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The Ultimate Guide To The Best Debit Cards For Traveling

What to look for + the top free & no foreign-FX fee travel debit cards and bank accounts for every part of the world
The ultimate guide to the best debit cards for traveling by travel done simple
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Having the right debit card for traveling is extremely important as it can mean the difference between:

  1. A stressful experience because your card doesn’t work in your destination / you blew your budget because you didn’t account for hidden fees most banks charge you.
  2. Being able to pay for things easily both online as well as in person while also saving hundreds or even thousands of dollars a year on fees that you don’t need to pay.
 

The second option sounds much better, right?

Well the truth is that most banks will charge you fees for foreign transactions, foreign currency conversions, and foreign ATM withdrawals, and if you only travel once a year, the amount you lose on them might not be that much, but if you travel more often than that, you could be losing hundreds or even thousands of dollars a year on these fees!  

In addition, some banks still haven’t caught up to the 21st century and the debit cards that they give you might not even work in other countries because they lack basic functionalities such as a chip & 4-digit number PIN, contactless payments, and Visa or Mastercard integration.

However, there are banks out there that offer no-fee 21st century debit cards that are perfect for traveling.  When it comes to finding the right one for you, it depends on where you live.  

If your current bank offers a card that has all those functionalities and also none of the fees I mentioned earlier, then great!  But most standard banks won’t so you might have to look for a different one.

Luckily for you, I have put together a guide to the best debit cards and bank accounts you can get no matter where you live in the world!

Important information about debit cards:

  • Try to limit the amount of payments you make with your debit card since it’s your money that is lost if something happens.  Use it to take out cash and use credit cards for payments if you can as they are safer since you aren’t technically paying with your own money when you use a credit card.
  • If you do choose to make payments, always choose to pay in the local currency because the exchange rate offered by Visa & Mastercard will always be better than the one offered by foreign merchants.  The same goes for ATMs.  I go into more detail about this in my Guide to Getting Cash While Traveling.
  • If your bank offers this feature, lock your card using the mobile app when you’re not using it to prevent fraud.
  • Keep a backup debit card hidden in your luggage in case something happens to your main one and know what to do if your card is lost, stolen, or copied.  See #6 in my Guide to Money Management While Traveling for all the steps you should take.
Table of Contents
The US flag which represents all American travelers

Best Travel Debit Card in the USA

The Ultimate Guide To The Best Debit Cards For Traveling

Charles Schwab Bank’s debit card is often recommended by travelers because of its lack of fees and the fact that any fees you have to pay when using any ATM in the world get refunded to you!  

This is a feature that not many banks offer so this is why they stand out above the rest.  If you’re a US resident, you definitely need to look into getting your hands on this bank account and debit card.

Note: if preventing fraud is a priority and you are looking for a card that has instant notifications for transactions + the ability to freeze & unfreeze your card instantly from the mobile app, check out N26 below.

Features

  • No monthly account fees
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • No foreign currency conversion fees
  • No foreign ATM withdrawal fees
  • ATM fees imposed by ATMs themselves worldwide get refunded to you by the bank (huge benefit)
  • Visa debit card & a US Dollar checking account
  • Can sign up online


Eligibility

  • You need to be a US resident (with proof of residence) and have a US address (no P.O. boxes) to open an account.
  • If you are outside the US when opening an account, you must do it using a VPN or else risk requiring a visit to a branch in person.
  • You also have to open a brokerage account with them at the same time to use the checking account.  However, it’s free and you don’t even have to touch it if you don’t want to.
The flag of Canada which represents all Canadian travelers

Best Travel Debit Card in Canada

The Ultimate Guide To The Best Debit Cards For Traveling

STACK

While not technically a bank, what STACK offers is the best option for Canadian travelers since there is no Canadian bank that has a similar offering.  

Signing up with STACK gets you a free reloadable Canadian Dollar Mastercard that doesn’t have any foreign transaction, currency conversion, or ATM withdrawal fees.  You can also fund it quickly and easily with e-transfers. Think of it kinda like a prepaid debit card. 

Sign up using this link and receive $5 for free!
(You must click the link with a mobile device to get your $5).

