If you are familiar with credit cards, you know that typically (I would say in the majority of cases) banks will get a commission if you withdraw money abroad (in many cases, even in the same country).
Situation in Switzerland
In Switzerland, even the big banks (UBS for example) doesn’t let you withdraw money for free (see UBS Maestro Card prices: they charge 1% commission for withdrawal, see also UBS Credit Card prices: they charge 3.5% commission for withdrawal, 4% if you go over-the-counter).
Same for the popular free credit cards Visa or Mastercard SupercardPlus (from COOP, issued by Credit Suisse) and Visa or Mastercard Cumulus (from Migros – previously GE Money Bank, now issued by Cembra bank). For every withdrawal the user will have to pay 3.75% commission (minimum 10 CHF) + 1.5% surcharge for foreign currency use.
For example, if you withdraw 1’000 CHF abroad (I used CHF for my convenience, for easier calculations. Say you need the equivalent in Thai Baht), the commission would be 37.5 CHF + 15 CHF because of the transaction in foreign currency. In total you would lose 52.5 CHF in commissions. Of course you don’t withdraw so much money, but just divide per 2 (500 CHF: 27 CHF commission) or do the math yourself, for smaller amounts. This is quite ridiculous.
Best way to withdraw money without any commission
Luckily, I found a good and FREE alternative to solve the money problem when traveling: the DKB credit card (issued by Deutsche Kreditbank, Berlin, Germany – but you can open an account per post, even in Switzerland and other countries) is the only one I’ve found so far that lets you withdraw money without any commission. I was a bit skeptical, how can this be possible? Well, I don’t know the reasons (I speculated below, see my note about futurism) but it works!
Just follow this rule: use the credit card to withdraw money from an ATM. For all other uses check their prices and conditions. E.g. I’ve read that if you go inside a bank and interact with a person, then you have to pay a commission. I think this bank is a bit future oriented: why should a user pay for an automated interaction with a machine? That said, why should I wait in a queue and lose my time to interact with a human, when the machine gives me money faster?
I’ve also read that you pay a commission, abroad, if you use the credit card to pay directly (e.g. in a shop, in a restaurant). But if you can withdraw money without any commission, I see no point using the credit card itself for the payments: use the money you got from the ATM.
I have this card since July 2013, but haven’t tested it to see if I really get money without commission, but so far it looks promising. I’ve read several blog articles.
How to get this card?
Simple, go to the DKB website website and fill the forms. It will take 5 – 10 minutes of your time. You will receive a confirmation email, you need to print it and the only tricky thing is that you need to go to a bank (in Switzerland) or to a post office (in Germany) for the identification process, which is as simple as showing your passport or identity card to the bank/post employee, and ask him/her to sign the identification form (and/or put a bank stamp on it). Many banks offer this service for free, even if you are not their customer. I went to the Raiffeisen bank in Zurich Oerlikon. The guy was really easy going and did it without any problem (ok first he was a bit puzzled, then I explained he needed just to check my passport and registration in the city of Zurich and confirm I didn’t fake my address or passport details, and sign it), even if I’m not their customer.
After a week and a few days, you will receive in 3 separate letters containing 1) the credit card, 2) the credit card pin code and 3) the e-banking password.
DKB e-banking security
You can login to the DKB e-banking with your username (Anmeldename) and a password (PIN). What I don’t like, is that the PIN code can be only 5 characters long and contain a few special characters. On the other hand, the username can be between 7 and 15 characters long and it can contain more special characters. Both username and PIN can be changed under Service > iTAN-Verwaltung und weitere Funktionen, this is quite handy.
Anyway, on my opinion, the username should be short and easy, the password long and complex. I wonder why they decided the opposite way.
What I like is that you have an extra security with the TAN list. When you want to do a payment or change some security settings, the system will ask you to provide a code (iTAN) that you should have in a separate place. This way, if somebody steals your username and password, he won’t be able to do much more than seeing your transactions. For a money order he will need to provide also a TAN.
What I also like, is that the system will automatically log you out after 12 minutes of inactivity.
DKB e-banking reports
With reports I mean seeing your transactions. It’s quite important to check regularly your transactions. This way you can report eventual abuses.
I withrdrawed some money on Wednesday at 09:00. I could see the transaction only 2 days later (Friday at 09:00). This is a bit slow, but probably this is how credit cards work. Just keep it in mind.
What do other people think about DKB and this card
Have a look at these reviews (only in German, but I guess you know google translate, don’t you?):
Kritische-anleger.de: DKB Erfahrungen - seems that almost 50% are not happy with DKB, ready why.
DKB-Kreditkarte: Ein kritischer Blick - this traveling blogger was totally happy with the DKB credit card (for the reasons I mentioned above: you can withdraw money for free), till the card was “stolen” -after a successful withdrawal of money if was not given back- by an ATM in Cuba, it was illegally used for a couple of thousands USD and the girl didn’t get her money back, when normally a serious credit card institute has a sort of insurance for this kind of cases (for example, with UBS, in my past, I reported a card misuse and they refunded me when I reported the case). Cuba, anyway, is a particular case. Many tourist guides warn to be careful with ATMs in Cuba and suggest even not to use those ATMs. The blogger was unlucky and DKB was not really helpful with her case. In general -I think- when your card is stolen or misused you can be lucky or unlucky.
What are your experiences with the DKB credit card? You are welcome to comment about it.
I am not affiliated with DKB, nor I got a commission for this article. I just believe that money, in general, should not be subject to any commissions. Banks earn already a lot of money: it’s ridiculous that the consumers must pay extra commissions just for getting cash from an ATM or using a credit card in a shop. Thus I’m happy to share with you this discovery. Enjoy.