Int'l travel & Fidelity card experiences?

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aida2003
Posts: 344
Joined: Mon Feb 25, 2008 1:44 pm

Int'l travel & Fidelity card experiences?

Post by aida2003 »

Since we'll be traveling in Eastern Europe in August, I wonder if it's worth it to open a checking account with Fidelity and use its VISA Debit card instead of our WF debit card.
Yesterday I had a virtual chat with a rep. All sounds great, but maybe somebody here can help me understand this piece that went out of control :D

<"ME: What's the daily limit to withdraw from the ATM?
Rep: It is $500 per day plus an extra $10 to account for any fees that end up being charged.
Me: So, the $10 gets reimbursed later or is the $10 on top of fees that an ATM owner charges me if it's w/o VISA, STAR, or PLUS logo?
Rep: It applies to either situation. That is, it doesn't matter if the fees are being reimbursed or not, we will allow a total of $500 per day being withdrawn from an ATM, and an extra $10 in fees over the $500.
ME: Hmm...trying to grasp it here. If I withdraw daily less than $500 (in a foreign currency), will I still be charged $10?
Rep: I don't understand the basis of your question and am unsure how else to describe this. When you withdraw from an ATM, you may or may not be charged a surcharge. That depends on the ATM owner. If you are not charged a surcharge, then you can withdraw $500. If you are charged a surcharge, you can still withdraw $500. So let's say that you want to withdraw $500 and there is a $3 fee charged by the ATM owner. You could still withdraw the $500 since the $3 is still less than the extra $10 that we allow for fees.
Rep: However, if you made a series of ATM withdrawals from ATMs with fees during the day, and let's say that you have withdrawn $490 and were charged $10 in fees and you now want to withdraw another $10, but the ATM charges a $1 fee. You would not be able to make that withdrawal.
Rep: Since we allow for $500 in ATM withdrawals during the day with a $10 overage allowance for fees. Since this scenario would have put you over by $1, you would not be able to make the withdrawal.
Rep: I should mention that the fee reimbursement isn't a factor in any of this. Even with a VISA, STAR, or PLUS listed ATM, you first get charged the fee and then at the end of the day, we reimburse it. So that isn't a factor in the discussion.
Me: Well, when I read in the forums US tourists using Fidelity card to withdraw foreign currency FREE of charge, it kind of threw me off to hear about the $10 fees. So, I think what people mean is as long as they choose an ATM with a proper logo and they withdraw less than $500/day, then it's free.
Rep: There is not a $10 fee charged.">

I think I understood him, but the $10 muddied my understanding (probably because English is not my native language).
What's the experience of Fidelity card holders overseas? As long as you locate a proper ATM, you questimate an amount of foreign currency not to be larger than 500 in US dollars, and you're good, right? No ATM fees, except 1% VISA's applied conversion charge? Has anybody tried to compare the exchange rate given by the Fidelity card vs. forex rate at a local bank in Europe if you had brought cash instead?

In summary, I'm wondering to myself if it's worth it to open this account for a 3-week vacation (potentially more trips in the future). My WF card will charge me $5 ATM each time and 3% forex conversion surcharge. Fidelity card wins, but if $10 fees come into play, then not anymore probably.

We'll try to use cash because we don't have chip & pin CC and not much time to research and apply for such a card anyway.

Thanks
linguini
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Re: Int'l travel & Fidelity card experiences?

Post by linguini »

It sounds like the rep is describing fees that are not charged by Fidelity, but are charged by other banks for using their ATMs, and Fidelity will reimburse your account for the fees charged by the other banks. You would not be paying fees to Fidelity. And it sounds like there are two separate rules:

1. You are only allowed to withdraw up to $500 in cash per day.
2. The combination of the amount of cash you withdraw and the amount of fees other banks charge you are not allowed to exceed $510. That is, if you withdraw $490 and Fidelity reimburses your account for $20 in those other banks' fees, then you aren't allowed to withdraw any more money for the day because withdrawn cash + fees cannot exceed $510.

Keep in mind that I do not know the specifics of Fidelity's fee schedules, and I am only paraphrasing my interpretation of what the customer representative has told you.

I hope that helps!
carolinaman
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Re: Int'l travel & Fidelity card experiences?

