Whether you’re a frequent traveler or about to take that once-in-a-lifetime trip, it’s crucial to have the right bank before you depart.
Unfortunately, many people find that their go-to bank is not very customer-friendly when it comes to traveling. And they may not even know it until they get back and open up their monthly statement.
So, how do you find the best banks for international travel? We’ve broken up our top picks into the following categories:
- International ATM Fees
- Financial Emergencies
- International Wire Transfers
- Foreign Transaction Fees
- Best Travel Credit Card
- Best Overall for Expats
Foreign transaction fees and ATM fees are probably the reason you’re here, but you may encounter other surprises while on your trip. It’s always good to know what your options are well before you even need them.
Safe and happy travels!
Best Bank for Avoiding ATM Fees While Traveling
As a Charles Schwab customer, you get access to a slew of benefits when you open a Schwab Bank High Yield Investor Checking account. Unlimited ATM fee reimbursements worldwide is one of them.
Best Bank for Financial Emergencies Abroad
Just a heads-up: You’ll see HSBC again on this list. That’s how much we like it.
Best Bank for Wiring Money While Traveling Abroad
Best Bank for Avoiding Foreign Transaction Fees While Traveling
If you make a purchase outside the United States or order something online from another country, most banks will charge you a foreign transaction fee.
Best Credit Card for Travel Rewards
The Chase Sapphire Preferred card is one of the best travel credit cards available. With Sapphire Preferred, you get two points for travel and dining and one point for all other purchases.
Best Overall Bank for Expats
If you’re a frequent globetrotter or are about to move to another country, you need a bank with an international presence.
Best Banks for International Travel: Honorable Mentions
No matter the criteria used, there are always going to be strong contenders left out. So, the options below are definitely worth consideration, too:
Chime® offers an online bank account with no foreign transaction fees. You also get a Visa debit card with the checking account. The debit card can be used at 60,000+ fee-free1 ATMs at stores like Walgreens, 7-Eleven, CVS Pharmacy, and more.
Chime also offers other benefits like getting your paycheck up to two days early with direct deposit2.
Bank of America
No fees for using your debit card at ATMs that aren’t Bank of America-owned. Plus, you won’t be charged foreign transaction fees if you use any of their credit cards while traveling.
Alliant Credit Union
Rebates up to $20 a month for ATM fees incurred from using non-Alliant ATMs. If you use their credit card while abroad, there are zero foreign transaction fees.
American Airlines Credit Union
The AACU checking account offers rebates of up to $20 a month for ATM fees incurred while traveling. Additionally, foreign transactions only incur a 1% fee.
Navy Federal Credit Union
Navy Federal offers credit cards with no foreign transaction fees. In addition, there are no ATM fees on military bases, and you get ATM rebates of $10 per monthly statement. Eligibility at NFCU is for members of the United States Armed Forces and their families.
Andrews Federal Credit Union
AFCU offers credit cards without any foreign transaction fees. It also has over 1 million ATMs across the globe. So, it’s unlikely you’ll have to resort to using an ATM that isn’t an Andrews Federal Credit Union ATM.
See also: Best Banks for Digital Nomads in 2023
Financial Tips for Traveling Abroad
So, you’ve chosen all the right banks, but there are still a few things you need to know before becoming a stranger in a strange land.
Get a Credit Card With No Foreign Transaction Fees
When it comes to making purchases, credit cards are generally the safest method of payment. They offer more protection than debit cards.
However, many credit cards charge foreign transaction fees of 1% to 3% for purchases made outside the United States. These fees can add up quickly.
Get a highly rated credit card like the Chase Sapphire Preferred, Chase Sapphire Reserve, or the Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card. These cards don’t charge foreign transaction fees. They also allow you to earn more travel miles towards your next trip.
Exchange Currency at Your Bank
If you plan to use cash on your next trip, check with your bank or credit union to see if they offer currency exchange services. This will undoubtedly be cheaper than exchanging currency at an airport kiosk.
Don’t Use Traveler’s Checks
They’re antiquated. Most debit cards give a much better exchange rate these days, plus not many places even accept them anymore. So, avoid the hassle and save time by using a bank that offers fee-free ATM usage or zero to low foreign transaction fees.
Notify Banks of Your Travel Plans
Baltimore is a far cry from Bangkok. You know this, we know this, and your bank does, too. Your trip may be common knowledge to your friends and family, but it’s news to your bank.
Whenever you swipe your card in another country, a red alert is sent out, and your card could be declined immediately. Don’t put yourself in this situation by letting the bank think that your card has been stolen!
Before you go, tell your banks and credit card companies that you’re traveling.
Being able to prove your location while navigating foreign subways or getting a taxi to your hotel can be quite an ordeal. So, let your bank know in advance when you’re leaving and when you’re returning.
Allow yourself a few minutes to do this. While some larger banks offer online notifications, you may have to speak to multiple departments on the phone.
Don’t Use Public Wi-Fi
You may not know how to hack people’s computers, but plenty of people do.
Simply put: Public Wi-Fi is dangerous.
Never visit your bank online or make any purchases while you’re logged in to public Wi-Fi. Hackers can log your keystrokes and ascertain your username, password, and credit card numbers.
Note: This holds true for anywhere you are in the world, not just while you’re traveling.
Whether you’re taking a vacation abroad or moving overseas, make sure you have your banking needs in order. You want to avoid setting yourself up to becoming a fraud victim while away or be surprised by exorbitant fees. Just a bit of preparation can ensure a worry-free trip, so you can focus on the things that really matter.
Chime is a financial technology company, not a bank. Banking services and debit card provided by The Bancorp Bank N.A. or Stride Bank, N.A.; Members FDIC. Credit Builder card issued by Stride Bank, N.A.
1. Out-of-network ATM withdrawal fees may apply with Chime except at MoneyPass ATMs in a 7-Eleven, or any Allpoint or Visa Plus Alliance ATM.
2. Early access to direct deposit funds depends on the timing of the submission of the payment file from the payer. Chime generally make these funds available on the day the payment file is received, which may be up to 2 days earlier than the scheduled payment date.