AUTHOR’S NOTE: This is not a sponsored post. Charles Schwab has not paid me a single cent for what I’ve written below.
Welcome back to Ricardo’s Travel Advice, a series in which I lay out some of the insight I’ve gained from my overseas journeys. This advice comes from the perspective of an American male who’s done three solo extended overseas journeys—two to Europe and one to Japan and Korea—and might not apply to everyone, but there should be a lot here that’s broadly applicable. Today I’ll be giving some advice about banking while you’re overseas.
One of the small things to think about before you travel overseas is whether or not your bank will penalize you for withdrawing money while abroad. Before departure you should look and see what fees your bank will charge you for international withdrawals. If your bank doesn’t charge any sort of fees, or if the fees are so small as to be insignificant, then you can disregard today’s post. If your bank does charge fees that will noticeably bite into you checking account then you may want to consider opening an account at a bank that will work better for you while abroad. For me this has been Charles Schwab Bank. I’ve had an account with them since 2012 and my Schwab debit card is the one I use when I’m traveling. The advantages of Charles Schwab Bank are that they reimburse all ATM fees and don’t change anything for international withdrawals. I’ve also had great experiences with their staff every time I’ve ever spoken with them, though it could be that I’ve just been lucky in that regard. The potential downside to Charles Schwab Bank is that you have to set up a Charles Schwab brokerage account with your bank account and any deposits you make go into the brokerage account first, but all that does it add a little time to the process of getting funds into your bank account. Whenever I need to add funds to my Charles Schwab Bank account I deposit them into the brokerage account and then transfer them over to the bank account as soon as they clear. One other thing you should know about Charles Schwab Bank is that they have no physical offices; to deposit a physical check you’ll need to pay a visit to your local Charles Schwab brokerage office and deposit it with them.
There are probably other banks that have similar benefits to Charles Schwab Bank, and maybe a few that have better ones, but Schwab is what I’ve been using for the past six years and so far I’ve never had a problem with them.