Feb 28, 2019

5 Banks That Are Meant for Travelers

As you plan for an exciting trip abroad, you understandably have researched currency exchange rates and local rates for food, lodging, and other essentials. While budgeting properly for these and other expenses is essential, the matter of accessing funds from your U.S.-based bank account can be complicated and expensive. Between international transaction fees and challenges finding an ATM abroad that accepts your debit card, planning ahead is vital if you want easy and affordable or free access to your money. However, these expenses and related challenges are not universal. There are some banks that offer account services and features well-suited for international travelers.


  • A high-yield checking account with Charles Schwab is a cost-effective option for travelers regardless of your destinations. Charles Schwab offers full reimbursement of domestic and foreign ATM fees worldwide. Because the ATM card can universally and conveniently be used at any ATM worldwide, you will not need to search for the right ATM to use in an unfamiliar land. In addition, you will not be charged with expensive foreign transaction fees when using your debit card for direct debit purchases.

    While many high-yield checking accounts require the account holder to maintain a high minimum balance, Charles Schwab’s comparable account has no minimum balance requirement provided the account is linked to a Schwab investment account. Regardless of the account balance, the checking account funds earn a modest return of 0.4 percent. Furthermore, no monthly maintenance fee is required.

  • If your travel plans take you to the same location repeatedly or for extended periods, opening up a checking account at HSBC is an excellent idea. In addition to opening a U.S.-based account, you can open a second HSBC checking account in the United Kingdom, France, Hong Kong, or numerous other locations. Through their mobile app, you can quickly transfer funds between the two HSBC checking accounts as needed. Accounts can be maintained in U.S. currency as well as in euros and sterling silver. A Visa debit card is available in your choice of sterling silver or U.S. currency.

    Multiple checking account options are available with international services. All options allow you to access funds through any HSBC ATM worldwide, and most of these ATMs are available without a fee. Only the Premier checking account waives a transaction fee on foreign purchases. HSBC also has substantial expat services that may be ideal for those who are relocating or who plan to spend an extended time in one location and if that location is serviced by the bank.

  • If you intend to make numerous international purchases with your debit card, a Capital One 360 checking account should be considered. With no minimum account balance or monthly maintenance fee, this account plan is suitable and affordable for many travelers. If you use one of the bank’s 39,000 ATMs located worldwide, Capital One does not impose a fee. However, the ATM owner may charge a fee.

    In addition, foreign transaction fees are not charged by this bank for debit card purchases if you have a Capital One 360 account. This includes purchases made online with foreign retailers and in person in foreign countries using other currencies. A Capital 360 checking account is an interest-bearing account, and mobile and online banking services are available for easy account management when traveling. The bank also has a special toll-free number that provides support for international travelers as needed.

  • Not to be left behind, Citibank offers special incentives and benefits to travelers as well, which includes free international funds transfers between two Citibank accounts. This perk eliminates the need to pay foreign wire transfer fees and currency conversion fees. While it may not directly save money on foreign purchases and ATM withdrawals, it can enable you or others to transfer funds quickly and without cost to each other regardless of your location. A wire transfer fee applies if you send money to or receive money from a foreign non-Citibank account.

    With an Australian-based Citibank Plus Transaction Account, you will not pay any banking fees worldwide. Foreign transaction fees are waived, and the bank will not charge ATM fees from any ATM around the world. In addition, the official Visa exchange rate is available without additional cost to you. Only Australian residents qualify for this type of checking account.

  • Change Bank is a cryptobank headquartered in Singapore that has developed a user-friendly crypto-wallet account. Through the Change app, which is available on Apple and Android devices, you can hold and exchange numerous types of cryptocurrencies in your virtual wallet. Some cryptocurrencies available through the Change app include Bitcoin, Ether, Ripple, Litecoin, and Tether. While there is a fee for crypto trading, you will not be charged an account maintenance fee, withdrawal fees or purchase transaction fees using cryptocurrencies.

    Through the app, you can benefit from the use of cryptocurrencies for domestic and international purchases without cost. The only caveat being that cryptocurrencies are not yet universally accepted as a payment method.

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