How to avoid international ATM fees in 2024

Tarah Ren
Şeyma Mektepli
Last updated
April 30, 2024

Having some cash in your pocket when you travel is reassuring – and in some countries where card payments are less common, it may be essential. However, using an ATM abroad can mean you run into international ATM fees, including a withdrawal charge and foreign transaction fee.

In this guide we’ll cover ways to limit or avoid international ATM fees, including providers like Wise that have no-fee international ATM withdrawals, and a quick look at the foreign ATM fees from Scotiabank and the Royal Bank of Canada.

How much is the international ATM fee?

It’s not often possible to get completely free international ATM withdrawals. Different banks and non-bank alternative card providers have their own fee schedules which can include several different charges. On top of that, the ATM operator might also add their own charge. It’s important to check your own card’s terms and conditions to understand what charges will apply, and so you don’t run into any surprise costs.

Types of international ATM fees

Several different international ATM fees may apply to a single withdrawal, so looking through your car’s fee schedule is essential. Keep an eye out for costs including:

Foreign transaction fees: This is a percentage charge added to all transactions made in foreign currencies – banks often have a foreign transaction fee of around 2.5%

Out-of-network ATM fees: Out of network fees may apply when you use an ATM overseas – these charges can vary and are often around 2-5 CAD.

Currency conversion fees: You may pay a currency conversion charge, which will be a percentage added to the exchange rate used to switch your Canadian dollars to the currency needed in your location

ATM withdrawal service fees: Both your own bank or card issuer, and the ATM operator, might charge an ATM fee, which is usually higher if you’re abroad

How can I avoid cash withdrawal fees abroad?

So – how to cut down the costs of using an ATM overseas? You may not be able to completely eliminate the fees you pay when transacting internationally, but there are some smart ways to limit the costs:

See if your bank has an overseas ATM network you can use: Most Canadian banks do not charge for ATM withdrawals made using a debit card, at in-network ATMs. While some banks only have local Canadian ATMs, others have options overseas, or work with other banks to provide free or discounted withdrawals for their customers.

Choose a card that doesn’t have foreign ATM fees: Some Canadian bank accounts offer debit cards with no overseas ATM fees, although you may need to pay a monthly maintenance charge for this perk. As an alternative, check out services like Wise, which has an account with no ongoing fees and some no-fee ATM withdrawals every month.

Don’t use the ATM too frequently: If your bank card has a flat fee for making an ATM withdrawal, taking out money more frequently means paying the fee more frequently too. If you have somewhere safe to store cash, such as a hotel safe, consider taking out larger amounts – and using your card to make payments where you can

Avoid dynamic currency conversion: Pay in the local currency wherever you are when you make an ATM withdrawal. This will allow you to get the best available exchange rate. Or, get a multi-currency account from a provider like Wise, which lets you hold dozens of currencies and convert with low or no fees

We’ll look at the international ATM fees from 4 banks and non-bank providers in detail next.


Banks with no international atm fees

Some banks have cards that have no international ATM fees, or offer fee-free withdrawals up to certain limits. However, it’s pretty common for some fees to apply when using a bank debit card in an ATM abroad – and using a credit card can be even more costly.

Specialist providers like Wise offer debit cards with no-fee ATM withdrawals up to certain limits, at home and internationally.

In this section we’ll cover Wise and Koho as specialist providers, as well as Scotiabank and the Royal Bank of Canada, looking at their ATM fees and limits. First, a quick overview:

ProviderInternational ATM feeExchange rateForeign transaction fee 
WiseFree withdrawals to the value of 350 CAD/month, fee of 1.5 CAD + 1.75% after thatMid market rate with low cost currency conversion from 0.39%No foreign transaction fee

2 CAD - 3 CAD depending on the ATM

1 free international ATM withdrawal per month on the Extra plan for 9 CAD/month and the Everything plan for 19 CAD/month. 

Mastercard network rate

No foreign transaction fee on Extra and Everything account plans

1.5% foreign transaction fee on the Essential plan

ScotiabankNo surcharge or access fees when you withdraw cash at select bank ATMs around the worldNetwork rateNo foreign transaction fee on select accounts 
Royal Bank of Canada

$3 for each withdrawal in the United States.

$5 for each withdrawal in Mexico and outside North America

Network rate

No foreign transaction fees on US purchases or in USD. 

A foreign transaction fee of 3% of all foreign currency transactions 

*Information accurate as of 22nd April 2024

As you can see, the banks we’ve compared here do charge an international ATM fee, and also have a foreign transaction fee for most standard accounts. It’s worth checking if your bank has a card option with no international ATM fees available, as some accounts do offer this benefit, particularly if you have a premium tier account. Or, pick a non-bank alternative like Wise to maximise your overseas cash with low fees.

