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The travel industry is huge in Europe as a whole, and especially in the large number of countries that currently use the Euro. The list of full euro-currency using nations currently stands at 19. But traveling to any of these countries, as with any other country, if you use your domestic bank card, you’re likely to get stung with high bank fees at the ATM, and also for purchases sometimes as well.
Users often get charged both by their own bank as well as the bank ATM they’re using to get money out if they try to withdraw money with a debit/credit card that’s not issued in the country you’re currently in, and these fees can really add up if you’re drawing out a lot of money on holiday.
In this guide though, we’re going to give readers two main options to largely get around this problem, and drastically reduce the amount of bank fees you can pay when drawing money out in any euro-currency country, and even eliminate them altogether if you’re smart.
Your two main options to circumvent traditional bank ATM fees in Europe are:
- Wise Borderless Card
- FairFX/Equals Euro Currency Card (UK residents only)
Both of these are good option to reduce or avoid altogether the bank fees you’ll get charged when drawing euros out in any of these countries:
Let’s cover both options in detail.
Option #1 – Wise Borderless Card
Your first good option for zero fee purchases and drastically reduced ATM fees in Europe is the Wise (formerly TransferWise) Borderless Card.
This is a great competitor to the traditional banks, who offer the ability to attach multiple balances in different currencies (including the Euro) to a single debit card, and spend and withdraw for free in the local currency on that card, plus withdraw for free up to a certain limit.
The Wise Borderless card is available to residents in most countries now:
- USA (all states except Nevada)
- New Zealand
- Most European countries
- See here for a full list of available countries
Click here to sign up for a Wise Borderless card
If you’re specifically looking to spend in different currencies, then you need the “Cross-border/Borderless” Wise card.
Just have a passport or other photo ID, and bank statement to confirm your address, and that’s usually enough in most cases to get signed up and confirmed. You’ll have your Wise multi-currency card sent to you within a few days.
Once you’ve got it, you can open up a euro currency balance (complete with local bank details), deposit or transfer into it, and use it to spend on holiday in any euro-using country.
Here is a list of things you can do with your Wise Euro balance:
- Purchases – You can use your Wise card to spend in euros totally for free in any Euro country, just like if you had a domestic bank card there. Zero fees – just tap and spend and as long as you’ve got enough in your euro balance, it’ll automatically take the funds out of that balance if you’re being charged in euros. So you can buy shopping at Esselunga in Italy, or pay for a TV in Spain, or whatever else, using your Wise card Euro balance, with zero fees, just like if you had a local bank card. If you spend in Euros, but don’t have enough in your Euro balance, it’ll take out of whichever other balance that charges the lowest fees.
- Withdrawals – You can draw out up to EUR 200 on your Wise card per month in a maximum of 2 transactions, for free. After that, it’s a 1.75% fee, plus 0.50 per transaction for every transaction per month over the permitted two free ones. So basically, draw out EUR 200 all at once per month, or draw out EUR 100 twice in a month, to avoid any fees. After that, a flat 1.75% fee is not perfect, but it’s better than most traditional banks. Plus, if you use your Wise card for purchases whenever you can and only use cash when essential, you might not even need more than EUR 200.
- Send – You can send funds from your Euro balance just like any other account, as long as you have the recipient’s details. With Euro accounts, these payments go through the SEPA system and are almost instant.
- Receive – Because the Wise Euro balance is one of the ones they provide WITH local account details, you can also actually receive money as well from others. Once you open a Euro balance, you’re given IBAN/SWIFT details you can pass on to others to receive payments.
And here’s a concise list of fees you’ll pay for card holders in major English speaking countries:
- Spending in currency on card – ZERO fees.
- Spending out of currency – will be charged a fee (varies), will take out of balance which charges lowest fee.
- UK based cardholders (ATM):
- Currently – Can draw out GBP 200 worth of local currency in maximum of 2 transactions for free each calendar month. After that, 1.75% fee for ATM withdrawals, plus 0.50 fee for any withdrawals over the permitted 2 free ones each month.
- US based cardholders (ATM):
- Currently – Can draw out $100 worth of local currency in maximum of 2 transactions for free each calendar month. After that, 2% fee for ATM withdrawals, plus $1.50 fee for any withdrawals over the permitted 2 free ones each month.
