Best for International ATM Use: Schwab Bank
We picked Schwab as a cost-effective choice for travelers thanks to its excellent ATM fee policies. While Schwab doesn't have any physical bank locations, it compensates with a generous attitude towards ATM use. The High Yield Investor Checking account comes with no Schwab fees at any ATM and unlimited reimbursement of whatever fees you pay to other banks at a non-Schwab ATM. The bank won't charge any foreign debit transaction fee either, so the only expense you'll incur on debit card purchases is the local exchange rate.
Travelers will also appreciate the fact that Schwab's online banking lets you view balance, check transaction history and make transfers from your mobile device. Opening a Schwab checking account also requires you to open a Schwab brokerage account, which requires no monthly fees or minimum balance. Schwab doesn't provide international wire transfers, but that won't make it any less useful to travelers who mostly pay with cash, credit or debit. If your balance runs low, anyone in the US can make a domestic ACH transfer to refill your Schwab account.
Best for Online and Traditional Banking: Capital One
If you're interested in choosing a bank that you can use at home as well as overseas, Capital One offers a mix of features which provide that kind of versatility. Capital One is another of the few banks with no ATM fees and no foreign transaction fee on debit cards. Even though Capital One 360 Checking doesn't have as many travel-friendly features as Schwab Bank, it may still be a better option if you live close to a Capital One branch.
Unless you just want an extra checking account to use while traveling, Capital One's brick-and-mortar service and full range of financial products make it a superior choice for the long term. Capital One Bank occupies a middle ground between traditional banks and newer online companies. Its line of 360 banking products come with much lower fees and a convenient online app, both features typical of online banks. At the same time, customers also have the option of visiting a Capital One branch to make deposits and speak directly with a banker.
Best Banks for International Branch Access
Visiting a foreign country almost always involves one or two unexpected situations. We found several banks in the US that operate across the world, with physical branch locations in dozens of countries. These branches can act as a convenient place to access your money and ask detailed in-person questions about how to navigate the local economy.
Best for Frequent Travelers: Citibank
Citibank probably has the greatest global coverage of all multinational banks, making it the best choice for travelers who often visit a variety of destinations. Citibank operates over 1,000 branches in the US and more than 4,000 globally. For the frequent traveler, this translates to free 24-hour ATM access at 45,000 machines spread across 30 countries. Even if you aren't within range of a branch or ATM, the bank's service representatives are always available by phone at Citibank's international toll-free number.
The advantages of traveling on Citibank begin even before you leave home. Customers can call the bank to order next-day delivery of foreign currencies to their home, office or nearest Citibank branch. The order gets debited out of your checking, savings or money market account, at an exchange rate determined by the bank. Finally, Citibank also offers free wire transfers between Citi accounts, offering an easy way to get money to or from people in other countries.
Best for High Balances: HSBC
HSBC provides several strong travel-related benefits to customers with higher balances. With HSBC Advance and HSBC Premier Checking, you can move funds between accounts around the world via automated transfers and online apps. Wherever you travel, you can monitor and manage all your HSBC balances through a single login on your mobile device. If you opt for a Premier Checking account, you can also avoid paying any foreign transaction fees on debit card usage abroad. Finally, the HSBC Advance checking account offers a $350 Welcome Deposit bonus to new customers who deposit at least $10,000 in the first 30 calendar days and maintain at least that balance for 90 days.
However, HSBC is somewhat limited in the US, and it's not a very good option for domestic banking if you aren't located in its service footprint. In addition, its most travel-friendly features are reserved for premium checking account-holders. If you find that the monthly fees and minimum balances on HSBC's top-tier accounts are too high, we suggest considering a more flexible option such as Schwab or Capital One, both of which offer online-only accounts that come with reduced bank fees.
Summary of Best Banks for International Travel
This table gives a quick overview of the different benefits at each of the travel-friendly banks we've covered.
International ATM Fee
|International ATM Use||Schwab Bank||$0||No foreign debit fee and unlimited rebates on other banks' ATM fees|
|Online and Traditional Banking||Capital One||$0||No foreign debit fee|
|Frequent Travelers||Citibank||$2||Free wire transfers between Citi accounts worldwide|
|Higher Balances||HSBC||$2.50||International network of branches and no foreign debit fee for Premier customers|
Finding Other Banks For Traveling Abroad
If you don't see a suitable option in this article, you should consider whether there are other banks available that match your financial habits. If you're a prolific credit card spender, it might make sense to see whether or not your credit card is affiliated with a major bank like Chase. Most of these banks offer one unified mobile app for managing all products, including deposit accounts and credit cards. This means that opening a checking account with the same bank that supports your credit card will make it easier to handle your balances and transactions.
Both credit and debit card users must also think about the problem of using a US chip card in other countries. Unlike most other countries, credit and debit cards in the US use a chip-and-signature system that isn't always compatible with the chip-and-PIN terminals you might encounter overseas. Not all US banks give customers the option of setting up a PIN number on their chip cards, so you may need to verify this important detail by calling a customer service line directly.
If you want to avoid complications with EMV cards entirely, there's always the option of using cash. While you won't find drastically better exchange rates at any one US bank, it's better to exchange your cash at a bank than anywhere else. Exchange rates at third-party currency services around airports and tourist hotspots tend to be much worse for the consumer. If you find yourself short on foreign currency after you've landed, finding one of your bank's own ATMs will help you avoid bad rates.