Wise international ATM fees

You can use your Wise card in an ATM overseas to make withdrawals up to the value of 350 CAD a month free, with a fee of 1.5 CAD + 1.75% after that. If you have the currency you need in your Wise account there’s no conversion fee – and if not, the card can automatically convert from your balance, with low fees from 0.39%.

There’s no foreign transaction fee to pay, which cuts down the overall cost of using your Wise account internationally. Wise accounts have some ATM limits which are set for security. You can manage and view these in the Wise app. You’ll be able to withdraw up to 7,000 CAD a month from your Wise Canada account.

Go to Wise

Learn more on How to use the Wise card overseas.

Koho international ATM fees

The Koho card is on the Mastercard network meaning you can easily use it at ATMs worldwide for a 2-3 CAD fee, depending on the ATM, although withdrawal limits vary.

Customers get one free withdrawal per month on ATMs outside of Canada with the Extra plan for 9 CAD per month or the Everything plan for 19 CAD per month alongside no foreign transaction fees.

Scotiabank international ATM fees

Scotiabank is a member of the Global ATM Alliance. That means that you don’t have to pay any surcharge or access fees when withdrawing cash at 44,000 select ATMs in over 40 countries around the globe.

Convenient for taking out cash when travelling, Soctiabank has a 2.5% foreign transaction fee, except for select accounts which have no foreign transaction fee. For country and partner bank listings, check out their official website.

Royal Bank of Canada international ATM fees

The Royal Bank of Canada charges no fees when you use another bank's ATM at home, although ATM terminal owner charges may apply. When it comes to international ATM use for standard checking accounts, the Royal Bank of Canada charges $3 for withdrawals in the United States and $5 for each withdrawal in Mexico and outside of North America.

There are no foreign transactions on US purchases or purchases made in USD but there is a foreign transaction fee of 3% on all other foreign currency transactions. Foreign transaction fees for certain accounts, like the Visa Signature Black Plus, don’t apply.

What is the best way to withdraw money in a foreign country?

There’s no single best way to get your hands on travel cash when you’re away from home – however, choosing a debit card which has low or no ATM fees can help you manage your money with lower overall costs. Choose an account with multi-currency functions, like Wise’s multi-currency account, where you can also hold and exchange the currencies you need for your trip, so you can see your budget in advance.

Go to Wise

How to avoid ATM fees in Europe

Got a big trip planned? Here are a few pointers on avoiding ATM fees when you’re in Europe:

  • Get a low cost multi-currency card from a provider like Wise, to make low or no fee withdrawals in foreign currencies

  • See if your home bank has partnerships with banks in Europe, which can mean snagging low or no cost ATM withdrawals

  • Don’t use a credit card – ATM withdrawals are treated as a cash advance and usually come with hefty fees and instant interest to pay

Conclusion: How to avoid ATM withdrawals fees abroad

Many Canadian banks have debit cards which come with an international ATM fee if you need to get cash out as you travel. While some accounts from banks like Scotiabank may waive international ATM fees, you’ll often find a flat charge of around 2-5 CAD, plus a 2.5% foreign transaction fee.

As an alternative take a look at multi currency accounts from non-bank providers like Wise, which comes with a linked debit card that has some no fee ATM withdrawals every month. You can add money easily in CAD, and then convert to the currency you need conveniently within your account, so you’ll know exactly what you have to spend while you’re away – or just let the card handle the conversion when you pay.

Go to Wise

International ATM fees FAQs

Is it better to exchange currency or withdraw from an ATM?

Exchanging currency before you travel can be time consuming and may not get you the very best exchange rate out there. Using an ATM can be convenient and if you pick an account which has a low or no cost currency exchange, you may also get a better deal on fees. Take a look at options from Wise to see if they might suit your needs.

Will I get charged for withdrawing money abroad?

Your own bank or card provider will set the fees you pay for international ATM withdrawals – often banks have a foreign transaction fee of 2.5%. The ATM operator may also charge a fee. Take a look at your account and card fee schedule to see what charges apply, and compare the costs with alternative account options including non-bank alternatives like Wise.

Learn more: Best cards with no foreign transaction fees

Can I use my debit card abroad to withdraw cash?

Yes. Use your debit card in an ATM which supports the card network – Visa or Mastercard, for example. You may need to inform your bank you plan to travel to make sure your card is activated for international use before you leave.