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When you're searching for a bank account, it's important to find one that meets your financial needs and fits your habits as well. If you regularly travel abroad, some banks offer certain features that can make the experience more convenient and less expensive.
While you don't necessarily need to use any of these banks for your everyday banking, having one of them as a backup bank can make traveling internationally a lot easier.
Each account is different, though, so it's important to know what you're looking for and your top priorities when determining which one is the best fit for you.
Charles Schwab Bank: Best for No ATM Fees
- Banking products: High-Yield Investor Checking Account.
- Fees: No account maintenance, activity fees or foreign transaction fees.
- ATM access: Unlimited ATM fee rebates worldwide.
- Notable features: Ability to access ATMs wherever you go.
In many places abroad, it's a good idea to have access to cash in the local currency, and there's generally no better place to get cash than at the ATM—currency exchange providers typically offer unfavorable exchange rates.
With the vast majority of banks, you have to pay a fee to your financial institution if you use an out-of-network ATM. What's more, you'll have to pay a fee to the ATM's owner. Some banks offer to reimburse ATM fees on domestic out-of-network transactions—either up to a certain amount each month or unlimited reimbursements—but Charles Schwab Bank offers that feature on all ATM transactions worldwide.
On top of that, the bank doesn't charge foreign transaction fees, so you can also use your debit card for everyday transactions without being charged an extra 1%, which is common for other banks.
The account has no minimum balance requirement, no monthly maintenance fee, no other activity fees and a 0.40% annual percentage yield (APY) on your account balance.
Who it's best for: The Charles Schwab Bank High-Yield Investor Checking Account is worth considering if you plan to use ATMs often or you want the freedom to use your debit card without additional fees. It could also be worth using for your everyday banking if you have a brokerage account with Charles and like to keep your financial management under one roof.
Capital One: Best for No Foreign Transaction Fees and Everyday Banking
- Banking products: 360 Checking, 360 Performance Savings, 360 Certificates of Deposit, MONEY Teen Checking, Kids Savings Account.
- Fees: No fees whatsoever.
- ATM access: 70,000+ fee-free ATMs nationwide.
- Notable features: No foreign transaction fees, solid everyday banking products.
Like Charles Schwab Bank, Capital One doesn't charge foreign transaction fees on international purchases. And while it doesn't also add ATM fee reimbursements, Capital One offers several excellent digital banking products that make it a solid choice for everyday banking as well.
There are no fees, and that includes no overdraft fees, which can come in handy if you like to keep a smaller buffer in your checking account. And if you want to pair the 360 Checking account with a 360 Performance Savings account, you'll get a 3.30% APY on your savings balance, as of December 2022.
What's more, Capital One allows you to create up to 25 separate savings accounts, allowing you to work toward multiple savings goals and keep track of each one individually.
Who it's best for: Capital One's 360 Checking account is best for travelers who don't necessarily want to open a separate bank account just for travel. While it won't give you free ATMs worldwide, the lack of a foreign transaction fee can be enough for most of your purchases, and you don't have to manage multiple accounts.
HSBC: Best for Emergency Cash
- Banking products: HSBC Premier Checking, Premier Savings, Premier Relationship Savings, Certificates of Deposit.
- Fees: $50 monthly maintenance fee (waivable), no activity fees or foreign transaction fees.
- ATM access: Fee-free access to HSBC ATMs worldwide, up to five third-party ATM rebates per month.
- Notable features: Access to up to $10,000 in emergency cash, no foreign transaction fees, broader fee-free ATM access.
The HSBC Premier Checking account offers quite a bit of value for international travelers. One of the bank's unique features is the ability to obtain some emergency cash in the event that your wallet is stolen or you're experiencing another emergency. Depending on your account balance, the bank offers up to $2,000 in U.S. Dollars or the local currency equivalent immediately and up to $10,000 upon authorization at an HSBC branch in the local country.
The bank also offers fee-free ATM access at any of its bank branches around the world, as well as up to five third-party ATM fee rebates every month—perfect if your trips aren't long or you don't use the ATM very often.
HSBC Premier Checking Promo: $500 Bonus for New Accounts
The primary drawback is the $50 monthly maintenance fee, which is steep. To get that fee waived, you need to meet one of the following requirements:
- Have at least $75,000 in deposits or investments with HSBC.
- Receive at least $5,000 in direct deposits each month.
- Maintain a U.S. mortgage loan with HSBC with an original loan amount of $500,000 or more.
If you can't meet one of those requirements, the account benefits may not be worth the monthly cost.
Who it's best for: Consider this option only if you can meet one or more of the requirements to get the checking account's monthly maintenance fee waived. If you can, this bank offers great value for both international trips and everyday banking.
Citi: Best for Wiring Money
- Banking products: Access Account Package, Basic Account Package, The Citibank Account Package, Priority Account Package, Citigold® Account Package, Citigold Private Client, High-Yield Savings, Certificates of Deposit.
- Fees: Varies depending on the account.
- ATM access: Varies depending on the account.
- Notable features: No wire transfer fee to other Citi customers.
If you need to send money abroad while you're at home or while you're traveling in another country, our partner Citi won't charge you a fee to do so, as long as the recipient also has a Citi account. If they don't, there may be a fee of up to $35.
What's more, Citi offers several different checking account packages, and depending on which one you have, you may be able to get Citi fees on out-of-network ATM transactions waived, and even the third-party ATM fees themselves reimbursed.
Keep in mind, though, that the accounts that offer a break on third-party ATM fees have higher monthly maintenance fees, and you need to maintain a steep minimum balance in eligible linked deposit, retirement and investment accounts to get the monthly fee waived.
Who it's best for: Citi may be a good fit if you believe that you may need to wire money internationally on the regular, and your recipient also has an account with the bank or can get one. If you also want ATM fees waived or reimbursed, your best bet is to have a higher net worth, so you can meet the minimum requirements to have those monthly fees waived or even qualify to have the account.
Which Bank Is Right for You?
There are a lot of different banking options out there, so it's important that you consider your needs and preferences to ensure you find the right fit. If you travel internationally multiple times a year, it might make sense to have an account that offers as many international features as possible. But if you only travel abroad occasionally, it might make more sense to pick your account based on your everyday banking needs.
Either way, it may not hurt to have a couple of checking accounts so that you can take advantage of the everyday features from your main account and some international features from your second account. Just make sure you understand the fees that you'll be charged, particularly if you let your second account go dormant.