Can You Use Your Debit Card in Another Country?

By Timothy Moore · January 23, 2023 · 9 minute read

We’re here to help! First and foremost, SoFi Learn strives to be a beneficial resource to you as you navigate your financial journey. Read more We develop content that covers a variety of financial topics. Sometimes, that content may include information about products, features, or services that SoFi does not provide. We aim to break down complicated concepts, loop you in on the latest trends, and keep you up-to-date on the stuff you can use to help get your money right. Read less

Can You Use Your Debit Card in Another Country?

You can typically use a debit card when traveling in another country as long as the merchant accepts transactions from the card issuer. Debit cards are especially useful when withdrawing cash from ATMs internationally, but cash and credit cards may make more sense for other purchases abroad.

In this guide, we’ll cover the ins and outs of this scenario, including:

•   Can you use a debit card internationally?

•   Are you charged fees when using a debit card internationally?

•   How can you safely use a debit card in another country?

•   Can you withdraw money at an international ATM?

•   What can you do if your debit card doesn’t work?

Can You Use a Debit Card Internationally?

Yes, you can use your debit card internationally, though you may incur foreign transaction fees. Depending on where you travel, you might find merchants that only accept cash — or may only accept cards from specific issuers — so it’s a good idea to have a mix of payment methods with you.

Visa and Mastercard are almost universally accepted anywhere you can pay with plastic. While Discover and American Express have historically been less accepted outside the United States, the two card issuers have made significant strides in recent years. To be safe, it’s a good idea to carry cards from more than one issuer, as well as cash, when traveling abroad. Just be sure you have details like the customer service phone numbers in case you were to lose your cards or be the unfortunate victim of a pickpocket (see more safety tips below).

Recommended: How to Travel on a Budget

Will I Face Fees If I Use My Debit Card Internationally?

While you can typically use a debit cards in another country, you may have to pay a foreign transaction fee. Though these fees vary by bank and card issuer, they are usually around 3% of any transaction abroad.

In addition, you may be given the option by a merchant to pay in local or U.S. currency. If you opt for the latter, it is known as dynamic currency conversion (DCC), and you will likely face an upcharge, possibly a steep one. It’s wise to decline this offer.

If you want to avoid foreign transaction fees, you may need to open an international credit card designed for travelers or find a bank account offering a debit card without these fees.

While you can use a debit card for purchases abroad, experts often recommend paying with cash or a credit card as it can offer better protection if a thief gets their hands on your plastic.

Instead, debit cards are ideal for taking cash out of an ATM. If your bank offers in-network ATMs in foreign countries, you can avoid ATM fees by withdrawing money from those specific ATMs — though you may still contend with foreign transaction fees.

What to Do Before You Travel to Another Country

Traveling to another country is exciting, but there’s a lot to do before you hop on that plane. You may have to find a pet sitter, book hotels, or renew your passport, but there are also a lot of important financial moves to make before traveling internationally:

•   Informing your bank: Banks and credit unions offer a wealth of services to prevent fraud. Unexpected transactions in foreign countries can be a red flag to your financial institution; in attempting to protect you from fraud, they may decline the transaction or freeze your card. It’s a good idea to let your bank and/or credit card issuer know where and when you’ll be traveling so there aren’t any interruptions to your banking service.

   It can also be wise to note customer service numbers for your bank and credit cards in a safe place but not in your wallet in case you were to lose your wallet or be robbed while traveling. You can then spring into action quickly to report losses.

•   Exchanging your money: You’ll want cash in the local currency for your trip, but it’s a good idea to exchange your money before setting out on your travels. Airport kiosks, hotels, and train stations have notoriously high exchange rates; you’ll likely get a better rate if you exchange in advance with a bank or credit union near you.

   That said, you don’t want to carry too much cash on you when traveling in another country, meaning you’ll need to exchange money as you go. You can avoid high exchange rates abroad by getting cash from an in-network ATM using your debit card and staying within your ATM withdrawal limits.

•   Getting travel insurance: If you’re paying for your travel with a rewards credit card, you may already carry special credit card travel insurance. But if cash and debit cards are your primary resources, you’ll likely want to find travel insurance through a third party. Travel insurance can help with the challenges and costs of trip cancellations, lost luggage, rental car issues, and even medical care in foreign countries.

•   Getting an international phone plan: Even the best laid plans can go wrong. If you get lost, want to use a translator, or need to call your bank to troubleshoot an issue with your debit card, you’ll want a call, text, and data plan from your phone provider. It’s a good idea to ask your provider in advance about their international plans and see if you can work it into your travel budget.

Recommended: How to Save Money on Hotels

Get up to $300 when you bank with SoFi.

Open a SoFi Checking and Savings Account with direct deposit and get up to a $300 cash bonus. Plus, get up to 4.60% APY on your cash!

