If you’re a frequent foreign traveler, you’ve felt the pain of outrageous bank fees from a foreign ATM.
You won’t find much reprieve by using your credit card, as most major credit cards tack on a couple percentage points per use outside your native country.
So before your next trip, take a good look at this list and think about opening an account with one of these institutions to save yourself some cash.
Especially if you or a member of your family is in the armed services, you should really be taking advantage of the USAA bank. USAA isn’t exactly a bank, and it’s not exactly a credit union. It is a Federal Savings Bank, which is regulated by the Treasury Department’s Office of Thrift Supervision. This means they answer only to their members, and the US Treasury Department. This means no high fees when you’re out of the country, and tons of travel benefits. Once enrolled as a member you start getting points as you spend overseas, which you can then use like cash on future trips. They offer great cruise discounts, lodging discounts, travelers insurance, and more.
2. Charles Schwab
Unlike most other banks on this list, Charles Schwab has exactly zero overseas ATMs, and no deals with any foreign banks; but none of that matters, because Schwab will reimburse you for any ATM fee at the end of every month. You’ll need to open a high-yield checking account, but there is no minimum deposit, and no monthly service fee. If you qualify for their high-yield account, it would serve you well to open one before you travel and use one of their cards, knowing that not only will Schwab never charge you an out of network ATM fee, but they’ll reimburse you for any fees other banks may charge as well.
If you travel in Europe frequently, Barclays is where it’s at. You can apply for a bank account and once accepted, you’ll have no access fees in most European countries, as well as Australia, Canada, New Zealand, South Africa, the Ukraine, and the United States. They partner with banks in other countries in which they don’t have a presence, meaning you can usually find an ATM that partners with Barclays, and you’ll be fee-free at any credit card terminal. If you mostly travel in the US or Canada, and occasionally to Europe, stick with a Bank of America account—they are Barclays’ American partner, and you’ll enjoy Barclays’ banking benefits including no-fee ATMs overseas, as well as north of the border.
HSBC offers a lot of corporate banking solutions, but they also have solid benefits for travelers. Using your HSBC-issued credit and debit cards, you automatically receive points to use on travel, insurance, emergency assistance, and fee-free transactions. Essentially, anywhere MasterCard is accepted, you can expect zero fees for your transactions. There aren’t as many ATM options if you need them, as they only offer no-fee ATM access to their ATMs. If you’re traveling in major cities, this isn’t a problem, but in more suburban and rural areas an HSBC ATM can be hard to come by.
5. Your local credit union
Look into some of your local credit unions for benefits that appeal to you. Many credit unions are regional, and because of that many have partnered up to offer ATM and banking services to any credit union member. That means as you travel across the country and even around the world, if you can find a credit union, you not only have access to their ATM, but in many cases, you can use their local branches just like you would use your own.
Travel tip shared by Mike Freiberg