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How to Avoid Bank Fees While Traveling

By Nomadic Matt | Published January 13th, 2011

an atm to get money atBanking overseas is more than just putting your card in an ATM. When you travel abroad, you want to avoid paying bank fees, foreign transaction charges, and get a good exchange rate. In fact, if you are on the road for a while, you want to have your money work for you. Banking when you travel requires thinking and a bit of planning. Here are some tips and trick I use to reduce my bank fees when I travel overseas:

Banking Overseas

There are a number of things you can do to reduce your ATM fees overseas.

The first thing you should do is set up a checking account at a major bank. ALWAYS PICK A MAJOR BANK! Why? Most major banks have partnership agreements with counterparts overseas that allow for free ATM withdrawals. While they have the highest fees ($5 USD per withdrawal), by using partner ATMs, you can avoid ATM charges.

Below is a list of major banks that have ATM partnerships with other global banks where you can avoid fees:

Moreover, you can also pick a global bank that has branches around the world. I use HSBC for most of my international banking. HSBC has ATMs all over the world. Using those ATMs means I don’t have to pay those fees. As of September 2011, HSBC has raised their fee to $2.50 USD per ATM transaction when you use a non-HSBC ATM.

If you are a US resident the best bank to use is Charles Schwab. While Charles Schwab doesn’t have deals with any banks overseas like those mentioned above, it is one of the few banks that reimburses all your ATM fees at the end of each month. You will need to open a high yield checking account in order to qualify but there is no minimum deposit required and no monthly service fee. Charles Schwab not only reimburses its fees but also the fees of the other bank you used. You’ll never pay a fee with this bank. Their ATM card can be used in any bank machine around the world.

Moreover, as noted in the comments, many people have listed some banks and credit unions in the US, Canada, and Australia that offer no ATM fees. Consider reading the comment section and see if any of those banks can also be used by you. Reducing or forgoing international ATM fees on many types of accounts has become a popular offering by many banks these days.

ATM fees can really add up. Let’s think about it. If you’re traveling for a year, you will probably take out money from an ATM twice a week. Fees vary around the world but on average you end up paying $5 USD per withdrawal. That is $10 USD per week, $40 USD per month, or $520 USD per year. Even if you only use the ATM half the time, that’s still $260 USD per year. Most travelers I know go to the ATM even more than twice a week, which only increases the amount in fees they pay. Why give banks money you need for travel? You did a lot of work saving up your money, don’t waste it by giving it to a bank.

Note: Always have two bank accounts. It is good to have a backup in case one card is lost or stolen.

Making Money with Your Money
You have just saved an enormous amount of money for your trip. Don’t let it sit in a checking account where it will collect 0% interest. You have a pile of cash. Do something with it! While interest rates on savings and money market accounts are fairly low right now (1% or less), some extra money is better than none. Here are a few companies that offer good rates for US residents:

Emigrant Direct
ING Direct
Discover Bank

Note: I also use Bankrate which monitors interest rates from around the country.

Let’s say you saved $18,250 USD for your trip (that breaks down to $50 USD per day if anyone is counting). If you put your extra money into an online money market account, at 1% interest, you are GAINING $182.50 USD per year. Now, since you will be taking money out on a regular basis, I’d say a more realistic number is $120-130 USD.

By putting your money into one of these accounts, you can actually earn money while you travel. How much you earn will depend on how often you take money out and what you start with. $120 USD might not seem like it would make a big difference in traveling, but in some areas of the world, where you only need about $25 – 30 USD per day to survive, you are looking at close to an extra week of travel you wouldn’t have had otherwise, which makes $120 USD in free money sound a lot more appealing.

Note: Australia and New Zealand have high interest rates. If you are a resident of there, take advantage of those rates to make even more money while you travel overseas. Your money goes a lot further overseas than in your home country so you have the potential to earn even more.

Minimizing the Exchange Rate “Penalty”

Every time you use your card overseas, your local bank coverts the transaction into your local currency for billing purposes and they take a little off the top for doing so. Thus the official rate you see listed online is not what you get. You’ll never be able to fully avoid losses on the exchange rate unless you somehow use magic to turn your bank account into local currency everywhere you go. However, there are ways to reduce the amount you lose in conversion:

foreign currencyUse a Credit Card – Credit card companies get the best rates. Using a credit card will get you an exchange rate closest to the official rate. I use a credit card whenever possible. I find Capital One offers the rate closest to the official exchange rate.

