The occasional traveler might not feel too much pain from the the 1-3% banks and credit cards issuers typically charge to make credit card purchases and use ATMs abroad. But we just love optimizing and couldn't help turning our eye to how to avoid these fees entirely.
Banks will typically charge for using an out of network ATM. Then charge an additional transaction for foreign ATMs. Then sometimes the ATM operator will charge a fee on top of that. Charles Schwab will reimburse all of those for its checking accounts and doesn’t have monthly fees. $0 minimum balance. Here’s the Medium article that led us there. Additional googling suggests that people are pretty happy with their customer service.
We only evaluated MasterCard and Visa for more ubiquitous acceptance then evaluated based on minimizing transaction and yearly membership fees while maximizing rewards. Our choice - the Bank of America Travel Rewards Visa. It has a $0 annual fee, 0% foreign transaction fee, and 1.5% reward rate redeemable for travel purchases. This is the NerdWallet article that led us there. If you don't like BoA, the Capital One Quicksilver Cash Rewards Credit Card is very similar but doesn’t have the EMV chip for fraud prevention.