Tips for Safely Using Your Debit Card Internationally

Taking your debit card with you abroad can be convenient, but it’s important to prioritize safety when spending money in another country. Here are a few tips for safely using your debit card internationally:

•   Wear a money belt: Pickpockets can ruin a vacation in a matter of seconds. Keep your valuables (wallet, passport, smartphone, etc.) safe by keeping them out of your pockets, and don’t lug around a purse on your shoulder, either. Instead, wear a money belt — a pouch on a belt that keeps your money securely attached to your person. You can store your debit cards, credit cards, and cash in the pouch.

•   Tell your bank you’re traveling: Avoid becoming stranded in another country without access to your funds by alerting your financial institution of your travels. This should prevent them from freezing your card because of unusual activity.

•   Bring multiple forms of payment: Because something can go wrong — lost or stolen funds, payment type not accepted, etc. — it’s wise to have multiple forms of payment with you when traveling internationally. Ideally, your money belt may have a credit card, a debit card (from a different issuer), and cash in the foreign currency.

•   Practice ATM safety: When using your debit card to withdraw funds at an ATM, there are a few things you can do to protect yourself and your money.

◦   Don’t use the ATM alone, if possible.

◦   Don’t use the ATM at night.

◦   Memorize your PIN (and make sure it’s unique); don’t write it down anywhere.

◦   Watch someone else use the ATM first; if they can successfully retrieve their card and their money, that’s a good sign that criminals haven’t tampered with the machine.

◦   Learn to check ATMs for card skimmers. If a machine looks like it’s been tampered with or has an extra bit of plastic around the card slot, don’t insert your card and find another source of cash.

Recommended: Renting a Car With or Without a Credit Card

Can You Withdraw Money at an International ATM?

If you’re wondering “Can I use my debit card internationally?” you may well be thinking about withdrawing money from an ATM while abroad. That is a top reason to bring your debit card with you when traveling overseas. Before traveling, you can research which ATMs are in your bank’s network in the country you’re visiting — and even make a list of their locations so you know where to go during your trip.

While using an in-network ATM may help you avoid ATM fees, some banks and card issuers may still charge foreign transaction fees. If you regularly travel abroad, it may be worth opening a checking account with a debit card that does not charge foreign transaction fees.

Pro Tip: If you are worried about ATM fees abroad, you may be able to use your debit card at a store and request cash back at the register. However, foreign transaction fees may apply.

What to Do If Your Debit Card Does Not Work?

If you’re in a foreign country and your debit card isn’t working, don’t panic. There are a few things you can do to ensure you can safely spend your money abroad, like:

•   Calling your financial institution. Making an international call might be expensive, but talking to someone at your bank can usually rectify any issue with your debit card. Also, some financial institutions have numbers to use when traveling internationally. It can be wise to note that information down in advance so it’s handy.

•   Using another form of payment. If you’re in the midst of a transaction, it might make sense (at least temporarily) to pay with a credit card or cash until you’re in a calmer place. Then, when you’re back at your hotel or another quiet place, you can resolve your debit card issues.

•   Finding a U.S. embassy. As a last resort, if you have no way of getting money and are stranded abroad, find a U.S. Embassy or Consulate. In emergencies, they may offer temporary loans to travelers.

Recommended: Credit Cards vs. Debit Cards

Banking With SoFi

If you’re planning on traveling internationally, you probably know that you may be hit with various foreign fees. Here’s some relief: When you bank with SoFi, you’ll have a debit card you can use without foreign transaction fees. That’s just one of the perks of opening an online bank account with SoFi. Our Checking and Savings account offers a competitive APY and no monthly fees, plus the convenience of spending and saving in one easy place.

Plan ahead for your international vacation by opening a SoFi bank account today.


Is it better to use cash instead of a debit card internationally?

When traveling internationally, it’s a good idea to have a mix of payment methods: cash, credit cards, and debit cards. Some experts advise using credit cards and cash for purchases and relying on your debit card exclusively for ATM transactions.

Can I use my debit card in all countries?

In most cases, you can use your debit card in other countries, as long as the merchant takes credit cards and accepts cards with your logo. Visa and Mastercard are the most universally accepted, with Discover and American Express following closely behind. When you use your debit card abroad, you may have to pay foreign transaction fees and ATM fees.

Is it better to use a credit card or debit card internationally?

When traveling abroad, you may want to prioritize payment methods that do not charge foreign transaction fees, whether that’s a credit card or a debit card. However, it’s a good idea to carry both kinds of cards (plus cash). Experts recommend using a credit card or cash for purchases and utilizing a debit card to withdraw more money at ATMs as needed.

Photo credit: iStock/Anchiy

SoFi® Checking and Savings is offered through SoFi Bank, N.A. ©2023 SoFi Bank, N.A. All rights reserved. Member FDIC. Equal Housing Lender.
The SoFi Bank Debit Mastercard® is issued by SoFi Bank, N.A., pursuant to license by Mastercard International Incorporated and can be used everywhere Mastercard is accepted. Mastercard is a registered trademark, and the circles design is a trademark of Mastercard International Incorporated.