Post by carolinaman »

I just returned from Middle East and was advised to use my credit card (Visa) for most transactions if you are dealing with reputable merchants. I did this and found that I needed far less cash. Of course, I was part of a tour group and our hotel and most of our food was already paid for. Had I not been in a tour group, I would have still used my CC for major expenses. We were cautioned about not using our CC with small merchants like in a market. I would think you could do likewise with your trip. I am not an international traveler so conditions might be different in different countries. Do you have that great a need for ATM usage if you can use your credit card as I described?
111
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Re: Int'l travel & Fidelity card experiences?

Post by 111 »

There are two possible fees when using an ATM (not counting using bad exchange rates):

Fees charged by the ATM owner
Fees charged by your bank for using a foreign ATM

From the transcript, it sounds as if Fidelity doesn't charge you a fee and will actually reimburse you fees charged by the ATM owner. According to https://www.fidelity.com/cash-management/atm-debit-card Premium, Private Client Group, and Cash Management Accounts have no ATM fees and you get fee reimbursement. All other accounts get charged $1/transaction and have no reimbursement.

Edited to add: I live in Europe and the necessity of Chip & Pin (and also availability of ATM machines you'd be able to use) can vary greatly from country to country. If you want to post where you are going I may be able to give you some info specifically for that country.
LeeMKE
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Re: Int'l travel & Fidelity card experiences?

Post by LeeMKE »

Times have changed. I used to carry a fair amount of cash/traveler's checks when traveling, but not anymore. In most countries the daily limit on the ATM withdrawals is more than two people traveling will need, so long as you put the major expenses (hotels, rental cars) and fancy restaurant meals on your credit card. The exception is if you will be driving in less urban areas where more cash is needed and fewer ATMs are available. When doing that, we have to make cash management a priority, being sure to plan so we don't run out of cash. In cities it is no longer a problem.
The mightiest Oak is just a nut who stayed the course.
normaldude
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Re: Int'l travel & Fidelity card experiences?

Post by normaldude »

Fidelity seems to charge a 1% foreign transaction fee, plus other fees. And they don't reimburse all ATM fees.

- http://flyerguide.com/index.php/Credit/ ... n_Exchange

Best Intl Travel Debit Card for ATMs: Schwab Checking Visa. No foreign transaction fees. And you can use any ATM in the world for free, and Schwab will reimburse you for any fees that the other bank might charge. I think the cash withdrawal limit is $1000/day.

- http://www.schwab.com/public/schwab/ban ... ng_account

Best Intl Travel Credit Card for Point-of-Sale Transactions: Capital One Quicksilver Visa. No foreign transaction fees. Plus you get 1.5% cash back, so you'll actually come out ahead.

- http://www.capitalone.com/credit-cards/ ... h-rewards/
letsgobobby
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Re: Int'l travel & Fidelity card experiences?

Post by letsgobobby »

Clark Howard likes Schwab for this, no forex currency fee for point of sale transactions, and no ATM fees for cash withdrawals.
madbrain
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Re: Int'l travel & Fidelity card experiences?

Post by madbrain »

normaldude wrote:Fidelity seems to charge a 1% foreign transaction fee, plus other fees. And they don't reimburse all ATM fees.
- http://flyerguide.com/index.php/Credit/ ... n_Exchange
The info there is not quite correct.

I traveled to Europe with all 3 Fidelity cards last year - the FIA Amex, FIA Visa, and Fidelity Cash debit card.

The foreign transaction fee is included on the Fidelity credit cards - FIA VISA and Amex - which I both carry. One has the fee itemized, the other has the fee hidden. I think it's the VISA which has it itemized. For the amex, if you look at the charges online on the day they are made vs a few days later, the total actually increases by the "hidden" fee amount.

For the Fidelity debit card, however, there is no foreign transaction fee. I determined this by looking at the daily published euro/$ exchange rates, and comparing that to the dollar amount withdrawn from my Fidelity Cash account. None of the ATMs I went to in several European countries charged any ATM fee.
Code Commit
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Re: Int'l travel & Fidelity card experiences?

