Travel Banking Tips: Protect Your Money
Travel banking overseas can be expensive. Learn how to avoid ATM fees, get the best exchange rate, protect against fraud, and save money while traveling abroad.
Avoid International Bank Fees
The best way to obtain local currency overseas is to withdraw it from an ATM. It’s quick, easy, and you’ll get a great exchange rate. But did you know you’ll be charged $5-$7 every time you withdraw money from a different bank’s ATM?
Often both your bank and the bank that owns the ATM will charge you a fee.
When you are traveling for a long period of time, this can add up to hundreds of dollars! Let’s say you withdraw money 3 times per week while on the road (I’m not a fan of traveling with tons of cash).
This will cost you a whopping $780-$1092 after a year of travel — easily enough to continue traveling for another month.
Choose the right bank, and you will pay $0 in ATM fees from now on.
Travel Friendly Debit Card
With a Charles Schwab Investor Checking Account you’ll never have to fork over your hard earned cash to greedy bankers again. Schwab will refund all of your ATM fees, even those charged by other banks, anywhere in the world.
I’ve been using their account for a few years and absolutely love it.
This bank doesn’t play games with you like many others I’ve dealt with in the past. Customer service is great, there are no minimum balances, online banking is easy, and everything is free.
A new account with them includes a Schwab One Brokerage Account, but there are no problems (or fees) if you decide not to use it. It’s possible to set up free online transfers with other banks too.
Not From The United States?
If you don’t live in the USA, you can’t open an account with Schwab. But I know many travelers who use an HSBC Checking Account. It’s an international bank, and they have ATMs all over the world.
Unlike Schwab they will charge you a fee for using another bank’s ATM (remember the 2nd bank may also charge you).
Use 3 Accounts For Safety
International financial fraud is on the rise, and plenty of travel horror stories involve drained bank accounts. Planning for worst-case scenarios is a smart thing to do.
That’s why I always recommend having 3 bank accounts while you travel.
#1: Personal Checking Account This account is used for personal reasons, like paying bills, and anything not travel related. It can also be used as an emergency backup should your Travel Checking Account get compromised on the road. This ATM card is locked in a hostel/hotel safe or hidden within my backpack at all times.
#2: Travel Checking Account This account is used for travel expenses, including withdrawing money out of ATMs. I never keep more than about $1000 in this account at any one time. If your ATM card details are stolen, or you happen to be the victim of an Express Kidnapping, it shouldn’t completely halt your travels. The thieves may get some money, but losses are minimized, and you’ll often be refunded by your bank soon.
#3: Savings Account An Capital One 360 Savings Account is where the bulk of my travel money resides. There are no ATM cards to steal, and my account balance earns interest. When my Travel Account gets low, I can easily go online and replenish it. This account is also linked to my Personal Checking Account, should I need to transfer funds if my Travel Account is compromised or I’m waiting for a replacement ATM card.
The redundancy built into this system keeps me prepared for many different scenarios while traveling — including bank fraud and lost or malfunctioning ATM cards.
Travel Rewards Credit Card
Another way to save money and provide some security while you travel is to carry a credit card. International exchange rates are cheapest when paying with a credit card, and it’s a great backup to have in case of an emergency.
Many cards also include basic travel, theft, and auto rental insurance.
Not to mention the possibility of snagging free flights & hotel stays with airline miles if you use your card often. Personally I use a Captial One VentureOne Card for travel, but I’m definately not a credit card expert.