One of the most common concerns I often have when I’m going to an unfamiliar region is how to get cash. Do I need to exchange dollars at my local bank at home? Do I go to one of the exchange kiosks at the airport? What do I do to avoid exorbitant foreign exchange and ATM fees?
When I first started traveling internationally 20 years ago, I had no idea there were banks that didn’t charge foreign transaction and ATM fees. I remember trying to figure out how much cash I needed before I left home to minimize going to the ATM too often during my trip.
Only after I’ve met my husband, who already had Schwab checking account, I learned about banks that didn’t have these fees.
Unless traveling to hard to reach destinations, or a country where the modern banking system is almost non-existent, you don’t need to bring cash with you. Any modern airport or train station will have at least a couple ATMs where you can withdraw cash. What you do need, is a bank account that doesn’t have ATM fees, doesn’t charge foreign transaction fees and has good currency conversion rates.
While there are a few U.S. banks that offer free ATM cash withdrawals to their best and most profitable customers, these three checking accounts have no minimum balance requirements and no account maintenance fees.
Schwab has no physical bank locations and has a very generous ATM use policy. One of the benefits of free High Yield Investor Checking account is ATM fee reimbursement. Schwab doesn’t charge foreign transaction fees, there are no minimum deposits required to open an account and there are no monthly fees.
Schwab has an excellent mobile app that lets you do all the usual banking transactions, including mobile check deposits. It’s very easy to open High Yield Investor Checking account if you have Schwab One brokerage account. The brokerage account also doesn’t have any minimum deposit or minimum balance requirements.
Use this link to open new Schwab account to get $100 bonus. The new account bonus is available via referral link only. I receive no compensation from Schwab and I will get no referral bonuses if you use this link.
Schwab is a personal favorite of mine, I’ve banked with them for almost 20 years. Customer service is outstanding – a few times I had to talk to someone on the phone, a knowledgeable representative based in the U.S. answers the call in a matter of seconds.
Fidelity Cash Management Account is technically a brokerage account but the cash portion is FDIC insured. There are no minimum balances and no account management fees. Fidelity, like Schwab, will reimburse the ATM fees. There is, however 1% foreign transaction fee on ATM withdrawals. The fee is much lower than industry standard 3% fee.
The Capital One 360 Checking Account doesn’t have minimum balance requirements or monthly fees. There are no ATM fees if you use 360 Checking MasterCard Debit Card. Capital One doesn’t charge foreign transaction fees on ATM withdrawals. However, Capital One doesn’t reimburse the fees charged by the ATM owners. ATM owner fees can be as high as $3 a transaction.
Being able to to get cash abroad with no fees and to withdraw small amounts, as needed, is very important, especially when visiting a few countries in a short period of time. Nobody wants to leave a country with a lot of unused currency if there are plan to come back any time soon.
With an access to an account with no ATM and no foreign transaction fees, there is no worrying about exchanging currency ahead of time. It’s easy to withdraw enough cash to last the next few days.
I would never use a credit cards to withdraw cash from an ATM. The credit card company will charge foreign exchange fees, ATM fees and cash advance fees. Cash withdrawals don’t earn any credit card rewards. My favorite cards to use for for all the non-cash purchases I make when traveling, are card with no foreign transaction fees, including Chase Sapphire Preferred card or Platinum Card from American Express.