The majority of credit cards charge a 3% fee when you use them overseas. However, there are a number of cards that offer no foreign transaction fees. Capital One No Hassle Card, Chase credit cards, and some American Express cards offer no transactions fees.

Use an ATM Card – ATM machines offer the best exchange rate after credit cards. They aren’t as good as credit cards since commercial banks take a little more off the top but it’s much better than exchanging cash. Money exchange offices offer the worst rates because they are so far down the food chain they lack the clout large financial institutions have and they usually charge a commission making exchanging cash the worst thing you can do.

Withdraw A Lot – If the exchange rate has moved in your favor (i.e. country X’s currency just fell against your country’s currency and you get 10 times more money), withdraw more than you need. That way when the exchange rate changes back you’ll have scored yourself some extra money with no added work. While living in Thailand in 2007, the Australian dollar collapsed to around 20 baht to the dollar. I ran to the bank and exchanged a lot of my Thai baht for $1,000 Aussie dollars since I was going there the following month. A week later, the Australian dollar recovered to 28 baht. In acting fast, I saved myself 8,000 baht, which is over $250 USD, giving me more money to use for my trip.

You’ll need to be comfortable carrying cash, though, and in a place where you can lock up extra cash in the hostel or hotel safe in order to ensure that it’s not lost or stolen.

I use the website to check exchange rates. If you have a smartphone like an iPhone, Blackberry, or Droid, the free currency app is also a good way to monitor rates. You can get the app from

Don’t Change Money at Airports – As I said above, changing cash is the worst thing you can do. Unless I am stuck with cash I need to get rid of, I never change money. Most exchange bureaus are so far down the financial food chain they don’t have the clout to offer good exchange rates. Moreover, non-banks charge especially high commission and fees for exchanging money and if they don’t have one, they make their money by giving you an even lower exchange rate. Simply put, unless you have to, never exchange cash – whether that is at an airport or in the middle of town. Cash is not king. Avoid using Travelex too as they have the most awful rates and fees.

Get Travel Rewards

Travel credit cards are crucial to reducing your costs and making your life easier. These credit cards can get you free stuff, cheap flights, and money. There are many travel credit cards out there that offer different kinds of rewards, from general points programs to hotel and airline cards. You probably already use a credit card, so if you like to travel, you should consider getting this type of credit card.

Click here to read my guide on picking the best travel related credit card.

Most travel credit cards offer bonuses of 30,000 points/miles for signing up. I use a Citi AAdvantage card because I belong to their frequent flier program. By getting free stuff, you can reduce your overall expenses. A free flight is worth more than the fees you may pay. Cashback can help cover the cost of the fees. I put everything on my card and last year I only spent $300 USD on fees but that was well below the free flight I got to Europe and the nights at the Hilton. In the end, I saved money.

Below are some sites where you can find good travel credit cards: (US) (Australia) (UK) (Canada)

Read how I’ve used these cards to get free business class tickets.

Bank fees can add up to some serious money over the course of a long trip. If you want to save money, you need to be proactive when it comes to banking and currency exchanges. I see too many travelers visit the ATM all the time without paying attention to the latest exchange rates. You’re on the losing end that way. Be smart and bank smart so you give the banks less and can have more for your trip. I haven’t paid for a bank fee in years and you shouldn’t either. And with these tips, you’ll never have to again either.

Want to save even more money? Here are some other articles on saving when you travel:
How to Eat Cheap Around the World
The Ultimate Guide on Travel Hacking
15 Simple Money Saving Travel Tips

comments 95 Comments


These are some great tips, and links. I know banking fees overseas can add up quickly. I have an ING account and it’s great. No fees or minimum balance needed, and I get 1.5% interest. Only thing is there’s no bank or debit card, money is transferred online. So it’s really only good for savings, and not every day banking.


hey, just out of curiosity, what is the advantage of using a checking account while you are travelling?? as opposed to regular savings?

I bank with ING Direct and I have a checking acount with a debit card and checks. There are ATMs you can obtain funds from in the US without fees and you can directly deposit your paycheck with ING Direct. There are branches in major cities like NY and Honolulu. Plus Capital One just acquired the bank, so that will broaden the ATM and branch aspect.

And make sure you notify your credit card company before you begin your travels. Some banks will freeze your account if they see activity from outside the usual region that it’s used. Having to contact them from overseas won’t be any fun.

That’s true, even if you’re traveling domestically they sometimes put a stop or freeze if they notice suspicious activity in a location where you don’t usually make purchases.


