The Card to Use Abroad

This is not a paid advertisement–it is simply what I have learned as I plan another trip to France from the US. Using my Bank of America Visa card would incur a $5-per-transaction fee for the debit card, and, for credit card purchases, a 3% fee on top of the often crappy exchange rate. So I’m going to leave my B of A card at home.

American Express, on the other hand, does not charge for transactions abroad. My card is one that has an annual fee, but it more than makes up for itself in saved charges, such as covering baggage fees and even food on domestic flights. In addition, AmEx has a “Global Assist” number for users to resort to, should they wind up in an emergency situation abroad. I guess they have convinced this cardmember not to leave home without it.

6 Responses to “The Card to Use Abroad”

  1. Comment by Richard Ewen | 06/26/13 at 12:12 am

    If you are a member of Bank of America, they are affiliated with the French bank BNP. We use our ATM card with no fee charged at any BNP ATM plus the standard conversion fee from $ to €.
    It may not be prudent for you to change US banks, but for us our daughter lived there while going to school and it made money transferring very easy. It is never a great exchange rate but all exchanges are close to the same.

  2. Comment by Laurie | 06/26/13 at 12:14 am

    HI Richard,

    Glad you brought this up–a B of A rep DID mention the BNP alliance, so maybe I’ll bring that card after all. But I’ll use it just for pulling $ out of an ATM, not for restaurant and shopping purchases.

  3. Comment by Robin | 06/26/13 at 4:31 am


    As of November 2011, B of A dropped the $5 fee for debit purchases, in response to customer reactions. As part of the Global Alliance with BNP and other banks as stated before there is no charge for ATM withdrawals.

  4. Comment by Laurie | 06/26/13 at 4:58 am

    A B of A rep told me yesterday in a branch that the $5 fee applies to any withdrawal not done at a BNP ATM.

  5. Comment by k_sam | 06/26/13 at 8:23 am

    I can confirm that BOA users can withdraw money for free from BNP ATMs (and vice versa).

    As a side note, for the AmEx, it must depend on which kind you have, because I have a skymiles AmEx and I definitely get charged the foreign transaction fee for any purchases made in France.

  6. Comment by Elaine | 06/27/13 at 1:17 am

    I just got a BA card with a “puce” or chip so I can use it in the ATMs in France as well as places like the metro to buy tickets. If you have time (and qualify) ask for a card with the chip before you leave the US.

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