withdrawing overseas is the rate taken the live rate for that day or the day before?
Ally on February 24, 2022 at 6:38pm
Hi Jason, thanks for reaching out. Please give us a call at 1-877-247-2559 or chat with us online at ally.com, so we can assist further.
Marne on April 10, 2022 at 7:38pm
International ATM fees push me to use my credit card when traveling abroad. Why bother with cash when it costs me more money and is less secure to carry? I have a Visa with no foreign transaction fee. Most public transportation in Europe takes Apple Pay that you can link to your credit card. ATM fees and fees for "converting" the currency are becoming more obsolete, thank goodness.