We notified our credit card company and bank that we would be in France for two weeks. We even charged our air fare on the same card. The second time we used our credit card, it was denied. Because of time difference, we could not get in touch with our bank to get them to accept the charge. An apology somehow does not mitigate the embarrassment. Fortunately it was not the only card in our wallet. We had a card with a French bank and were able to go on about our vacation. Not everyone is so fortunate.

Hey Matt

Just found you through Tyler T and this is so apt for me right now. I’m a Suitcase Entrepreneur and recently moved to Buenos Aires where they charge 16 pesos (US$4) for every ATM transaction and the limit is US $250 per day so I know it adds up quick.

The other buggar is very few places accept credit card and for paying rent for my apartments it’s only in cash. Luckily I’m solving this by getting my sister who’s coming to visit to bring in a lump sum of dollars. I could also set up at HSBC but had such a shite experience with them in the past and they require a ton of info to get set up normally.

Sadly ING don’t operate here

Still I do like these tips a lot! Thanks for sharing



Natalie, argentine laws from the BCRA (the national bank) doesn’t allow you having an international bank account unless you deposit a BIG sum of money, which gets locked for 2 years before it becomes active. That’s because the anti-money laundry laws. You won’t find any international bank to work. I already had the experience looking into that when I became a freelancer 4 years ago.

You can order a debit card from some country, but the fees are much higher than using a credit card or bank account. Also, the minimum fees for each withdrawal by ATM is around the 7%.

Really excellent tips, Matt.

I’d add avoiding using your debit cards for purchases, because if someone obtains your information and drains your bank account, that is a problem you don’t want to try to fix while traveling! Use credit cards or cash with merchants instead. Moreover, I try to use my debit cards with official bank ATMs, not third party ones in some store.

I also never access my accounts in public Wi-Fi situations like cyber cafes. (I realize security wasn’t the topic of this post.)

ahhh you beat me to the punch I was working on a post like this! Best bank is morgan stanley dont see it on your list and capital one has some of the best credit cards

You’re a very knowledgeable man! There’s some invaluable tips here. Thanks for sharing.

Code V

Interesting article. I’ve traveled abroad each year the last few years for a couple of weeks at a time. I usually watch the bank exchange rates and buy foreign currency before I leave for my trips. I avoid using ATMs unless it is essential and I refrain from using plastic at all if I can. BTW, this last year, Travelex was the only place that stocked the Czech Koruna without a two week order time on top of the exchange rate. I paid slightly more than what Wells Fargo was offering to get the cash immediately. It was well worth it!

Great advice! One thing though–I find that at some airports the exchange rate is actually pretty good. Just got back from Peru a few months ago and the exchange kiosk was better than many of the money changers in Lima! Definitely depends on the country…

Bob Green

I find that Japanese airport banks have some of the best rates. These are actual bank run exchanges, not a currency exchange business.


I would agree with you. They had great rates.

Lots of excellent info Matt – thanks for this. Just want to pass on that HSBC worked well for me in Mexico and most of Asia, but would not accept my debit cards in China or Hong Kong – don’t know why, especially since HSBC stands for Hong Kong Shanghai Banking Corp. Also, while I do get a good exchange rate when using my credit card, they also charge me a 3% foreign transaction fee, which negates the exchange rate savings. I suppose I could get a credit card from Capital One and avoid he FTF, but then I wouldn’t get my frequent flier mileage with my Aadvantage credit card. Ack! There’s never a perfect solution.


Do you use their credit card or ATM? I use their ATM card and am not charged transaction fees.

Matt the other thing to look for are pre-loaded travel cards with multiple currencies lets you put 5 different currencies on your card which is highly useful not only for budgeting but avoids you having to pay currency conversion fees all the time.

great article, matt! we’re lucky to have USAA, since my husband’s dad was in the military. they have the best rates, and we love it.

i am always leery of carrying cash, maybe bc i am disabled and can’t move fast. i just feel like a target. i’ve not traveled in places where they didn’t mostly accept credit cards, so thus far have been ok.


USAA is great and actually you DO NOT need to be military or family of military. That is a common mis-conception. They will take anyone that is a US resident and actually have NRA accounts if you go into the bank in person and provide the proper documentation. They have to by law. On their website you just choose the “friends of military” option and you’re approved. A little known fact. :-D

We’ve found that Charles Schwab is an awesome bank (both overall and for traveling). You can withdraw from any ATM and they won’t charge you a fee and will actually refund you the fee that the other bank charges. They also don’t charge any international transaction fees and they give you the exchange rate the banks used on the previous day (I HATE paying bank fees, so I’m always looking for a way around them, lol!)

