Wells Fargo foreign transaction fees — here's what you need to know

Wise
11.03.19
5 minute read

Whenever you travel abroad, there’s one question you always have to deal with. What’s the best way to pay for stuff? It’s difficult partly because there are so many options, from getting holiday money or a specialist travel money card, to simply using your regular credit or debit card.

Wells Fargo is one of the world’s largest banks, so it’s no surprise that it’s possible to use their cards abroad. But, as with other cards, there are usually charges involved.

This article will give you more information on how to use Wells Fargo credit and debit cards abroad, including:

  • Debit and credit card foreign transaction fees
  • Currency conversion with Wells Fargo
  • International ATM fees
  • Dynamic currency conversion
  • Tips and tricks for using foreign cards abroad

Have a read to find out if using your Wells Fargo card abroad is the right answer for you, as well as for some general tips on how to get good value for money when you’re abroad.

Wells Fargo debit card foreign transaction fees

Let’s start with debit cards. If you want to use a Wells Fargo debit card abroad, you’ll probably find yourself having to pay the fees you’ll find below. ATM fees will be dealt with separately below.

Your particular account might have a different breakdown of fees charged. If you think that might apply to you, check with Wells Fargo.¹

Wells Fargo debit card transaction Fee
Withdraw cash at non-Wells Fargo ATM $2.50 plus fees may be charged by the ATM owner/operator
“International Purchase Transaction Fee” — make a purchase in a foreign currency 3% of the amount

Currency conversion — what about the rates?

You might be wondering what the basic reason is why it’s so hard to get a good deal when spending money abroad. The answer is very simple: exchange rates.

The currency markets are constantly changing during the day — but exchange rates also change depending on where you look. Some providers set their own exchange rates, and they generally do this by looking at the mid-market rate — an average of all the buy and sell rates — and then marking it up. They set their exchange rate above the mid-market rate so that they don’t have to pay as much.

That’s why it always pays to look out for decent exchange rates: the rate can end up costing you a lot.

It’s also why using credit and debit cards abroad is often quite good value. The exchange rate you get when you use these cards is generally set by the card companies: Visa, Mastercard or American Express. And the rates they set tend to be competitive. Not as competitive as the mid-market rate, but still good value.

If you want access to the mid-market rate when you get foreign currency, Wise’s borderless account might be for you. It lets you hold money in multiple international currencies and you can convert between them at the mid-market rate. You can also get a Wise debit Mastercard, which you can use your USD balance to pay directly for goods and services.

Which Wells Fargo credit cards have foreign transaction fees?

Of the 7 credit cards Wells Fargo offers, 6 have a Foreign Currency Conversion Fee of 3%.² ³ ⁴ ⁵ ⁶ ⁷ ⁸ ⁹

The exception is the Propel American Express card, which doesn’t charge at all for foreign currency conversion.² Something to consider for frequent travelers.

Wells Fargo international ATM fees: a closer look

ATM fees are hard to be precise about, because it’s not just Wells Fargo that might charge you: the ATM operator could end up charging fees as well. So the below fees are the ones that will likely come from Wells Fargo when you use an ATM card — unless they’re different for your particular account — but there’s always the chance there’ll be other, non-Wells Fargo fees too.¹

ATM service Fee
Cash withdrawal from an international non-Wells Fargo ATM $5 plus fees may be charged by the ATM owner/operator
Balance inquiry from an international non-Wells Fargo ATM $2 plus fees may be charged by the ATM owner/operator
Transfer funds between your Wells Fargo checking account and savings account service only available at select ATMs internationally $2

Dynamic currency conversion (DCC)

So. It’s generally true that you can get a decent exchange rate by using your credit or debit card in a foreign ATM. But there’s an exception. Quite a big one.

The foreign ATM might ask you which currency it should charge you in: the local currency, or US dollars. If it asks you this, you should always choose the local currency. If you choose US dollars, the exchange rate won’t be set by the card network, but rather by the ATM provider or bank. And it won’t be a good rate. At all.

This scheme is known as dynamic currency conversion, or DCC for short, and it’s something best avoided. At ATMs, the best exchange rate is always the local one.

Tips and tricks for using ATMs and paying by card abroad

Whatever your travel plans, there are always a few tips to remember to get a decent deal.

  • Tell your bank before you go. A surefire way to ruin your trip: get your card blocked. Make sure you notify Wells Fargo, or whoever your card issuer is, before your trip, so that they’re not surprised to see a load of foreign transactions on your card. If you don’t, they might assume your card’s been stolen or you’re the victim of fraud.
  • Prepare for the worst. As well as sending Wells Fargo a message, make some extra backup plans. Take a second card if you have one (and store it separately), and make sure you know how to get in touch with Wells Fargo while you’re abroad.
  • Shorten your PIN. A 4-digit PIN is a safer bet when traveling abroad. If yours is 6 digits, consider shortening it.
  • Avoid exchanging currency at the airport. You’re very unlikely to get a decent exchange rate at the airport, so try and sort some cash out before you go, or wait until you’re at your destination.
  • Be on the lookout for extra fees. The fees mentioned above are charged by Wells Fargo. But they might not be the end of the story. Some foreign ATMs charge you when you get cash out, so you could end up having to pay then too. Try and find somewhere you get a decent deal, and if you find out an ATM is charging you half way through a withdrawal, don’t be afraid to cancel it and hunt down another ATM.
  • Compare and contrast: cash or card? With a Wells Fargo debit card, the key fee to bear in mind is $5 for an ATM withdrawal or 3% for payments directly with the card. Think about which of these will work out better for you across the whole of your trip. $5 might seem quite high, but if you withdraw a high amount, it could be better value than the percentage cut on every single transaction.
  • Pay like a local: you might have to. Not everywhere in the world has the same culture when it comes to making payments. While card payments are very common in most of Europe, for example, in Germany they’re less common and not every place accepts debit card payments — so it’s always useful to carry cash. Therefore, you should find out what the customs are where you’re going, and bear that in mind when deciding how much cash to withdraw.
  • Not sure what something’s worth? Use an online currency converter. If you find yourself unsure how many dollars something’s worth, check out an online currency converter. That’ll show you the current mid-market rate.

Good luck during your trip, and make sure you know how to make your Wells Fargo card work for you. It pays to know the details on how to spend money abroad — so that when you do travel, you can concentrate on the thing that really matters: enjoying yourself in a new place.


Sources:

  1. https://www.wellsfargo.com/online-banking/service-fees/
  2. https://www.wellsfargo.com/credit-cards/find-a-credit-card/all/
  3. https://www.wellsfargo.com/credit-cards/cash-back-college-card/terms
  4. https://www.wellsfargo.com/credit-cards/secured/terms
  5. https://www.wellsfargo.com/credit-cards/platinum-visa/terms
  6. https://www.wellsfargo.com/credit-cards/visa-signature/terms
  7. https://www.wellsfargo.com/credit-cards/rewards/terms
  8. https://www.wellsfargo.com/credit-cards/visa-wise-platinum/terms
  9. https://www.wellsfargo.com/credit-cards/propel/terms

All sources last checked 26 February 2019


This publication is provided for general information purposes only and is not intended to cover every aspect of the topics with which it deals. It is not intended to amount to advice on which you should rely. You must obtain professional or specialist advice before taking, or refraining from, any action on the basis of the content in this publication. The information in this publication does not constitute legal, tax or other professional advice from TransferWise Limited or its affiliates. Prior results do not guarantee a similar outcome. We make no representations, warranties or guarantees, whether express or implied, that the content in the publication is accurate, complete or up to date.

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