SoFi members with direct deposit activity can earn 4.60% annual percentage yield (APY) on savings balances (including Vaults) and 0.50% APY on checking balances. Direct Deposit means a deposit to an account holder’s SoFi Checking or Savings account, including payroll, pension, or government payments (e.g., Social Security), made by the account holder’s employer, payroll or benefits provider or government agency (“Direct Deposit”) via the Automated Clearing House (“ACH”) Network during a 30-day Evaluation Period (as defined below). Deposits that are not from an employer or government agency, including but not limited to check deposits, peer-to-peer transfers (e.g., transfers from PayPal, Venmo, etc.), merchant transactions (e.g., transactions from PayPal, Stripe, Square, etc.), and bank ACH funds transfers and wire transfers from external accounts, do not constitute Direct Deposit activity. There is no minimum Direct Deposit amount required to qualify for the stated interest rate.

SoFi members with Qualifying Deposits can earn 4.60% APY on savings balances (including Vaults) and 0.50% APY on checking balances. Qualifying Deposits means one or more deposits that, in the aggregate, are equal to or greater than $5,000 to an account holder’s SoFi Checking and Savings account (“Qualifying Deposits”) during a 30-day Evaluation Period (as defined below). Qualifying Deposits only include those deposits from the following eligible sources: (i) ACH transfers, (ii) inbound wire transfers, (iii) peer-to-peer transfers (i.e., external transfers from PayPal, Venmo, etc. and internal peer-to-peer transfers from a SoFi account belonging to another account holder), (iv) check deposits, (v) instant funding to your SoFi Bank Debit Card, (vi) push payments to your SoFi Bank Debit Card, and (vii) cash deposits. Qualifying Deposits do not include: (i) transfers between an account holder’s Checking account, Savings account, and/or Vaults; (ii) interest payments; (iii) bonuses issued by SoFi Bank or its affiliates; or (iv) credits, reversals, and refunds from SoFi Bank, N.A. (“SoFi Bank”) or from a merchant.

SoFi Bank shall, in its sole discretion, assess each account holder’s Direct Deposit activity and Qualifying Deposits throughout each 30-Day Evaluation Period to determine the applicability of rates and may request additional documentation for verification of eligibility. The 30-Day Evaluation Period refers to the “Start Date” and “End Date” set forth on the APY Details page of your account, which comprises a period of 30 calendar days (the “30-Day Evaluation Period”). You can access the APY Details page at any time by logging into your SoFi account on the SoFi mobile app or SoFi website and selecting either (i) Banking > Savings > Current APY or (ii) Banking > Checking > Current APY. Upon receiving a Direct Deposit or $5,000 in Qualifying Deposits to your account, you will begin earning 4.60% APY on savings balances (including Vaults) and 0.50% on checking balances on or before the following calendar day. You will continue to earn these APYs for (i) the remainder of the current 30-Day Evaluation Period and through the end of the subsequent 30-Day Evaluation Period and (ii) any following 30-day Evaluation Periods during which SoFi Bank determines you to have Direct Deposit activity or $5,000 in Qualifying Deposits without interruption.

SoFi Bank reserves the right to grant a grace period to account holders following a change in Direct Deposit activity or Qualifying Deposits activity before adjusting rates. If SoFi Bank grants you a grace period, the dates for such grace period will be reflected on the APY Details page of your account. If SoFi Bank determines that you did not have Direct Deposit activity or $5,000 in Qualifying Deposits during the current 30-day Evaluation Period and, if applicable, the grace period, then you will begin earning the rates earned by account holders without either Direct Deposit or Qualifying Deposits until you have Direct Deposit activity or $5,000 in Qualifying Deposits in a subsequent 30-Day Evaluation Period. For the avoidance of doubt, an account holder with both Direct Deposit activity and Qualifying Deposits will earn the rates earned by account holders with Direct Deposit.

Members without either Direct Deposit activity or Qualifying Deposits, as determined by SoFi Bank, during a 30-Day Evaluation Period and, if applicable, the grace period, will earn 1.20% APY on savings balances (including Vaults) and 0.50% APY on checking balances.

Interest rates are variable and subject to change at any time. These rates are current as of 10/24/2023. There is no minimum balance requirement. Additional information can be found at

Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.

Third-Party Brand Mentions: No brands, products, or companies mentioned are affiliated with SoFi, nor do they endorse or sponsor this article. Third-party trademarks referenced herein are property of their respective owners.


All your finances.
All in one app.

SoFi QR code, Download now, scan this with your phone’s camera

All your finances.
All in one app.

App Store rating

SoFi iOS App, Download on the App Store
SoFi Android App, Get it on Google Play

TLS 1.2 Encrypted
Equal Housing Lender