We’ve used Schwab for years and have been amazed by their customer service and how great they are for traveling. They no longer have a credit card, but we use a Schwab checking account to withdraw money when traveling abroad and then use a Capital One credit card for places where CC are accepted.

Anyhow, that’s my two cents. Thanks for posting all this helpful info, Matt! :)

I want to echo what she says — we had great experience with a Schwab checking acct — they reimburse all our ATM fees abroad — and also the Capitol One credit card.
The post reminds me of all the times my husband and I went on what we called a “cash dash.” We’re runners, so we’d literally run from ATM to ATM to pull out the maximum allowed, especially in Argentina, where almost everything–including lodging–is required to be paid by cash (or they tack on a ridiculously high fee for using a credit card). Travelers should be prepared to carry and pay a lot with cash.The problem is, ATMs have a limit on how much you can withdraw for a day, so you need to plan ahead and withdraw some out each day to pay for lodging. At least, that was our experience.

I’d have to agree and say that the Charles Schwab checking account is flipping fantastic.

No minimums, no atm fees worldwide, and interest bearing.

I used their card with great success while in Peru for 3 weeks, and plan on continuing to do so on my world trip coming up.



Another vote for Charles Schwab!

It’s the best bank I’ve ever used. Everything is free, all ATM fees are reimbursed (even when other banks charge them), great customer support, everything is easy, and you can do investing with them too.

I was also able to set up online transfers to and from another bank account, so I can easily send money from one checking account to my Charles Schwab travel checking account anytime I want.

We have found a Schwab (for ATMs) and Capital One (for credit cards) is the best combination. After almost four months of travel we have yet to pay an an ATM withdrawal fee (Schwab) or FTF (Capital One). With Schwab the reimbursement for ATM charges is at the month’s end and fully automatic – some months we have had well over $100 USD returned to us. As someone mentioned, in Argentina cash is kind, and the ATM limits are low….


The only problem with Charles Schwab is that if all of your transactions are from foreign locations within a 6 month period, they will close your account (told directly to me by a Charles Schwab representative on the phone). So, not so great for extended travel.


I just talked to a representative from Schwab and she told me this was not true about closing your account if you have been doing only overseas transactions for 6months. So I’m curious what the policy is now.


well I called again and spoke to a banking specialist and he told me that it is true because the card is not designed for people who live abroad. It is made for people who live in the US and travel. That is why the close your account after an extended time period.

any suggestions for someone living overseas for 2yrs?


Seems you could just get a US-based friend or family member to buy something small with your card online?

After all the Schwab recommendations, I tried to open their checking account by applying online from here in Buenos Aires, Argentina just last week.

Long story short, their system picked up that I was applying from outside the USA and I had to call a special department to verify my identity (due to Patriot Act).

I didn’t even get to the quiz, as the woman started asking me questions and eventually said I wouldn’t qualify for the account because I was spending more than 6 months outside the USA.

She handed me off to a rep from their international department, and he backed this up. He also stated that even if I did have the account, their system would put up a flag if I was consistently using the card outside the USA.

As best I could understand it, the 6-month requirement of being physically within the US had to do with the brokerage account, which they require you to open alongside the checking account.


Well, you simply don’t mention it. No one I know who has opened an account has had a problem such as this. Heck, I opened my Schwab account while in Macau. There is no reason for a bank to know your life plans. Use a US mailing address, fund the account with a US bank account, and show proof of citizenship. If you are out of the country, you are out of the country. Calling them up and saying “I don’t live in America” is bound to get you a “You can’t open an account” response.

Great tips, Matt!

I couldn’t agree more about taking advantage of the bank partnerships. I use Bank of America, so it’s been really nice to get free withdrawals when I travel (I’ve used Barclays in UK, BNP Paribas in France, and Deutsche Bank in Germany, and all worked perfectly). It’s really convenient.

Also, Capital One’s credit cards have no foreign transaction fees–I believe it’s still the only credit card issuer with that benefit. If you don’t have a CapOne card, you’re probably paying 2-3% foreign transaction fee on each purchase. I have a basic CapOne card that I just use for travel for this reason–saves me lots of money. Unfortunately, my card numbers were stolen while I was in Turkey. I came back and discovered that someone had used my credit card numbers to buy a $2,000 Canadian plane ticket! But CapOne actually called me to make sure it was me who did it, so they caught it before I did and refunded me. So I’m a really big fan of them!


