Spending: Best Bank for Frequent Travelers

By Miriam Cross, Kiplinger's Personal Finance | January 11th, 2019

Financial guidance for your financial life


Whether you regularly roam the country or venture abroad, traveler-friendly bank accounts minimize ATM fees worldwide and go light on penalties. And the best bank for travelers is Charles Schwab, according to a recent Kiplinger survey.

Charles Schwab Bank doesn’t charge foreign-transaction fees on its debit card, and it reimburses all cash withdrawal fees at ATMs across the globe.

The checking account, which yields 0.25 percent, is free to open and maintain, even if it sits empty (transfers between Schwab and other U.S. bank accounts are free). You must open a Schwab brokerage account at the same time, but there is no need to fund it or use it.

Schwab Bank also offers a free savings account that yields 0.4 percent and provides unlimited rebates of ATM fees. You can link your card to four digital wallets, including Apple Pay and Google Pay. The Visa debit card carries a few travel-friendly perks under Visa’s emergency services, such as medical or legal referrals. Plus, Schwab will send a text message immediately if it suspects fraudulent use of your debit card.

By linking your checking account to another Schwab account, you can get free transfers to avoid insufficient funds charges of $25 a pop. You can bank from afar using the mobile app (including check deposit) and access live help at all hours by phone or online chat.

Capital One 360 came in second in the Kiplinger survey.

Capital One 360, the online arm of Capital One Bank, is more generous when it comes to comping foreign ATM fees than brick-and-mortar Capital One. It doesn’t charge to use any ATM worldwide (but doesn’t reimburse fees from the other banks), and it waives the 3 percent foreign-transaction fee that Capital One Bank applies to cash withdrawals.

You can use Capital One and Allpoint ATMs surcharge-free, and you can find fee-free Allpoint ATMs in several countries besides the United States, including Canada and Mexico. The 360 Checking account is free to open and maintain. You don’t need to notify the bank to use your debit card abroad, and the bank will contact you if it suspects fraud. You can also “lock” your card online or by app to halt transactions.

To handle overdrafts, you can transfer money from a linked account or line of credit (you’ll pay interest on the line of credit), or opt for “next day grace,” which allows you one day to repay the overdrawn amount (if it exceeds $5) before facing a $35 fee. You can access live customer service via the @AskCapitalOne Twitter account or by phone seven days a week.

Miriam Cross is an associate editor-writer at Kiplinger’s Personal Finance magazine.

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