The 5 Best Debit Cards For International Travel

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The 5 Best Debit Cards For International Travel

international travel debit cards stacked on top of each other


Table Of Contents


          Don’t be like me.

          Before I started working remotely I put zero effort into understanding how to be a digital nomad (you can check out our guide to digital nomading here by the way). I made the mistake of doing zero research beforehand and taking a standard Chase ATM card while traveling abroad. Big. Mistake.

          I likely paid for one of Jamie Dimon’s yachts off these withdrawal fees alone.

          Credit If Ya Got It

          If you’re just looking to pay for things like accommodations and food, and you’re in a place that readily accepts them, a travel credit card is by far the better option than a debit card for spending overseas.

          But Cash Is Always King

          But what about that little barbecue shack in Siargao that’s cash only? Or that abuela on the corner in Medellin slinging arepas that’s old school and refuses to get a smarthphone, much less a POS terminal?

          That’s where cash is king. And you need to be able to take it out with ease, and little to no fees while you’re traveling abroad.


          What Makes A Good Travel Debit Card?

          1. Low/No Fees For Using/Withdrawing

          There are some ATM cards out there - here's looking at you Chase - that stack charges every time you use your ATM card abroad.

          Now, there are a few different fees you may or may not get charged when withdrawing money abroad;

          Foreign Transaction Fee (charged by your bank)

          This is a fee some banks charges you just for using your ATM card abroad, whether that's to purchase something or withdraw money. It's usually a flat rate of 1% - 3% the total transaction value.

          Out-Of-Network ATM Fee (charged by your bank)

          This is a fee your bank charges you for using an ATM that is not owned by them, or outside their network of affiliated ATMs. This ranges from $2 - $10. It is charged on top of other fees, like the Foreign Transaction Fee.

          Many banks no longer charge this fee, but there are some - Chase - that still do.

          ATM Usage Fee (charged by the ATM)

          This is a fee the ATM charges you for withdrawing from it, and this ranges from $1 - $10 (depending on where you're at, this can be even higher).

          There are actually some ATM cards that will reimburse the ATM Usage Fee (more on them below).

          Currency Conversion Fee (charged by the ATM)

          Always decline ATM currency conversion fees. Always. Decline.

          You will be able to withdraw money in the local currency even if you decline the currency conversion fee at ATMs.

          Currency conversion fees are bonafide shakedowns by financial institutions. They range in anywhere from 2% - 7% of the total transaction cost.

          In 10 years of traveling abroad, I've declined the currency conversion fees every single time, and I've never once had a problem withdrawing in the local currency.

          2. Large Network Of In-Network ATMs Around The World

          If your bank doesn't refund ATM fees, many of them are part of an ATM network, for example - Allpoint. You're able to withdraw from "in-network" ATMs without incurring any ATM Usage Fees. 

          3.  Great Fraud Protection

          ATM cards are more risky to use abroad than travel credit cards, because instead of being charged to your card, using an ATM card means the money is immediately taken out of your account.

          A great ATM card will offer protection against fraudulent charges by canceling the charges or flagging suspicious purchases automatically.

          The Five Best Debit Cards For International Travel

          1. Best Overall Travel Debit Card: Revolut 

          If you’re a digital nomad with a US-based job, and you don’t do cross-border business, Revolut is likely going to be your simplest and best bet.

          Revolut app UI

          Keep in mind that, unless you’re getting paid directly into your Revolut account, you’ll need to transfer money to your Revolut account, and this can take anywhere from 3-5 days.

          About Revolut Debit Cards:

          • Fee-free ATM network: Revolut has a network of fee-free ATMs. You can find Revolut's ATM network inside the app (many ATMs will slap a third-party charge on there, which Revolut doesn’t cover).
          • Withdrawal fees outside the network: Once you exceed your free out-of-network ATM withdrawal allowance (which depends on the plan) - you’ll be charged 2% of the total of your transaction.
          • Annual Fee: Free - $16.99/month
          • Foreign Transaction Fee: None
          • Perks and Tiers: The free Standard account offers budgeting tools, free international money transfers, and limited but generous ATM withdrawals. The Premium account ($9.99/month) and Metal account ($16.99/month) offer higher withdrawal limits, priority customer support, overseas medical insurance, and delayed baggage & flight insurance.
          • Limitations: Monthly fee for premium services.