The majority of this information is on “secrets to travel the world” ebook.


Some but not all the information on this website can be found in the book. But that book won’t exist as of next week!

I have to agree with Barbara, I have a UK HSBC debit card (ie the money comes straight out of the account – no credit) and I get charged using their ATMs here in Argentina. In fact I went through quite a performance to get my card out here because I remembered seeing one of your tweets a while back about how they don’t charge – but sadly, for me at least, they do!


I just checked my HSBC account to make sure and found no ATM fees for using an HSBC bank. There were some for when I didn’t use an HSBC bank but that’s it.

Update: I found this on their website:

It says the fee is waived for most types of accounts but there are some that don’t get the fee waived. That being said the fee is only $1.50 which is a lot lower than their competitors, which is:

Bank of America: $5
JP Morgan Chase: $3
US Bank $2
Wells Fargo: $5

Moreover, on their website here:

It also says no fees.

This must be a difference using a US issued card and a UK one. I pay fees even at an HSBC branch here. Global Bank indeed ;o)


Hmmm, on the bottom is a “Foreign Transaction Reminder” that says:

Currently the currency conversion rate used to determine the transaction amount in U.S. dollars for such transactions is either a government-mandated rate or a wholesale rate determined by Card Associations for the processing cycle in which the transaction is processed, and is further increased by a percentage established from time to time by us (currently 3%).

So I think there is a 3% fee built in unless you are a premiere member :(


There is always a fee for currency conversion. That you can’t get around.

It makes me a sad panda too.

Some great bank information on traveling but over here in Malaysia, you’ll find some of the banks do not have main access so getting cash out can be a problem while the big banks here are mainly HSBC and DBS.

Charles Schwab ROCKS. They refund all ATM fees at the end of the month and don’t charge fees for international transactions.

Awesome customer service, too. Very happy with them.

I use HSBC for my savings and transfer cash to Schwab in $1000 increments when I need money (just in case my card gets stolen and someone wipes out the whole account). Bank of America is my backup.

Jeremy B

Thanks for the tips Matt. I never thought about the MAJOR banks. As for your exchange rate tips, these are really good. I have done every one of those. Some of this is common sense and some of this you have to know how the banking industry works and how they make their money. These tips are very practical and can save any traveler money – always a good thing.

I do have a question on this for you. Banks in the US just the magnetic card stripe on debit and credit cards. Other banks in the world have started using the chip and pin. Have you seen any conflicts using these systems with US cards? Any tips on this?

Ok, so I have been using this for years – ETrade has no transaction fees worldwide and the REFUND any fees charged by any banks worldwide! Yes is so-and-so bank in Bolivia charges you $3 to withdrawl, you will see a $3 credit on your account.

Absolutely FREE travel checking.


Can you confirm this is in fact true internationally? The eTrade website states in the US only. Thank you..


A great post, thanks for this. If I had of received a nickel for everytime I hear a traveller complain about this I would have paid off all my bank fees by now. i hate paying those damn fees and plus seeing them on my statement.

We bank with Scotia and it was nice seeing these locations in Chile and Peru, and not incurring those extra charges

I agree if and when possible set up a bank account. We are currently set in Roatán, Honduras for a few months and set up an account with Banco Lafise and have had no issues whatsoever (although no ATM card, just the annoying passbook and lineup).

Thanks for the recommendations for credit cards, other bank locations and high interest saving accounts. All great stuff!

Take care,


Withdraw as much money as possible and then get mugged, great advice!


Don’t get mugged!

Bank of America teams up with Westpac in NZ & Auz and you don’t have to pay withdrawal fees.

A lot of great info here, Matt!

These are all great tips. I have an ING savings account and so far I love them. When I’m traveling I use my ING ATM card rather than my Wells Fargo. I’m looking into getting a checking account with Shwab. I’ve read they will credit overseas ATM fees.


Schwab seems to be a favorite of people.

Great list Matt. I use Schwab and love them. They actually reimburse you for any ATM fees you incur anywhere in the world. :)

Citibank is also great for just getting the miles. I would not recommend getting credit cards if you can’t pay them. However if you get a citibank card, either a Visa, Master card, American Express, or Visa business card, you get 30,000 bonus miles on each card. All you need to do after you get the card is put $750 on it in 4 months. So pay it off, get the miles and cancel it if you want, before its been a year (you are charged a $50 fee after a year). I applied for all 4 of the cards and basically have flown to New Zealand, South America and Central America for free! I still use the master card often to rack up miles and its great for traveling! May be bad for my credit, but I hear mixed things and its not like I want to buy a house anytime soon.

