Best Bank for Long Term Travel

As we’ve been getting ready for this trip, I’ve realized that a lot has changed since the last time I took a long term trip.

For finances, I was very happy to start using my ATM account, as I did for a year in Europe almost 10 years ago.

It was a pretty easy system and the best choice at the time, since the banks offered the best exchange rate, and a mininal ATM fee.

However, as most of us have figured out about credit card chargea the hard way, I figured that I’d check into this, and I’m glad I did.

The fees which regular banks have decided to tack on to international banking are nothing short of robbery (and well hidden as always)

As I had accounts with Bank of America, and Wells Fargo, I decided to check with these institutions first.

Bank of America (BoFA) was the first place I cheeked, since a friend previously has success here. However, they were also the first to deny that they have any program to reimburse ATM charges. Their charges are a hefty $5 ATM fee (in addition to the other banks fees) + 1%.  They indicated that since they are going through the Merryl Lynch consolidation, they can’t offer any special reimbursement at the time.

Wells Fargo wasn’t much better, with similar charges.  They did offer 4 free ATM transactions with a $25k deposit, and free services with $100k deposit. Both these options made me laugh, since there’s a lot more you can do with that much money than free ATM services.

Most credit cards are the same, since Visa, Mastercard, and American Express all add a 2%-3% charge as well.

Depending on spending habits, these charges can add up to $500-$1000 for a long term trip.  As much as it might be a pain to switch banks, the convenience is definitely not worth that much!

After speaking with a few other banks, including Chase & HSBC, the best choice I’ve found, and the one I’ve opened an account with is Schwab online banking.  The indicate that they have full ATM reimbursement in the US and globally.   I’ve opened an account online and will report back on any issues.

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