          Revolut is definitely trying to become the to-to global fintech app, so your ability to withdraw abroad is far from the only thing this card offers. It also offers full-on savings accounts with some pretty hefty APY, stock trading and the ability to buy/sell crypto.


          2. Best Travel Debit Card For Freelancers: Wise

          Formerly TransferWise, Wise is great for the remote workers who either need to pay for or pick up freelancing gigs, regardless of the nationality of the payee/payer. Wise currently supports over 50 currencies, and it’s ACH & wire transfers are faster than Revolut.

          About Wise Debit Cards:

          • Wise offers 2 free ATM withdrawals per month, or a “fee-free withdrawal allowance” (Wise also does not cover the third-party charges many ATMs charge).
          • After exceeding either 2 withdrawals or the withdrawal allowance, then you’re charged $1.50 per withdrawal plus 2% of the withdrawal amount.
          • Annual Fee: None
          • Foreign Transaction Fee: None.
          • Perks and Tiers: Wise offers a free account for travelers with the real mid-market exchange rates, ability to hold and convert 50+ currencies.
          • Limitations: Requires a Wise Borderless account.


          3. Best Travel Debit Card For Anyone With No Credit History: Chime 

          Chime offers a fairly standard debit card for international travel - with one massive advantage. They don’t run a credit check when you open your account. So if you have no credit or poor credit, you can still get a Chime account.

          Chime ATM card used by remote workers

          About Chime Debit Cards:

          • Fee-free ATM network: Yes, at 38,000+ MoneyPass and Visa Plus Alliance ATMs.
          • Withdrawal fees outside the network: $2.50 per transaction.
          • Annual Fee: None
          • Foreign Transaction Fee: None
          • Perks and Tiers: Chime's Spending Account offers features like early access to direct deposit funds and automatic savings.
          • Limitations: No physical branches, must withdraw cash from an ATM.

          If you’re looking for a very basic international debit card that’s going to get you cash with minimal hassle and no credit checks, Chime is a good option.


          4. Best Travel Debit Card For High-Yield Savings & Zero Fee Withdrawals: Betterment

          If you're a digital nomad, and you're looking for a bank account that gives you free international withdrawals and high-yield savings, you should check out Betterment's High-Yield Savings account.

          About Betterment Debit Cards:

          • Fee-free ATM network: If you have a Betterment checking account, they’ll reimburse all ATM fees worldwide.
          • Withdrawal fees outside the network: None
          • Annual Fee: None
          • Foreign Transaction Fee: None
          • Perks and Tiers: Betterment Checking comes with no fees and mobile check deposit. A Betterment Cash Reserve account offers a 4.75% APY, which means you can keep the bulk of your funds there, and transfer smaller amounts to your checking account when you’re ready to use them.
          • Limitations: Must open a Betterment checking account.


          5. Best Travel Debit Card For Fee-Free Withdrawals & Protection Against Fraud Charges: Charles Schwab Debit Card 

          To get the Charles Schwab ATM card, you’ll need to open up a Charles Schwab Investor Checking account, and opening an Investor Checking account automatically enrolls you in a Schwab One brokerage account.

          With that said, this extra legwork comes with an added layer of security in Charles Schwab’s Security Guarantee (more on that below).

          About Charles Schwab Debit Cards:

          • Fee-free ATM network: Charles Schwab reimburses all ATM fees.
          • Withdrawal fees outside the network: None
          • Annual Fee: None
          • Foreign Transaction Fee: None
          • Perks and Tiers: The Charles Schwab High Yield Investor Checking Account offers a Security Guarantee - where they will refund any expenses lost to unauthorized activity (fraud, stolen card, etc).
          • Limitations: Requires you also open a Schwab One brokerage account. However, this account has no minimums or fees, so you literally don’t have to touch it after opening it.


          Taking money out abroad doesn’t have to suck. Before you jet off, grab one of the debit cards above and you’ll be all set. And if you’re looking for more tips on remote work lifestyle, make sure to check out our list of international travel tips here. Travel well!


          And if you're a remote worker who works and plays from anywhere, check out our 2-in-1 laptop case that doubles as a stand below.

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