Talk:Credit/Debit/ATM Cards and Foreign Exchange

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Updating "The List"'s tables on this corresponding wiki page

Hello, I have a suggestion. The list on the corresponding wiki page includes tables for "Credit and Charge Cards", "ATM/Check/Debit Cards (used at ATM)", etc.

I'm following the atm cards which reimburse foreign atm fees/or do not charge such fees. However, the information that's been lacking and which has been suggested at FatWallet Fees Charges & Exchange Rates for Foreign Credit Card & ATM Transactions (see forum post #2, titled "Quick Tags", in the section "Bank Cards") is these atm cards may have subpar exchange rates which will overshadow any benefits received by fee-exemption of foreign and out of network ATMS.

Could we add columns to the tables of the previous page where over time we can aggregate data and infer said exchange rates to better inform us, the people considering or using these cards? If there's a formula like "global exchange rate minus 1%", that'd be great to know too!


--Krystian 07:19, 7 June 2007 (MDT)

I'm afraid that adding that kind of info will make the tables quite unwieldy. We'd probably do better to add separate wiki pages linked from the main table for each card that people are tracking.

The thing is, I'm not sure how useful it will be. I've never fully been able to figure out how exchange rates are actually determined-- (1) to what degree it depends on the card, (2) to what degree it depends on the card netowrk, (3) to what degree it depends on the merchant/atm, (4) and to what degree it simply depends on when the transaction gets processed. On a recent trip to Budapest, for example, I made three charges on the SAME DAY on my same CapOne Visa and they posted with wildly different rates. One purchase was more than 1% more expensive than the other two. A look at the interbank exchange rates for that day showed that there was a lot of volatility (more than 1%), but that still seemed weird to me.

--themicah 22:19, 7 June 2007 (EDT)

Thanks themicah,

Your response was really useful. The complexity of the exchange rate as you outlined is valuable. Though there are banks that offer free ATM surcharge rebates, etc I have found in recent days to have a more speculative eye when looking at their offers since I'm now more aware that fees can be manifested in numerous ways. This unfortunately does make it difficult to calculate and compare benefits with banks, since it's hard to figure out exactly as you said, how exchange rates are determined and manifested.

Please keep this question and answer thread up and don't delete it. I hope people can even chime in, if possible. I hope it's useful to others just as communicating has been useful to me.

Regarding the idea you mentioned of making seperate wiki pages for each card, I like that idea. Though it will be difficult to track charges, over time with enough collaboration from the community and enough data (ie: exactly which type of card are you using issued by that bank, etc.) I hope we can sequence enough information to make a determination about rates. Or it's possible this info is already available somewhere else.

Lets wait a little for responses to this thread before we decide to continue, no? (Just so we don't duplicate work, and hope to identify some source of information that already compiles this data.... I don't think bankrate has any info on it, though I could be wrong) --Krystian 07:15, 9 June 2007 (MDT)


PLEASE note the importance of this concern about hidden charges in exchange rates. Years ago, I used a CapitalOne card along with my bank's plain ATM card to get euros. Comparing charges on the same days, I found that CapitalOne took 4% more than my bank via their foreign exchange rate--i.e., really a 4% fee. The telephone agent of CapitalOne admitted nothing. But your list calls CapitalOne the best 0% card. Unless they have changed, CapitalOne is the worst card, and the list directs people to them. Visa.com and MasterCard.com show online a great exchange rate. The MasterCard site is vague. The Visa site shows a final charge based on the fee plus the bank exchange rate, so I feel good about today's zero-fee Visa cards. Maybe the law has changed this--I think cards now are supposed to be transparent about exchange rates. I had this bad experience years ago. Best, D. Sewell 11/11/11 (don't know how to log in)

Check/Debit Cards (used at point of sale)"

Does this mean using the Mastercard/Visa portion of the debit card to buy stuff? or buy stuff using a PIN #?

