International ATM Mystery Fees

Since it looks like we’re having a Bank of America day, have another mystery. Gawker jocker Scott Kidder took a five-dollar hit to his BoA account each time he got out money in Europe. Painful, but in an ‘all banks ream you for international ATM fees’ way. But there were always additional percentage-based charge with each transaction, and the BoA customer care couldn’t tell Scott where it came from.

Scott writes:

The best part? My roommate John uses Bank of America, withdraws money from the exact same ATMs, but isn’t charged any of these fees! I’ve called BOA’s national call centers, my local branch, branches in other states, and everyone tells me the same thing: “Sorry, there is a $5 fee. We’re not sure why you’re being charged that second fee (the percentage), though. And we’re not sure why your roommate has no fees charged. Maybe you can give us his account number?”

Obviously, it looks like an additional transaction for overseas banking, but shouldn’t Bank of American be able to tell if the charge was levied by their system or another bank’s? And are there better ways to get cash in other countries besides travelers’ cheques?