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 Overall Bank for International Travel: Ally Bank
Ally Bank 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. Overdraft protection is something everyone should have, even if you don’t think you’ll ever accidentally overspend. I’ve heard too many stories of people accidentally using their debit card instead of their credit card and getting charged when they overspend or not communicating with their spouse and someone making a mistake. With Ally Bank, you don’t need to worry about that ever happening.
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.
Additionally, Ally Bank allows remote deposit so that you can deposit money into your account via their mobile app and links with Zelle. This is a neat app that will allow you to send and receive money securely from your friends and family without having to use wire or ACH transfers, which can be much more difficult and expensive. This can really get you out of a bind when you’re abroad and need extra money.
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 do the planning and preparing for international trips easier as they did here.
Best Bank for Foreign Transaction Fees: 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 because 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.
One thing to remember about this bank is that it’s an online bank, so you’ll have no access to physical branches. 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.
Another cool feature Capital One 360 offers is that they make it easy for you to set and meet your goals by providing you with a savings tool to help keep track of how much you’re spending. Additionally, since you can open up an astonishing 25 different savings accounts, you can easily earmark money for specific savings goals without getting your amounts mixed together.
Best Bank for Expats: 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 towards 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.
If you want to get the most out of your accounts while you are at home, as well as abroad, then you will enjoy that you can track your spending and the progress that you have made towards savings goals with the help of their website. This is great, as it makes planning for your next trip abroad more relaxed than ever.
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.
Best Bank for Access of International Branches: Citibank
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.
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 here at Citi.
Best Bank for International ATM Use: Schwab Bank
Schwab Bank 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 have individual accounts with high minimum balances.
Schwab Bank 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, Schwab Bank 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, Schwab Bank 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.
While you can’t make international wire transfers with Schwab Bank, this won’t matter if you regularly pay with debit, credit, or cash. Friends and family members in the U.S. can easily add more money to your account via an ACH transfer if you find that you are running low while abroad.
With these five 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 access your money.
Do you like to travel internationally, and if so, what bank do you use? If you enjoy a different bank than one that I included on this list, then I would love to hear which one you use and what you like about it!