Instead of a “This City” Sunday feature, let’s talk about the biggest asset, other than your intuition, that will help you travel around the world: banking overseas. You’ve worked hard to save money for your travels so why would you let something so small and insignificant like ATM fees take $2-5 every time you make a transaction?
Find a bank that works for you
So you’re going to be traveling long term, and you’ll need to find a bank that will keep your hard-earned cash safe. Find a bank that has friendly and reliable customer service, has ATMs all over the world, and perhaps allows you to earn a small amount of interest on your money. A couple of examples are Charles Schwab and HBIC. I, personally, will be using Charles Schwab, but if you have any additional recommendations of banks to use on the road, let me know. Whatever bank you choose, make sure it’s a two way street. You offer them your business, and what do they have to offer you besides providing a safe place to hold your money?
Charles Schwab is a popular bank among travel bloggers and frequent international travel because they refund all ATM fees no matter which bank’s ATM you use to withdrawal money. However, they do not reimburse you for foreign transaction fees.
If you’re going to be staying long-term in another country, ask the locals of the country for some suggestions of great banks accounts to take advantage of while you’re there so you can keep your money safe. In this case, you might consider using a bank specific to that country.
It’s always best to carry around 1 or 2 credit cards or ATM cards while on the road, in case of emergency. They shouldn’t be used to pay for everything, and just like at home, you should always pay your bills on time so you won’t have to pay interest on it. When you go overseas, be sure to notify your credit card companies that you’ll be traveling so that they don’t freeze your account on account of foreign transactions. If you’re extra paranoid of someone stealing your credit cards while you’re abroad, keep one on you and leave one back at your hotel/hostel so if you do, in fact, lose one, you’ll have a backup.
If you’re looking to open a new credit card, consider one that allows you to earn frequent flier miles and other rewards like cash back, has 24-hour customer service, and reliable customer service at that. When steady income is few and far between, it’s extremely valuable to have a card that “gives back”.
First rule of thumb is to never exchange money at the airport or in heavy tourist areas. Both tend to have the worst exchange rates so it would be in your best interest to switch currencies in the next town over. If you’re using an ATM, take out more money at a time so you can avoid frequent fees.
It’s best to use cash for a majority of your purchases so you can decrease the chance of credit card fraud in foreign countries. Plus, when you exchange USDs for other currencies, the bills and coins can make for some cool souvenirs.
Which bank do you use when you travel? What other tips so you have for avoiding miscellaneous transaction fees?