- Australian based cardholders (ATM):
- Currently – Can draw out A$350 worth of local currency in maximum of 2 transactions for free each calendar month. After that, 1.75% fee for ATM withdrawals, plus A$1.50 fee for any withdrawals over the permitted 2 free ones each month.
- Fees for cards issued to residents of other countries vary, but are usually in the same general ballpark (couple of hundred free each month in max 2 ATM transactions., then 1.5-2% fee after that)
Bottom line – the rules and fees for the Wise Borderless card are actually getting more generous for most users from 2023, which is another bonus.
Therefore the Wise Borderless Card is a great way of circumventing traditional banks, with their rip-off foreign ATM fees, and draw money out for much cheaper, plus spend on your card in Euros completely for free.
All balances you open (you can choose from around 50 currencies) are attached to the same single card, so there’s no messing round with different debit cards – it’s all contained within one Borderless Card. It’s a great convenient option to use in any country that uses the Euro, and also in a lot of other countries in Europe that don’t use the Euro, since lots of different balances can be opened.
As well as the euro, other countries/currencies offered in the general Europe/Africa/near east area are: Hungarian Forint, Romanian leu, Turkish lira, Swiss Franc, Swedish krone, Danish krone, Norwegian krone, Croatian kuna, Czech koruna, Polish zloty, Bulgarian lev, Moroccan dirham, Egyptian Pound, Israeli shekel, Ukrainian hryvnia, UAE Dirham, Indian Rupee, Pakistan rupee, Georgian lari, Bangladeshi taka.
And then in the far east – Japanese Yen, Thai Baht, South Korean Won, Vietnamese Dong, Hong Kong Dollar, Singapore Dollar, Malaysian Ringgit, Indonesian rupee,
And then in Latin/South America – Mexican Peso, Argentine Peso, Chilean Peso, Costa Rican colon, Uruguayan peso.
In other words, you’ve got plenty of balances to choose from!
Click here to sign up for a Wise Borderless card
Option #2 – FairFX/Equals Euro Currency Card (UK Residents Only)
Another option that can come in especially useful if you need to draw out a lot of Euros is the Equals Currency Card (formerly FairFX).
This allows you to hold up to 15 currencies (including the Euro) on one pre-paid Mastercard, and spend in currency for free and withdraw euros with a low flat fee as well.
Your card is free to order, and once it arrives, much like the Wise Borderless, you can open up and load funds to whichever of the 15 balances you need.
Currently, they have:
- US Dollar
- Japanese Yen
- Australian Dollar
- Canadian Dollar
- Danish Krone
- Hong Kong Dollar
- Hungarian Forint
- New Zealand Dollar
- Norwegian Krone
- Polish Zloty
- South African Rand
- Swedish Krona
- Swiss Franc
The FairFX currency card can be used wherever MasterCard is accepted, worldwide.
However, the card is currently only available to UK residents (a bit of a negative, but hopefully with change soon. If you’re not from the UK, the Wise card is your best option).
And here’s is the quick fee rundown when using the card:
- Card order – FREE
- Spend in currency (POS/Card payment) – FREE
- Spend out of currency – 1.75% fee
- Spending in a currency other than the 15 allowed – 1.75%, taken out of GBP balance (much sure it has enough in there).
- International ATM Withdrawals – £1 fee
- UK ATM Withdrawals – £1 fee
- OTC Cash Withdrawal – GBP 2 flat fee + 3.75% of transaction amount
- Card load – FREE
- Refund – GBP 5
- Lost card replacement – free first time, £6 per time after that.
The £1 flat ATM fee for international withdrawals is especially attractive.
Therefore it follows a similar fee structure to the Wise Borderless Card, and you can combine the two effectively. Once you’ve used your Wise card up to it’s 200 EUR monthly ATM limit, it’s good to use the FairFX card as a backup to draw out any additional money you need from ATMs that month cheaply.
FairFX also offer useful additional services as well, like Linked Cards for family members, and International Travel Money (delivered to your door) at good rates, plus international money transfers into different bank accounts you may have.
Click here to get started with your FairFX Currency Card