I think it’s the type of card you get on the account that you need to look at. Ideally, you’d travel with both a Visa and a Mastercard. And, yes, I’d recommend HSBC as international, alongside others above.

Another tip would be to check the exchange rates your card provider offers, because often the exchange rate will be sharp enough to make up for the fees others might provide.

And, yes, fully agreed, always take out the maximum you can. I’ve not been mugged in travel on six continents, though I am cautious where I take money out and where I put it once I have…


Right. Just don’t flash money about and you don’t make yourself a target.

Great advice Matt, HSBC and Schwab are the banks I use while overseas.

FYI Citibank has a limited special promotion with 75,000 bonus miles sign up bonus for new customers. If anyone doesn’t yet have a Citibank AAdvantage card (you have to be a new customer) then you should definitely go for it. In fact, some people on the flyer talk forums have been able to get two or sometimes even three of these cards for 150k – 225k total miles.

I outline how to get to the limited 75k bonus miles promotion in this blog post:

Thanks for this article! I’ll keep this in mind when I go to Europe this year.


I’m a member of a credit union and only use ATMs when I travel abroad. I’ve used an ATM in another country probably 500 times in my life and have never once been charged a fee from anyone including the ATM or my credit union. I’m given the most current exchange rate on all ATM and check card transactions. Through my credit union I’m not charged a fee on foreign transactions, but I try not to use my check card other than at ATMs for security reasons. I always notify my bank that I will be traveling. The one time I didn’t, my card got cut off for 24 hours. Not fun. I would not recommend using Bank of America or any huge American bank. My philosophy is, the bigger the bank, the more fees. And the worse the customer service. I NEVER use an airport currency exchange and NEVER get money before I go. There are always ATMs available when you get to your destination even at the smallest airports. Great tip on watching the exchange rates. On a long trip, the fluctuation of currency can save you a lot of money if it moves in your favor.


A good bank to use if you can get access to it is USAA. When I studied abroad in Germany and traveled around, I wasn’t charged any ATM fees, regardless of the bank or company that owned them.


Great Tips, Great help for the travel beginner. But still have some disadvantage in them, it will be very difficult for us to searching for the location of the No Fees bank while we are traveling oversea.


I think the tip about not using airport money changers is generally true, but I’ve had some wonderful experiences with the Hanna Bank exchange booth in Seoul Incheon Airport


Hi, I am going to travel in about a month and found your post.

I went to a local HSBC bank here in the US, they told me there would be 3% charge on the ATMs if I withdrawl money from a foreign entity other thank HSBC Bank, USA. Can you let me know what type of accont you have that they do not charge you fees?

Also, for most of you who gave good words about Charles Schwab, what countries did you guys travel to? I want to find out if it works the same if I travel to Asia.

Thank you!


Hi everybody, read all your comments about Charles Schwab and went to check their info and I found this…

We do not charge any fees for use of any ATM. If you use a machine that is not a Schwab Bank ATM, you may be charged a fee by the ATM operator or any network used. This may include a fee for a balance inquiry even if you do not complete a withdrawal or other monetary transaction. We offer a rebate on these fees assessed by others: For Interest Checking, Regular Checking, and Basic Checking up to first 6 transactions not to exceed $9.00 per statement period. Schwab Bank reserves the right to discontinue or modify the ATM Fee Rebate program at any time. Please see your Schwab Bank Deposit Account Pricing Guide for details.

So guessing they changed their program recently ?

Diego Canales

I found the following information from this website:

It’s about the Charles Schwab Bank High Yield Investor Checking specifically and it says:

“A Schwab Bank High Yield Investor Checking account offers:
Unlimited reimbursement of any ATM fees(1) charged by other banks”

(1). Unlimited ATM fee rebates apply to cash withdrawals using the Schwab Bank Visa Platinum check card wherever it is accepted. ATM fee rebates do not apply to any fees other than fees assessed for using an ATM to withdraw cash from your Schwab Bank account. Schwab Bank makes its best effort to identify those ATM fees eligible for rebate, based on information it receives from Visa and ATM operators. In the event that you have not received a rebate for a fee that you believe is eligible, please call a Schwab Bank Client Service Specialist for assistance at 888-403-9000. Schwab Bank reserves the right to modify or discontinue the ATM fee rebate at any time.


hi matt,

I have an hsbc debit card they told me its a $2.50 fee (for out of U.S.) and 3% of the total withdrawal on top of that, has their policy changed since you wrote this article or am I missing something?