Features

  • No monthly account fees
  • No foreign transaction fees (max 15 in-person transactions per day)
  • No foreign currency conversion fees
  • No foreign ATM withdrawal fees (max 2 withdrawals per day, max $500 per withdrawal, max $2,000 a month)
  • Instant push notifications for any transactions
  • Instantly freeze and unfreeze your card anytime from the app
  • Contactless Mastercard with a chip & PIN
  • Digital wallet compatible
  • Easily load the card instantly using e-transfers
  • Discounts at certain Canadian retailers
  • Can sign up online


Eligibility

  • You need to have a Canadian address (no P.O. boxes) to open an account.  You might be able to use a friend’s address.
  • It is not available in Quebec (yet). Use a friend’s address in another part of Canada until they offer it in Quebec
  • Sign up using this link and receive $5 for free!
    (You must click the link with a mobile device to get your $5).
The Ultimate Guide To The Best Debit Cards For Traveling

Best Travel Debit Card in the UK

The Ultimate Guide To The Best Debit Cards For Traveling

There are a few different options available in the UK, but the absolute best option is Starling Bank thanks to the fact that it doesn’t charge you any fees whatsoever for your travel needs.  

Other similar UK banks like Monzo and Monese have limits to the amount of ATM withdrawals you can make, charging you extra fees for going over those limits. This is why Starling Bank stands out as the best choice for UK residents.

Features

  • No monthly account fees
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • No foreign currency conversion fees
  • No foreign ATM withdrawal fees
  • In addition to British Pounds, you can also hold Euros in your account and even make purchases in Euros using the same card 
  • Instant push notifications for any transactions
  • Instantly freeze and unfreeze your card anytime from the app
  • Contactless Mastercard debit card with a chip & PIN
  • Can sign up online


Eligibility

  • You need to have a UK address (no P.O. boxes) to open an account.  They may also ask for proof of address information so you might not be able to use a friend’s account.
The flag of Australia which represents all Australian travelers

Best Travel Debit Card in Australia

The logo for HSBC which is the best bank and debit card that Australian travelers can use while traveling

There are a few decent banking options in Australia, but the HSBC Everyday Global Account takes the cake not only because there are no fees to use it, but also thanks to the fact that it lets you hold a total of 10 different currencies in your account!  

You can choose to pre-load your account with a certain currency before traveling or use your main currency and benefit from no foreign currency conversion fees.

Features

  • No monthly account fees
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • No foreign currency conversion fees
  • No foreign ATM withdrawal fees
  • In addition to Australian Dollars, you can hold 9 other currencies in your account: US Dollars, British Pounds, Euros, Hong Kong Dollars, Canadian Dollars, Japanese Yen, New Zealand Dollars, Singapore Dollars, and Chinese Yuan
  • Contactless Visa debit card with a chip & PIN
  • Can sign up online


Eligibility

  • You need to have an Australian phone number and address (no P.O. boxes) to open an account.  If you don’t live in Australia, you might be able to open an account by visiting the nearest HSBC bank to you or by simply using a friend’s phone number and address. 
The Ultimate Guide To The Best Debit Cards For Traveling

Best Travel Debit Card in Europe

The logo for N26 which is the best bank and debit card that European travelers can use while traveling

If you live in Europe (or even if you don’t, see below), you gotta go with N26.  They don’t offer completely free accounts, but compared to all the others available, they are the best.

You are able to open a Euro account with N26 in any one of the following countries: Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, and Switzerland.  

Note: they used to be available in the UK, but have left ever since Brexit.  

And even if you don’t live in any of those countries, you can ask a friend living in one of them if you can use their address to receive the card, after which you can change the address no problem!

*N26 has also expanded to the US, but Charles Schwab is still the better travel bank account and debit card for Americans to use for the time being unless your priority is fraud prevention, in which case N26 is best since it has instant notifications for transactions + the ability to freeze & unfreeze your card instantly from the mobile app.