Post by Code Commit »

madbrain wrote:For the Fidelity debit card, however, there is no foreign transaction fee. I determined this by looking at the daily published euro/$ exchange rates, and comparing that to the dollar amount withdrawn from my Fidelity Cash account. None of the ATMs I went to in several European countries charged any ATM fee.
+1. My wife recently traveled to Asia, with CapOne QuickSilver for purchases and Fidelity Cash for ATM withdrawals (both types of transactions on the same day). Cap One clearly claims no foreign transaction fee whereas Fidelity is not explicit. However, both transactions had exactly the same conversion rate, which also matched the day's published exchange rates.
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The529guy
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Re: Int'l travel & Fidelity card experiences?

Post by The529guy »

aida2003 wrote:We'll try to use cash because we don't have chip & pin CC and not much time to research and apply for such a card anyway.
For an upcoming overseas trip, I got a PenFed Visa with chip/PIN and no foreign transaction fee - just in case. If you decide to go that route, you have plenty of time between now and August to join PenFed and get a card. There are many US banks offering chip/signature, but very few that seem to offer chip/PIN.

When I return from travel, this will be my 5% cash back card for gasoline purchases.
normaldude
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Re: Int'l travel & Fidelity card experiences?

Post by normaldude »

madbrain wrote:
normaldude wrote:Fidelity seems to charge a 1% foreign transaction fee, plus other fees. And they don't reimburse all ATM fees.
- http://flyerguide.com/index.php/Credit/ ... n_Exchange
The info there is not quite correct.

I traveled to Europe with all 3 Fidelity cards last year - the FIA Amex, FIA Visa, and Fidelity Cash debit card.

The foreign transaction fee is included on the Fidelity credit cards - FIA VISA and Amex - which I both carry. One has the fee itemized, the other has the fee hidden. I think it's the VISA which has it itemized. For the amex, if you look at the charges online on the day they are made vs a few days later, the total actually increases by the "hidden" fee amount.

For the Fidelity debit card, however, there is no foreign transaction fee. I determined this by looking at the daily published euro/$ exchange rates, and comparing that to the dollar amount withdrawn from my Fidelity Cash account. None of the ATMs I went to in several European countries charged any ATM fee.
That's truly bizarre, since both flyerguide.com and the Fidelity.com website flat out say that the Fidelity debit card has a 1% foreign transaction fee for overseas ATM withdrawals..
1. All Fidelity ATM withdrawal fees will be waived for your Fidelity® Cash Management Account. In addition, your account will automatically be reimbursed for all ATM fees charged by other institutions while using a Fidelity® Visa® Gold Check Card linked to your account at any ATM displaying the Visa®, Plus®, or Star® logos. ATM reimbursements will be credited to the account when the transaction posts. Please note, there is a foreign transaction fee of one percent that is not waived, which will be included in the amount charged to your account.

- https://www.fidelity.com/cash-management/atm-debit-card
Spirit Rider
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Re: Int'l travel & Fidelity card experiences?

Post by Spirit Rider »

normaldude wrote:That's truly bizarre, since both flyerguide.com and the Fidelity.com website flat out say that the Fidelity debit card has a 1% foreign transaction fee for overseas ATM withdrawals..
This is because there are two issues. The Fidelity debit card terms and agreement and the Fidelity Cash Management Account (formerly MySmart Cash Account) terms and agreements.

The Fidelity debit card terms and agreement provides the baseline agreement for all Fidelity accounts that can have debit cards. So that is correct for the debit cards for most accounts.

Then you have a specific account type (Cash Management Account) that provides extra benefits (no FOREX fee, no ATM usage charge, reimbursement of ATM fees).

Even though the Fidelity web site says they will change the FOREX fee, I have never seen it happen. I don't know if this is because I'm grandfathered because I got a mySmart Cash Account right when they were offered. Maybe other people who do not get this fee can chime in whether they go the card while or after it was mySmart Cash.

I have used my MySmart Cash/Cash Management ATM card numerous times over several years internationally. Anytime I have checked a transaction with exchange rates, I have never found a FOREX fee, I have never paid the $1 Fidelity usage charge, and if present I have had any ATM fee reimbursed.
normaldude
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Re: Int'l travel & Fidelity card experiences?

Post by normaldude »

Spirit Rider wrote:
normaldude wrote:That's truly bizarre, since both flyerguide.com and the Fidelity.com website flat out say that the Fidelity debit card has a 1% foreign transaction fee for overseas ATM withdrawals..
This is because there are two issues. The Fidelity debit card terms and agreement and the Fidelity Cash Management Account (formerly MySmart Cash Account) terms and agreements.