>> I (not the original author) think it can mean either -- Merchants greatly prefer the PIN-based transactions as they usually cost around a flat 30 to 55 cents - much less than 1.8 to 3.8 percent on either signature-based debit or credit cards. That is why the banks tend to give fewer rewards points (many give none, so Citibank ought to get some credit for even giving a reduced thank you rewards point value for PIN-based transactions) than they do with signature-debit cards.

>>> I am the original author of the page (themicah). I was referring to using it for signature-based transactions, since outside the US it's extremely uncommon to be able to use your debit card for PIN-based transactions at point-of-sale. The above commenter is correct in how fees work in the US, though.

>>>>This is for the author. There is a chance U.S. debit cards with the Maestro symbol can be used as a pin purchase outside of the U.S. provided your bank and the merchant support this type of transaction. A lot of U.S. debit cards have the Maestro symbol on the back of the card. I think it is there mainly for use in Germany. Very few places take credit cards in Germany. Germany use the EC which has merged with the maestro network. So if you see the EC symbol you should be able to use the card as a pin transaction. This is unverified information, I have just read if from forums and blogs.

Visa Electron/Delta and MC Maestro

The original author of the entry asks what Visa is doing with the Electron brand.

It is Visa's card with a high degree of control -- think "risk management". The clear branding serves to remind merchants that all transactions must be authorised, and the spending limit on the card is rigidly enforced. It's marketed to banks as appropriate for certain groups of customers, for example as a first card for young people or for general issue in countries with less mature or legally restricted consumer credit markets. There doesn't seem to be any special relationship with respect to ATMs or foreign exchange.

Source: http://corporate.visa.com/md/fs/consumer/electron_print.jsp

Visa Delta was previously the UK name for Visa Debit, a debit card product; the brand was phased out in 2004.

Tangential remark: MasterCard seems to brand its debit card product Maestro in most markets. Similarly to Delta, the UK version of Maestro was previously known as Switch. Switch developed far higher brand recognition than Maestro has yet achieved; so much so that "Switch card" is still used as a synonym for "debit card" in everyday speech.

Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Visa and links therefrom plus personal knowledge.

Final note: western Europe is well into the process of conversion to "Chip and PIN". The UK was fully converted earlier this year (2006), and all transactions where the holder is present now require a PIN. Outlets now use the on-card chip in preference to the swipe strip which serves only as a backup. So expect to use your PIN everywhere in the UK -- and shortly throughout western Europe.

I hope that clears up some of the questions raised by the original contributor. I leave it to her to integrate them into the article.

Should we make it US-only or include other countries?

themicah here...

Lately there have been a number of changes to the wiki incorporating info for UK-issued cards. Previously the page only really covered US-issued cards.

Do you think this info makes the wiki more useful? Or does it make an already-complex topic more confusing?

I'm trying to decide whether to delete those changes and make the wiki explicitly a resource for US-issued cards, or whether we should include our friends from across the pond. My concern is that if we try to make it a global resource, it's going to get so complex it will no longer be useful.

Perhaps we should start a new page for UK-issued cards, since very few people have a need for both sets of information?

Post your thoughts here.

      • I really believe that the average person would be totally confused by the information if included in the same thread. I on one hand do have accounts in more than one country, but due to that know the difficulty of attaining such accounts. I also can tell you based on conversations with others that it confuses them. So considering all readers it would be best to have a seperate wiki for "Non-US" or "Foreign Issued" cards, so that those with a need for that information could find it easily.*** Drbond

Certainly there is a need for more coverage. European credit cards are generally lousy, and there are only a few of them. Eg. There is only 1 rebate credit card in Belgium, and all credit cards in Belgium charge an annual fee. Since there are so few credit cards in Europe, adding them would not clutter the table too much. I would propose colorizing the rows based on currency. Eg. USD cards in one color, EUR cards in another color, GBP in another. Also, there already exists hundreds of sites that aggregate information on all the available USD credit cards. Not a single site does the same for euro cards. I believe there's one such site for GBP cards, but it doesn't cover currency conversion.

