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Traveling internationally is a lot of fun. Heck, I got married in St. Lucia. And if you have the right bank, you’ll enjoy many perks while globetrotting.
In this article, we’ve put together a list of the five best banks for international travel, along with what we think makes them so unique. While you can travel and use your regular bank, we recommend looking into one of these banks as an alternative for the next time you hop on a plane.
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Best Banks for International Travel
|Capital One||No foreign transaction fees|
|Revolut||Using multiple currencies|
|HSBC||Usefulness to expatriates|
|Charles Schwab||International ATMs|
1. Ally Bank
Ally is a popular option for a lot of travelers and provides people abroad with many services that will meet their needs. But doesn’t truly excel in any one specific area–it’s solid all-around. This makes it our choice for the best overall international bank.
This great all-around bank doesn’t have any monthly fees or minimum balance requirements to open an account. Additionally, they don’t charge ATM fees and will reimburse up to $10 of ATM fees from their competitors. By linking your savings account to your checking account, you can enjoy free overdraft protection.
When you bank with Ally Bank, you will be able to easily keep track of your spending thanks to their online banking, and you can enjoy customer support 7 days a week from 7 am – 10 pm (Eastern Time). This is a great feature to take advantage of when you’re abroad, especially if you have concerns about your spending or have lost your debit card. Unlike banks that only operate during U.S. business hours, Ally Bank will pick up the phone and help you when you have an emergency, no matter the time of day or night.
Ally Bank offers three different credit cards, with the Ally Unlimited Cashback Mastercard being the best for international travel. It offers unlimited 2% cashback on all purchases, with no annual fee and no foreign transaction fees.
In addition, the Ally Bank debit card has very generous spending limits, at $5,000 per day, including up to $1,000 in cash withdrawn from ATM machines. While the debit card has no foreign transaction fee, a 1% international transaction fee applies to any point-of-sale debit, retail cashback, OTC, or ATM transaction originated by any merchant or any ATM operator located outside the US area
Overall, Ally Bank offers a lot of support to their customers who like to travel, which is why we think they’re one of the best banks for international travel. They’re always releasing helpful information to their customers to make planning and preparing for international trips easier as they did here.
- Foreign transaction fee (credit or debit cards): None on all three credit cards offered.
- International wires (fees): Incoming international wires are accepted (no fee); outgoing international wire transfers are not accepted.
- Foreign branches/correspondent banks: Ally Bank is an online bank that has no physical branches but can be accessed online at any time.
- Travel credit cards: Ally Unlimited Cashback Mastercard – not specifically a travel credit card, but provides 2% cashback on all purchases.
2. Capital One 360
Many banks charge fees on every purchase you make abroad, or even if you buy something from an international retailer that is based outside of the U.S. One of the reasons we love Capital One 360 is that they don’t charge a special fee on these transactions. This is great for international travel, as you can save a lot of money without having to worry about avoiding purchases.
While most people will bring money with them to exchange when traveling abroad, it’s almost impossible to bring with you all of the cash you need. You’ll inevitably end up purchasing something using a credit or debit card, and while most banks will charge you, Capital One 360 doesn’t. I find that these small fees can add up really quickly, but if you can avoid them, then you can keep a lot more money in your wallet.
Other banks don’t charge you for international purchases, but Capital One 360 is one of our favorites because it offers lower fees than a lot of other banks. In addition to giving you a free pass when making international purchases, Capital One 360 also doesn’t charge you for using non-Capital One 360 ATMs. Remember that the owner of the ATM may cost you, but you won’t have to pay a fee to Capital One 360, which is a great way to save money.
You can make deposits through the mobile app and through bank transfers so you won’t have any problem putting more money in your account. Even if you aren’t close to an ATM.
Capital One offers no fewer than four credit cards specifically for travel. Those include the VentureOne Rewards for Good Credit, VentureOne Rewards, Venture Rewards, and Venture X Rewards credit cards.
Capital One Venture X Rewards Credit Card has a $395 annual fee, but it has the richest travel rewards. That starts with 75,000 bonus miles after spending at least $4,000 in purchases within three months of opening the account.
You can then earn unlimited 10X miles on hotels and rental cars, plus unlimited 5X miles for flights booked through Capital One Travel, then unlimited 2X miles on all other purchases. The card also comes with a credit of up to $100 for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck.