The Fidelity debit card terms and agreement provides the baseline agreement for all Fidelity accounts that can have debit cards. So that is correct for the debit cards for most accounts.

Then you have a specific account type (Cash Management Account) that provides extra benefits (no FOREX fee, no ATM usage charge, reimbursement of ATM fees).

Even though the Fidelity web site says they will change the FOREX fee, I have never seen it happen. I don't know if this is because I'm grandfathered because I got a mySmart Cash Account right when they were offered. Maybe other people who do not get this fee can chime in whether they go the card while or after it was mySmart Cash.

I have used my MySmart Cash/Cash Management ATM card numerous times over several years internationally. Anytime I have checked a transaction with exchange rates, I have never found a FOREX fee, I have never paid the $1 Fidelity usage charge, and if present I have had any ATM fee reimbursed.
Let's say that in practice, both Schwab and Fidelity debit cards currently have zero foreign transaction fees for overseas ATM withdrawals.

However, Fidelity clearly states on their website and in their legal disclosure statement (PDF) that there is a 1% foreign transaction fee for overseas ATM withdrawals.

In my opinion, that makes the Schwab account & debit card slightly better, since Fidelity can always quietly start charging a 1% foreign transaction fee, without warning customers, and customers can't complain or sue, because the 1% foreign transaction fee was always clearly stated.
Topic Author
aida2003
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Re: Int'l travel & Fidelity card experiences?

Post by aida2003 »

normaldude wrote: In my opinion, that makes the Schwab account & debit card slightly better, since Fidelity can always quietly start charging a 1% foreign transaction fee, without warning customers, and customers can't complain or sue, because the 1% foreign transaction fee was always clearly stated.
I'm guessing that Spirit Rider could have been grandfathered with an old agreement...or could it be that the 1% forex fee hidden in the total amount of the transaction? The rep also confirmed to me that VISA (not Fidelity) charges 1% forex transaction fee. If I withdraw in foreign currency that amounts to $50, I'll be charged $0.50 fee extra (quoting the rep).
What website do you use to compare the forex rate against the conversion rate while withdrawing the money?

Yes, as of now Schwab sounds as a better card. I need to check its requirements for opening a new account with them. E.g. Fidelity is nice for the Cash Management Account because it has $0 to open, no inactivity or any other fees. Since I'm not planning to change my primary checking account which is Wells Fargo, it's important to me.

PS. How are current CC cards called that I just swipe at the stores and sometimes I need to sign the receipts and sometimes not?
normaldude
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Re: Int'l travel & Fidelity card experiences?

Post by normaldude »

aida2003 wrote:
normaldude wrote: In my opinion, that makes the Schwab account & debit card slightly better, since Fidelity can always quietly start charging a 1% foreign transaction fee, without warning customers, and customers can't complain or sue, because the 1% foreign transaction fee was always clearly stated.
I'm guessing that Spirit Rider could have been grandfathered with an old agreement...or could it be that the 1% forex fee hidden in the total amount of the transaction? The rep also confirmed to me that VISA (not Fidelity) charges 1% forex transaction fee. If I withdraw in foreign currency that amounts to $50, I'll be charged $0.50 fee extra (quoting the rep).
What website do you use to compare the forex rate against the conversion rate while withdrawing the money?

Yes, as of now Schwab sounds as a better card. I need to check its requirements for opening a new account with them. E.g. Fidelity is nice for the Cash Management Account because it has $0 to open, no inactivity or any other fees. Since I'm not planning to change my primary checking account which is Wells Fargo, it's important to me.
The downside of the Schwab account is that I've read about cases where a person only used their Schwab account as a bank account, held no stocks or mutual funds, and Schwab eventually closed the person's account. There's probably something in the legal terms that allows them to close your account for any reason. And my guess is that the Schwab checking & debit card are basically "loss leaders" for Schwab.
absolutFinance
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Re: Int'l travel & Fidelity card experiences?