I would object to adding various currencies all on the one page. I think the list is already very long and hard to read. And very few people care to compare the exchange rates on a Euro card to the exchange rates on a USD or GBP card. It would be great, however, if you started a new page for Euro cards, and you're welcome to use any and all text from this page as a template. Themicah 10:49, 27 March 2009 (MDT)

Should we include cash back or other benefits?

Also, it would be useful to have a row showing cashback. If a credit card charges 1% in currency conversion fees, but gives 2% cash back, such a card would be better than a non-rebate card w/ zero in conversion charges, but the table would hide that as it is right now.

This topic has come up a few times and anonymous editors have often added cash back information and other rewards when making changes. I fully understand why, but I have generally deleted this info, however, for a few reasons. The original impetus for this wiki was that foreign exchange information was very difficult to find (and customer service reps often get it wrong). It's easy to find information about rewards programs. Also, any one issuer may have dozens of different rewards programs with subtle differences. It is hard enough to keep up with changes in foreign exchange fees. Listing all the rewards programs and trying to keep up with their changes would be even more difficult, and would significantly lengthen the list of cards on the site. Also, it can be hard to compare the relative value of rewards programs. Cash back seems simple, but there are differences in rounding, redemption rules, etc., and valuing miles and other proprietary rewards programs can be notoriously difficult. Finally, if we add rewards programs, it would be tempting to add other factors as well (APRs, grace periods, int'l customer service availability, speed of replacing cards, etc.), and that's simply not what this wiki is about.

Thanks for the input. Themicah 10:49, 27 March 2009 (MDT)

Organising data

The wiki page on cards contains some information which is generally true around the world and some which is specific to the USA. I think it would be best if the general information were the main page, with all country-specific information, such as the tables for specific cards, split off.

Wells Fargo

The Wells Fargo record is probably not quite right. I know a student who most likely does not have the PMA account ($25k min to avoid maintenance fees), yet he pays no conversion fee at the ATM - and has a letter from Wells Fargo confirming that his account is only subject to a flat fee of $5 for the international transaction, explicitly stating that there is no currency conversion fee for ATM withdrawals.

I used my Wells Fargo ATM abroad as of 7/29/2009 and did not run into the 3% conversion fee. I did have to pay the $5 though. The table should be updated.194.154.149.197 00:46, 27 July 2009 (MDT)

Added column for actuals

I added a column so folks who use the XE calculator could contribute an actual rate for comparison. The "documented fee" is what the bank applies to <i>their</i> wholesale rate, but banks get different wholesale rates, so it's not meaningful to just look at the percentage markup. My transaction using Capital One actually turned out to be a negative fee - which illustrates that different banks get different interbank rates. Whatever wholesale rate the XE calculator uses, let us use that as a standard.

themicah's response

I undid this revision. It's an interesting idea to try to track the wholesale rates in addition to the fees and I appreciate the effort, but the wholesale rates simply move too much for us to track them accurately. Just because you had one transaction come in at a rate lower than what xe.com reports doesn't mean you're always getting a good deal by using that card. I've personally had exchange rates on CapOne, for example, vary by more than 1% with respect to the same currency on purchases made on the same day on the same card. And even when we've tried to do head to head shootouts between cards to determine wholesale rate variation, we've found the results to be inconclusive.

Note also that xe.com (and the similar oanda.com) simply provide an example of an interbank rate. There is no such thing as an "official" interbank rate, since foreign currency markets vary from minute to minute, and can swing wildly in the course of a day. Themicah 09:18, 6 April 2009 (MDT)

HSBC Platinum now at 0%

I received my new HSBC Platinum MC in the mail today and it says "No foreign transaction fees on purchases". Article currently says 0% applies only to Premier accounts.