- Foreign transaction fee: 0% using 360 Checking debit card or travel credit cards.
- International wires (fees): Yes, both send ($30) and receive ($0).
- Foreign branches/correspondent banks: Capital One operates outside of the US through Capital One Bank (Europe) plc located in the UK and through Canadian offices in Toronto.
- Travel credit cards: Offers four dedicated travel credit cards
If you want an alternative to Capital One 360, Revolut is a great tool for travelers who want to quickly and easily use many different currencies. Revolut is a top fintech app from Europe that recently entered the American market.
When you sign up for Revolut, you’ll get a debit account so you can use Revolut much like a checking account. The app supports more than 36 currencies and can spend in more than 150 currencies, meaning you can use it all over the world. You can also use the app to send, receive, and store cryptocurrencies.
- Foreign transaction fee: Varies by plan and currency.
- International wires (fees): N/A but $1,000 to unlimited international transfers, depending on the plan selected.
- Foreign branches/correspondent banks: Online app, no physical branches.
- Travel credit cards: Not offered.
4. HSBC Bank
HSBC Bank really shines because it caters to ex-patriots by providing exceptional banking services to them while they are abroad. Not only will you enjoy excellent traditional banking services, but you’ll also have access to wealth management services and foreign exchange services, so you always have someone on your side.
Dealing with foreign currency has never been easier than it is now, thanks to HSBC Bank services. Not only can you enjoy simple currency transfers, but they also offer tailored services and support from specialists if you need to set a target exchange rate for automatically converting your money. Also, they provide bespoke services such as pre-agreed tiered margins. While not all travelers will need these services, they also offer others that are geared toward travelers, not ex-pats.
This is a massive international bank that has just a few U.S. branches but has easy online access. Because they offer basic products that don’t charge fees, you won’t have to worry about keeping a set amount of money in your account to offset fees, and can even enjoy a competitive rate from their Direct Savings account.
International transfers are simple with HSBC Bank as well. And you can transfer money online, by phone, or via a smartphone app. This ensures that even if you are out of the country and need more money than you have, you can quickly make the necessary transfer so you won’t run out of cash while abroad. I think that having three ways to access your money is essential and makes it easy for everyone to have complete control over their finances, even when traveling.
HSBC offers two travel credit cards, HSBC Premier and HSBC Elite. Each comes with a sign-up bonus, as well as points for travel. Elite is the more generous of the two, offering 50,000 bonus points after spending $4,000 in the first three months after account opening. That’s followed by 3X points on travel, 2X points on dining, and 1X points on all other purchases.
- Foreign transaction fee: 0% on debit cards or credit cards.
- International wires (fees): Fee-free transfers to/from 27 countries (exchange rate fees apply based on currencies involved).
- Foreign branches/correspondent banks: Locations in 62 countries.
- Travel credit cards: Two travel credit cards.
Frequent international travelers will love using Citibank for their banking needs, as it offers the best global coverage of all of the banks on this list. While they don’t provide a lot of branches throughout the U.S., this isn’t a problem for global travelers who will have access to more than 4,000 offices around the world. This means that when you’re traveling, you’ll have the best access to your money and won’t have to worry about paying ATM fees.
With more than 45,000 machines located in 30 different countries, you’ll get quick and free access to your money any time you visit a Citibank ATM and won’t ever pay convenience fees. I love that you can also call the international toll-free number if you ever experience problems with your account and need to talk to a bank representative. This will allow you to get the help you need without having to worry about phone fees or when you can call for guidance.
Not only will you enjoy the services that Citibank offers when you’re abroad, but you’ll enjoy their services before you even set foot on a plane. If you’re taking a last-minute trip to another country, you can call your Citibank branch and get foreign currency delivered to your home, Citibank branch, or office the next day.
Once you place your order for foreign currency, Citibank will determine the exchange rate, and your money will be debited from your account. So you don’t even have to step foot inside a branch to get the money you need for your trip.
Additionally, Citibank offers free wire transfers if you’re moving money between Citi accounts, making it easy to pay people in other countries or accept the money you’re owed. Wire transfers were a big thing when I was in St. Lucia–I had to pay for some wedding services this way, so this feature may come in handy for you.
Related: How to Avoid Wire Transfer Fees
Check out some of the other benefits that you’ll enjoy when you bank with Citibank, including access to your accounts 24/7 online, as well as waived monthly service fees if you keep a minimum balance in your account.