I just went and looked this up. Yes, it seems they raised the fee back in September. I guess don’t use them. Go to Charles Schwab. I’ll have to update this article. Thanks for keeping me informed.

So are you saying that withdrawing money from an ATM gives you a better rate than Because in some countries money changers give you close to the rate.

Philadelphia Phil

Hi Matt,
I’m a noob when it comes to all of this. I’ve been reading all of the info you sent me when I registered and I must say, in the 3+ hours I’ve spent in front of my computer screen, I’ve gotten one hell of an education on traveling and money. It’s a serious issue with what’s happening in the world of finance on the global level. I want to thank you and all these fine people for helping me to prepare to travel. I’ve never really travelled and this will be a huge step for me. I feel more confident now that I’m armed with this information. I think the Schwab interest bearing account and a Capital One card are going to be my choice for traveling(based on what I’ve gathered here), but I’m curious as to how I would go about collecting my SS benefits, if say, I decide to stay and live in Vietnam?


If you are collecting SSDI, you can still get that while you live abroad. Just call your local SS office. If you get SSI, your benefits would be cut off if you are out of the country more than a month.

When people is getting ready for a trip in South America always wonders about what kind of currency they should bring. Every single country in S.A. has its own currency, so remember the best place to change your leftover money from the last county you’ve been is at the border, nowhere else in the country will have a better price.


Thanks. Very helpful. Just one correction: Chase does charge fees for credit card transactions out of the US; pretty hefty fees at that.


Depends on the card! With their BA card, they do not.

This are for sure some very nice tips related to a topic with great importance for any traveler. I’ve always tried to use a Global Bank instead of a small local one, as I always know what to expect like fees from ATMs and on Post terminals.

The current one that’s always with me is a Master Card from Payoneer with $2.5 withdraw fee anywhere outside the US and it’s easy to check the MasterCard exchange rate to more than 100 currencies. This helps a lot as I’m able to obtain local currency using well known international service without risk.

Living on the road is a unique way of life and this means making up new rules as you go. Most people don’t live like this, so globe travelers have to rely on one another for tips.

Looking back at 2011, I spent between 300-500 USD on ATM bank fees !!


Thanks for writing about this important topic. Travelers have to share advice, we are one big family.

I just quit my job and decided to hit the road permanently.

I hope my adventures can be as educational as yours !

Thank you

Ryan Xavier the Homeless Writer.


I love Charles Schwab. However, I don’t remember if this was only Colombia, but they only allow ONE withdrawal a day. It gets kind of annoying because I have to go to a Citibank or HSBC which allows max 500/withdrawal. Most other banks only allow 200. A security trigger gets pulled and I need to call in to unlock if I attempt 2 withdrawals.

Robert Lawrence

Chase has special banking program for current service members and veterans. With direct deposit of military pay, their account offers 1) no Chase fee on ALL non -Chase ATM transaction and 2) no 3% foreign exchange fee on overseas debit card/ATM transactions. After much research, I find this card (benefit) is BEST to be found for overseas use.

Great article! One tip for Cambodia – as of May 2012, Canadia Bank doesn’t charge an ATM fee like other banks do. This is on an Australian Westpac Bank Card. That is a saving of $5 per transaction!


I have a Union Bank (California) preferred savings account, and they did not charge me foreign transactions fees for using my ATM card in Japan. There is also not % charge listed on the transaction on my statement. However, I did not save my receipts, so I don’t know if I got the listed exchange rate.

Union Bank also allows 2 free non-Union Bank ATM withdrawals per month. Since Japan is very safe, and the post office ATMS allow huge withdrawals, this all worked out fine for me for a 3 week trip.


one way or another they get you, either through the exchange slip, the atm fees or the foreign exchange fee. The banks have it covered. You will pay 3 to 5% on any money coming out of an overseas ATM.


Actually if you’re Australian you can get the GE 28 Degrees Mastercard. They have no foreign ATM fees (for cirrus ATMS) and don’t charge currency conversion fees – they don’t build it into the rate either.

Megan Torbert

Just called capital one and since they acquired ING they said those money market accounts with no fees are no longer available because they are offering ING accounts and those have fees attached. Bummer.


Thanks. I’ll make a note.