Features

  • No monthly account fees for the standard account (9.90 EUR for N26 You & 16.90 EUR for N26 Metal)
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • No foreign currency conversion fees
  • Free ATM withdrawals in Euros* (See Eligibility)  
  • Foreign currency ATM withdrawals come with a 1.7% fee (this fee is waived if you pay for a premium account)
  • Free cash withdrawals and deposits at select stores across Germany, Austria, and Italy using their CASH26 feature (deposits over 100 EUR a month get charged a 1.5% fee)
  • TransferWise integration for cheaper transfers than most banks
  • Instant push notifications for any transactions
  • Instantly freeze and unfreeze your card anytime from the app
  • Online account and customer support also available in Spanish, French, German, & Italian
  • Contactless Mastercard debit card with a chip & PIN
  • Premium accounts come with Travel Insurance, Car Rental Insurance, and even Mobile Phone Theft Insurance!
  • Can sign up online


Eligibility

  • The number of free ATM withdrawals in Euros that you get depends on the country you sign up in.  Signing up in Austria or Italy gets you unlimited free withdrawals in Euros, whereas signing up in any of the other countries gets you 5 free ATM withdrawals in Euros in Eurozone countries (and only 3 of them if you sign up in Germany), after which they will cost you 2 EUR per withdrawal.
  • You need to have an address (no P.O. boxes) in one of the eligible countries to open an account.  You can easily use a friend’s address when creating your account to receive the card and then change the address in your account once you get it without any issues.  Try to get a friend in Austria or Italy for the unlimited free withdrawals!
The Ultimate Guide To The Best Debit Cards For Traveling

Best Travel Debit Card in the Rest of the World

The Ultimate Guide To The Best Debit Cards For Traveling

TransferWise Borderless Account

Even if you don’t live in any of the countries I just mentioned or you just want another alternative, you should consider opening a TransferWise Borderless Account.  

In addition to super low international transfer fees, you can keep money in more than 50 different currencies in your account as well as have real bank accounts for the USA, UK, Eurozone, Australia, New Zealand, and Poland which also let you receive payments in those currencies like a local!

You also get a contactless Mastercard debit card which you can use to make purchases and take out cash anywhere in the world.  Whenever you use that card, if you already have the currency in your account, you don’t get charged any fees and if you don’t have it, you only get charged a small conversion fee, making it a great option for travelers.  

Sign up using this link and get a no-fee international transfer of up to £500!

Keep in mind that TransferWise is only able to send cards to residents of Australia, Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Ireland, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Singapore, Sweden, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, or the USA (but you can always use a friend’s address to get the card as well).

Features

  • No monthly account fees
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • Foreign currency conversion fees range from 0.24% – 3.69% depending on the currencies involved, but are typically under 2%
  • Free ATM withdrawals up to $250 USD (or your currency’s equivalent) per month if you have the currency you’re withdrawing on your balance.  After that, a 2% withdrawal fee will be charged
  • Can keep money in 50+ different currencies in your account
  • Real bank account details for the USA, UK, Eurozone, Australia, New Zealand, and Poland
  • Instant push notifications for any transactions
  • Instantly freeze and unfreeze your card anytime from the app
  • Online account and customer support also available in Mandarin, Spanish, French, Portuguese, German, Italian, Russian, Turkish, Polish, Romanian, and Hungarian.
  • Contactless Mastercard debit card with a chip & PIN
  • Can sign up online


Eligibility

  • You need to have an address (no P.O. boxes) in one of the eligible countries to open an account.  You can easily use a friend’s address when creating your account to receive the card and then change the address once you get it without any issues.
  • The Mastercard debit card is free, but you need to have a minimum of $20 USD (or the equivalent in another currency) in your account before you can order it unless you’re in Australia, in which case you don’t need a minimum balance to get the card.
  • Sign up using this link and get a no-fee international transfer of up to £500!

 

And that’s all there is to it!

Having the right debit card while traveling can make a world of difference when it comes to all those annoying fees that most banks charge.  Don’t be afraid to get a debit card from more than one bank on this list either! It doesn’t hurt to have the best option for every currency possible.

Let me know in the comments below if this guide helped you find the right debit card for your travels and if there are any similar or better cards or banks in your country, let me know so I can update the list!  

And if you want to add a credit card to your wallet as well, check out my Guide to the Best Credit Cards for Traveling.

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Hi there, I’m Sebastian, founder and creator of Travel Done Simple. Since I turned 20, I have lived in 5 different countries and traveled to over 40 others! You can learn more about me on my About page and find me on social media.

Hi there, I’m Sebastian, founder and creator of Travel Done Simple. Since I turned 20, I have lived in 5 different countries and traveled to over 40 others! You can learn more about me on my About page and find me on social media.

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