Travel Banking Options and Credit Cards (Part 1)

This is going to be a quick post but over the past year I’ve done nothing but travel weekly for work and we’ve done a lot of research on travel credit cards and banking options while preparing for this adventure.  Through this process I’ve learned a few things:

1.  Most banks in the United States are very poorly adapted to increasing rates of global travel.
2.  Way too many credit cards charge international fees and have weak travel rewards.
3.  Not all travel card benefits are created equal.

For Part 1 of this article I’ll share our bank findings.  It took a significant amount of research to find a bank that not only has no international transaction fees on their debit card BUT simultaneously provides the ability to withdrawal your money without a fee at almost any ATM around the world.  There is apparently only one, and it’s the Charles Schwab Investor Checking Account.  While you also have to open up a brokerage account with them it is completely free and you don’t have to fund the account at all but unless you are a private banking client for a large banking institution carrying hundreds of thousands in your checking account (which not a good decision as you are only insured to $250k and are earning little interest) you pay some combination of the following or all of them with your debit card:

1.  ATM fees for locations outside of your bank’s network.
2.  Foreign Transaction Fees on your withdrawals at the ATM’s (this is completely different than having foreign transaction fees when you swipe your debit card at a merchant).
3. Foreign Transaction Fees when you swipe you debit card at a merchant.

Even if your bank card doesn’t have foreign transaction fees on merchant swipes it will almost surely have both #1 and #2, or at best one or the other.  The problem is that carrying significant amounts of cash is dangerous but you need free access to your money.  After our research I recommend that if you’re a serious international traveler opening a Charles Schwab Investor Checking Account is a must-do so that you can spend your money on your travels and not on bank fees.

In Part 2 I’ll share what our travel credit card research led us to find!





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