Hey Matt,

I have an account with ING Espana and am now back in the US for a month before heading back abroad. I went to take out a lump sum in the hopes of avoiding the 42E fee for international transactions online, and I wasn’t able to do it. Does ING have any partner banks that you know of where I could try to get out a large amount at a minimal fee? I tried citi, where I have a US checking account. Thanks!



i use my BoA ATM to get cash in Lima Peru (12th trip) (retired usa citizen)
i use scotia bank ATMs only, zero fee. Global ATM Alliance.
use ATMs at real Scotia bank, only day time and bank open and with a helper.
if you card gets jammed up, have friend go in and get help to unjam it.
there are scammers that jam the machine on purpose. (look behind you for goon with
pair of binoculars. (just happened my Peruvian wifes niece)
watch for purse snatchers, never set it down, ever.
best practice is ATMs in side the bank ! (i find them and keep notes on locations)
i have property 86km South of Lima and so have to use many ATMs.
use VISA for buses and other large expenses.
btw , the bus trips
reserve the 1st class section and travel in PM and sleep all the way in great confort
in a huge bed like chair, (with curtains on window and 1st class service for small money., in peru.


I have just found a great travel credit card here in OZ no fees what so ever unless you use a non connected ATM it is called 28 degrees MasterCard by GE money sure the interest rate is scary 20.24%, but if you load your own money and be careful you won’t be charged any cash withdrawal fees, foreign exchange fees nudda zilch so will be great to use when travelling or for online overseas purchases out of Australia.

Here in Ireland Matt, the best bank to use is Bank of Ireland. When you use their credit card abroad, you don’t get charged a fee(as long as your account is in credit).

I found this very good while in S.E Asia last year. So I was only charged an atm fee when I took money out and not a bank fee as well.

28 Degrees Mastercard for Australians. Best. Card. Ever. I would marry it and have its baby if I could. I have used it in 60 countries across 5 continents and never paid a cent in fees due to the card (just a few sneaky ATM-specific fees now and then)! If they took it away from me I would die!


Me and my boyfriend have both signed up to use the Caxton FX debit card as we travel around Hong Kong, Australia and New Zealand..anyone have opinions on this company?

There are free withdrawls from ATM’s as long as we use it outside the UK because it is the Global Traveller?

your website is rad, great tips, thanks

Jason Poole

I bank with Virgin Money, formerly Northern Rock and send 4 months a year on holiday in the Philippines, they never charge me a penny when I use my current account debit card for purchases and only £1.50 for cash withdrawals, they give a brilliant exchange rate every time (currently 65.99, the best internet rate is currently 63.2) and I always withdraw the maximum amount allowed to keep costs down. Any problems and I just email them with my Philippine mobile number and they call me back no problem.


Despite the benefits of CapitalOne, there is literally no way to change the expiration date on an existing account. So if you’re about to go traveling for a year and your card expires in 4 months, you have to waiting until it’s about to expire before getting a new card. Rather than having them reissue the card with an extended expiration date to last your entire trip, you need to find a way to have one sent to your hostel while abroad. Very counterintuitive.

Any advice?


Call them, tell them you lost your card, and they will send you a new card with a new expiration date on it.

Great tips! I’m a Canadian, and I’m currently with Scotiabank – as much as it’s a great bank and they have the partnerships with Westpac and others, they don’t have any of them in SE Asia, where I am planning to be for the next few years. So to take money out from an ATM costs $5 on Scotia’s side + $5 on the ATM bank’s side + exchange fee = $10+ every time I withdraw money. Sad times.

I’ll have to look into that Citibank option…


Same thing happened to me!! Called the credit card company in advance and like you, they still froze the card and I also could not get in touch with them because of the time difference. Wow, it was such a pain in the a__!! Always bring a few different cards when you travel!

I can confirm what the earlier folks said–HSBC sucks.
HSBC is charging me 3% plus about 2-3$ on every ATM withdrawal I perform from an HSBC ATM in Mexico. They only confirmed the 3% on the phone, so i’ll have to talk to them about the ATM fee they said they wouldn’t charge. I might as well use a non-HSBC ATM and save a $1 in that case.

As for your last comment Matt–3% is the top of the range of the foreign transaction fees, so I’m kind of shocked that you said that can’t be avoided, when your article mentions schwab that has a 0% foreign transaction fee on top of the ATM refunds.
I think there are other good banks, I’m currently investigating which seems like a good #2 after Schwab, they have a 1% FTF, seemingly with the same refunds policy.
Hm, they need a copy of a utility bill to start the account tho, which they hadn’t mentioned before.