Citi provides several credit cards with travel partners. But the Citi Premier Card is designed for travel rewards with any travel vendor. It starts with 60,000 bonus points – redeemable for $600 – after spending $4,000 within three months of account opening.
You’ll then earn 3X points on air travel, hotels, restaurants, supermarkets, and gas stations, then 1X points on all other purchases. Rewards points can be transferred to participating airline loyalty programs. The card comes with a $95 annual fee and no foreign transaction fees.
- Foreign transaction fee: 0% on debit cards and on credit cards.
- International wires (fees): As low as $17.50 or $25.
- Foreign branches/correspondent banks: 150+ countries.
- Travel credit cards: Citi Premier Credit Card plus credit cards tied in with travel partners.
6. Charles Schwab
Charles Schwab is an excellent choice for this list because it offers extensive access to ATMs and has very lenient policies, so you don’t have to worry about overspending on ATM charges. Many different banks reimburse you for fees that other ATMs charge, but most of these banks require you to have individual accounts with high minimum balances.
Charles Schwab is well known for providing their customers who have a High Yield Investor Checking Account reimbursements on all ATM fees worldwide, as well as other benefits. Another significant advantage that you’ll enjoy if you love to travel internationally is that there aren’t any foreign transaction fees, which makes using your credit or debit card a lot less expensive.
Additionally, Charles Schwab offers interest on their High Yield Investor Checking Account, doesn’t charge a monthly fee, and doesn’t require a minimum balance. While these are great features, the best one is the ATM fee reimbursement. There are many times when traveling that you’ll want to have extra cash. And being able to visit an ATM without worrying about paying additional fees will allow you to grab some money as you go.
In addition to being lenient on ATM and foreign debit transaction fees, Charles Schwab has an online banking program that is intuitive, easy to use, and updates quickly so you can keep track of your finances when you’re traveling. Having a checking account with Schwab does require a brokerage account, but this account doesn’t have a minimum balance and doesn’t charge any monthly fees.
The Platinum Card® from American Express for Charles Schwab offers a sign-on bonus of 80,000 points after spending $6,000 in purchases within six months of account opening. From there, you’ll enjoy 5X points on up to $500,000 in airfare each year, and 5X points on eligible prepaid hotels booked with American Express Travel.
The card also comes with a $200 hotel credit and a $200 airline fee credit. The annual fee is $695, but there are no foreign transaction fees
- Foreign transaction fee: 0% on debit cards or credit cards.
- International wires (fees): Incoming ($15) and outgoing ($25).
- Foreign branches/correspondent banks: In the UK only.
- Travel credit card: Platinum Card® from American Express for Charles Schwab.
Our Methodology in Choosing the Best Banks for International Travel
In compiling this list of the best banks for international travel, we’ve analyzed multiple banks based on the following criteria:
- Foreign operations, including physical branch locations.
- The number of countries where each bank has locations or conducts business.
- The ability to send or receive international wires.
- Foreign transaction fees on both debit cards and credit cards.
- The availability of travel-related credit cards.
- Other services are offered in support of international travel.
With criteria so specific, few banks we’ve reviewed and made the cut. Even some of the banks included failed to provide a service or two. But we included those institutions because they do offer most services needed for foreign travel.
What is the best bank for international travelers?
After evaluating several banks, we believe Ally Bank is the best bank for international travel overall. Though the bank has no branches located in foreign countries – or even in the US – it has a very user-friendly bank platform that can be accessed from anywhere in the world.
They also charge no foreign transaction fee on any of their credit cards and accept incoming wire transfers free of charge.
Which bank account works internationally?
Checking accounts offered by any of the six banks included on this list will work internationally.
What US banks don’t charge foreign transaction fees?
Most banks do charge a foreign transaction fee on either debit or credit cards, or both. The fee is typically between 2.7% and 3.0%. But the banks on our list above do not charge this fee, which is a major reason why each was included.
Is Capital One a good bank for international travel?
Yes, and that’s why they made our list. Not only do they charge no foreign transaction fees, either on their debit card or their credit cards, but they also operate branches outside the US, in Canada and in Europe. They also offer some of the best travel rewards credit cards available.
With these six banks to choose from, you can quickly pick one that will offer you the best services while you are traveling internationally. Choose one that will best meet your needs and make it easy and inexpensive for you to make purchases and access your money.