Which bank is best for international travel?

Having the wrong debit card on you when traveling the globe can rack up stress and expenses. The last thing you need is your bank locking you out of using your card and charging you hundreds of dollars over your trip.

Swipe away

You need a bank not only doesn’t charge you foreign transaction fees, but also refunds any ATM fees that a foreign bank might charge you. I’ve been a happy customer with Charles Schwab Bank. At the end of each month, they reliably refund all ATM fees, internationally or not, that any banks charge when you withdraw the local currency.

The interest rate isn’t great, so I wouldn’t recommend keeping more money in there than you need. But this debit card was my lifeline to 16 different currencies during my 400-day trip around the globe.

I do recommend that you submit a travel notice on their website up to two weeks ahead of your trip with a list of the countries you’re visiting. Each travel notice can be as long as 60 days, after which you’ll need to submit a new one. But they have never locked me out of using my card, unlike other banks I’ve tried to use while abroad.

By default, the maximum daily withdrawal limit is US$1,000, you so will need to calculate what that equates to in the local currency using the latest exchange rate. You can also call or write to Schwab’s excellent customer service anytime to request a permanent increase of your maximum daily withdrawal limit to US$2,000 if you want. (They also support temporary increases to even higher daily limits.)

Before you leave the US, do yourself a favor and open a high-yield investor checking account with Schwab. If you use my referral code REFER61N1X, you’ll get a $100 bonus about a month after you open your account, and it stays yours if you keep your account open for at least a year. Opening this kind of checking account also comes with a brokerage account, but you are not required to keep a balance in it or use it. Schwab doesn’t charge any monthly fees nor require a minimum balance.

How Schwab stacks up

Thanks for helping a blogger out by using my referral code REFER61N1X.

Written on February 7, 2018