Post by absolutFinance »

I had an unexpected situation with my Fidelity debit card in Amsterdam. I could only withdraw 100 euros at a time from an ATM at the airport. I spoke with Fidelity about it when I got to my hotel room and they indicated that it was a limit placed by the ATM, not anything within Fidelity's powers since it wasn't anywhere close to my daily limit. I wasn't really satisfied with the answer but it didn't affect my trip much.
2beachcombers
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Re: Int'l travel & Fidelity card experiences?

Post by 2beachcombers »

Use the fido debit card--fees are waved. There are fees on both the Visa and AMex credit cards
Spirit Rider
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Re: Int'l travel & Fidelity card experiences?

Post by Spirit Rider »

aida2003 wrote:I'm guessing that Spirit Rider could have been grandfathered with an old agreement...or could it be that the 1% forex fee hidden in the total amount of the transaction?
Yes, many times the foreign transaction fee is embedded in the transaction, but you missed the point that I verified there is no FOREX fee by checking the exchange rate for that day. Others have reported the same thing, as well as using other no fee cards to withdraw the same amount the same day and received the same exchange rate.
Spirit Rider
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Re: Int'l travel & Fidelity card experiences?

Post by Spirit Rider »

absolutFinance wrote:I had an unexpected situation with my Fidelity debit card in Amsterdam. I could only withdraw 100 euros at a time from an ATM at the airport. I spoke with Fidelity about it when I got to my hotel room and they indicated that it was a limit placed by the ATM, not anything within Fidelity's powers since it wasn't anywhere close to my daily limit. I wasn't really satisfied with the answer but it didn't affect my trip much.
I don't know why you were not satisfied with the answer. Did you think they were lying? ATM operators can and do institute on site withdrawal limits in local currency value that are lower than the card issuers.

This has happened to me at various times in South America. Also, 15 years ago I worked with a bank whose IBM OS/2 ATM system automatically reduced payment limits if it calculated it would run out of cash before the next replenishment. They thought it was much better for everybody to get $100/$200, instead of some getting $500 and some $0.

A little bit of trivia. At one time almost all ATM systems ran on IBM OS/2. Even ten years ago, maybe 80% still ran OS/2. To demonstrate how slow banks are to change, 95% of ATMs were still running Windows XP on the end of support date.
absolutFinance
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Re: Int'l travel & Fidelity card experiences?

Post by absolutFinance »

Spirit Rider wrote:
absolutFinance wrote:I had an unexpected situation with my Fidelity debit card in Amsterdam. I could only withdraw 100 euros at a time from an ATM at the airport. I spoke with Fidelity about it when I got to my hotel room and they indicated that it was a limit placed by the ATM, not anything within Fidelity's powers since it wasn't anywhere close to my daily limit. I wasn't really satisfied with the answer but it didn't affect my trip much.
I don't know why you were not satisfied with the answer. Did you think they were lying? ATM operators can and do institute on site withdrawal limits in local currency value that are lower than the card issuers.

This has happened to me at various times in South America. Also, 15 years ago I worked with a bank whose IBM OS/2 ATM system automatically reduced payment limits if it calculated it would run out of cash before the next replenishment. They thought it was much better for everybody to get $100/$200, instead of some getting $500 and some $0.

A little bit of trivia. At one time almost all ATM systems ran on IBM OS/2. Even ten years ago, maybe 80% still ran OS/2. To demonstrate how slow banks are to change, 95% of ATMs were still running Windows XP on the end of support date.
I've done a fair bit of international travel and have never experienced that situation before. I had inquired about limits prior to departing and it would have been nice if they gave me a heads up that this "local limit" was a possibility.
Spirit Rider
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Re: Int'l travel & Fidelity card experiences?

Post by Spirit Rider »

absolutFinance wrote:I've done a fair bit of international travel and have never experienced that situation before. I had inquired about limits prior to departing and it would have been nice if they gave me a heads up that this "local limit" was a possibility.
The first time this happened to me was in Buenos Aires, several years ago. Several of the bank networks instituted a 500 peso/day limit (at the time about $125 with the current exchange rate). There was no notice and no explanation was ever given.

There was some speculation it was to combat ATM robberies and "midnight ATM" kidnappings. The latter is where they grab you shortly before midnight to do two ATM limit withdrawals (one before shortly before midnight and one shortly after when the limit is reset.)

It didn't matter what card you used. I don't know if a card issuer would necessarily know this was happening. Even if they did there is nothing they can do about it.
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