ATM fees and foreign exchange fees are a financial burden for travelers. In 2016, ATM fees cost a record high of $4.57 per transaction. On average, banks charge 3% for foreign transaction fees but some charge up to 6%. Before I found travel bank accounts that worked in my favor, I had less money to use for travel with each swipe. Essentially, banks were charging me to use my funds, totally counterproductive. Banks should help travelers save, not penalize them for spending their hard-earned money.

While I understand that ATM fees and maintenance fees are a source of income, these fees unnecessarily chip at our travel budget and negatively impact our finances. Only a handful of banks in the U.S. propose better banking solutions for travelers. Here are the best banks for travelers in the U.S. that either waive fees or allow easy access to funds abroad.

What to look for in a travel bank account?

Generally, you want to look for a bank with low fees, high earning potential, a robust mobile app, and good customer service support.

Best U.S. Travel Bank Accounts

Charles Schwab – Best Bank For No Foreign ATM Fees

Charles Schwab offers one of the best online bank accounts for travelers in the country. Marketed to individual investors, the Schwab Bank High Yield Investor Checking is an excellent option for travelers because everything is free.

There are no service fees, no foreign transaction fees, and unlimited ATM fee rebates worldwide. Manage your account with a sleek mobile app and pay securely with a contactless debit card.

Have a question? Call customer service or use the 24/7 live chat.

What’s the catch?

Your High Yield Investor Checking Account has to be linked to a Schwab One brokerage account. Don’t worry; the brokerage account is free, and there are no maintenance fees. For that reason, this bank account may not be the right fit for you. Also, only U.S. residents can open an account.

Charles Schwab Benefits

  • No monthly service charge.
  • Minimum opening balance not required.
  • $0 account minimums.
  • Unlimited ATM fee rebates worldwide – reimbursed at the end of the month.
  • Mobile check deposit.
  • Unlimited free checks.
  • No foreign transaction fees.

Helpful Tip: Keep all of your ATM receipts. Reconcile your records at the end of the month.

Capital One – Best Bank For Massive Network

Capital One is another good banking option for travelers. Like Schwab, Capital One 360 checking account doesn’t have a physical storefront. Everything is online. However, unlike Charles Schwab, Capital One’s fee-free ATMs are available in 40,000+ locations nationwide. Withdraw up to $1,000 per day.

What’s the catch?

Capital One does not reimburse out-of-network ATM fees throughout the country or abroad. Unfortunately, you may be subject to fees by third-party ATM owners.

Capital One Benefits

  • Mobile check deposit.
  • No monthly service charge.
  • $0 account minimums.
  • No foreign exchange fees.
  • A variety of overdraft protection options.
  • Visit select branches and cafes.

Read Next: How To Become A Financially Savvy Traveler

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Ally Bank – Best Bank For Earning Interest

If you are looking for a bank that will help you grow your money, I recommend Ally Bank.

I’ve been using Ally Bank for years, and I have several travel bank accounts, including a money market, online savings, and interest checking account.

With an Ally savings account, you can create buckets to organize your money better. Divvy up your savings into at least ten savings buckets. Give each bucket a name and earn interest on your total balance.

Lastly, I love that with Ally, you can earn a higher interest rate than most checking and savings accounts. Currently, my travel fund earns 0.50%, but when I first opened the account, I was earning 0.85% interest a year. Ally’s interest is variable, so it’s subject to change.

Ally Bank Benefits

  • No monthly service charge.
  • $0 account minimums.
  • Grow your money faster with daily compounded interest, paid monthly.
  • Mobile check deposit.
  • Unlimited free checks.

What’s the catch?

Ally Bank charges a standard foreign transaction fee of up to 1% for any currency conversion and international transaction. Although Ally Bank doesn’t waive foreign transaction fees, it offers a lower rate than many other banks. Also, Ally Bank only reimburses ATM fees up to $10 per statement cycle. ATMs have to be in the U.S.

Overall, it’s no coincidence that the best U.S. travel bank accounts are from online banks. With less overhead from having to have physical locations across the country, these online banks offer a more robust service where everyone wins. Consider opening accounts with Charles Schwab, Ally Bank, or Capital One 360. Spend your hard-earned money on more travel and less on bank fees.

In summary, when searching for travel-friendly banks, avoid these fees:

  1. Foreign transaction fees.
  2. Out-of-network ATM fees.
  3. Maintenance fees.
  4. Account minimums.

What travel bank accounts do you use to stash your travel fund?

Next, listen to this episode, which details why you need a travel fund.

Listen to on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or Google Podcasts.

The best bank accounts for travel

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5 replies
  1. TGL says:

    I have a Transferwise (now called ‘Wise’) account, but because it is not protected by any government deposit protection scheme I also have a Monzo (UK-based bank) account, which charges no fees for using their debit card abroad and uses the MasterCard exchange rate. Wise charges a small currency conversion fee when you use their debit card but their exchange rate is better than the MasterCard rate so there is little or no difference when using both debits cards in most currencies. Neither are good for taking out cash from ATMs (both have limits on free withdrawals), but have never found this to be an issue so far, especially as everywhere is going cashless due to Covid-19. If you are a long-term traveller or digital nomad, imo, you should have a Transferwise account backed up by another account that has some type of deposit protection.

    Reply
  2. NMPL says:

    The main condition is “linking an account to a brokerage account?” How much should be in the account? But if a person does not use brokerage accounts, what to do? And it makes no sense to create a brokerage account, because the stock market is overheated, and it is very dangerous to invest there.

    Reply
  3. danikay11 says:

    I would also suggest checking your local bank on what their policy is on ATM fees and international transaction fees. My hometown bank reimburses me from any ATM. Sometimes it pays to support local if you don’t live in a big city.

    Reply

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