With Fidelity, no FTF at ATM

By Stanley Mui
This item appears on page 14 of the May 2019 issue.

I want to share with ITN readers how I save on ATM fees.

First of all, I never use a currency-exchange desk — either at the airport or in the city — because of the unfavorable exchange rate and fees. Besides, ATMs are ubiquitous.

I always travel with two debit cards that do not incur a foreign transaction fee (FTF): a Charles Schwab Visa debit card and a Fidelity Cash Management Visa debit card. There are a lot of other banks that offer no-FTF debit cards nowadays.

On rereading a letter from Jim Randall on the subject of “No-fee Debit and Credit Cards” (Feb. ’17, pg. 34), I noticed one sentence in an editor’s note that is no longer true. It read, “Fidelity does charge a one percent FTF on ATM withdrawals and foreign transactions.”*

With my Fidelity Cash Management Account Visa Debit card, I am NOT charged the one percent fee for an ATM withdrawal. The FTF applies only if I use the card like a credit card for purchases (signing the receipt).**

When using the Fidelity card, any ATM fee will be reimbursed. Since I know that any ATM fees will be reimbursed, I will withdraw smaller amounts (just enough for what I need at that moment on my trip), especially as I am getting closer to the departure date.

I don’t like to keep foreign currencies, so I will spend all of the money before I board my plane, or I donate it at the airport. I try not to use a currency exchange at the airport to exchange the local currency back to US dollars.

If anyone has other suggestions on how to save money on cash withdrawals, I would love to read about them.


Woodland Hills, CA

*In February 2019, ITN wrote to Robert Beauregard, Director of External Communications at Fidelity, who had informed ITN in late 2016 about the 1% FTF on ATM withdrawals with a Fidelity Cash Management Account Visa debit card. Asked whether that 1% fee is still in effect or if ATM withdrawals are FTF-free, Mr. Beauregard wrote, “Currently, the 1% foreign transaction fee for any PIN-based transaction, including ATM withdrawals, is being waived.

“ATM withdrawals will only be subject to the ATM surcharge fee and currency exchange rate. For Cash Management Accounts, Fidelity reimburses the client for the surcharges.”

**Mr. Beauregard added, “Any purchase needing a signature in a foreign country will be subject to the 1% foreign fee and currency exchange rate. Any PIN-based purchase or transaction will only be subject to the currency exchange rate.”