Credit, Travel

The best credit cards and checking account for international travelers

If you travel abroad or you plan to travel abroad in the future, then it is time for you to shop for a good Visa or MasterCard credit card that does not charge foreign transaction fees at all no matter what country you are visiting. Also, you should have a checking account that charges no fees for using ATM anywhere in the world.

Most major U.S. banks charge foreign currency conversion fee of 1% to 3% for any ATM transaction you make abroad. They sometimes add a fee of $1 to $5 on top of that. Also, most major credit cards charge foreign transaction fees for any transaction you make abroad. This can easily add up if you travel internationally a lot.

It gets worst, you will also end up paying fees and getting the worst exchange rates if you exchange U.S. dollar at currency exchange stores found at airports or in popular tourist areas. Most of those stores make a big profit from those international travelers that are not prepared to avoid these unnecessary fees.

If you are one of those international travelers, then continue reading if you want to say NO to all these ridiculous unnecessary fees.

The trick to avoid these fees is to have the following:

1.    ATM/Debit card that has no foreign transaction fees and no ATM fees for using ATM anywhere in the world.

2.    Visa or MasterCard credit card that has no foreign transaction fees and no annual fee for using the card anywhere in the world.

What bank offers an ATM card that has no ATM fees and no foreign transaction fees?

Before I recommend any bank, I want to clarify that none of the links in this post are affiliate links. With that in mind, below is a list of my favorite credit cards and checking account that I recommend for international travelers.

Charles Schwab Investor Checking Account

With Schwab bank, you pay no ATM fees and no foreign transaction fees anywhere in the world. It is the best bank in the U.S. for international travelers and in my opinion, every traveler should consider having this checking account with Charles Schwab Bank.

Why do I recommend Charles Schwab Investor Checking Account?

1.    No ATM fees. Schwab bank reimburses you all ATM fees at the end of the month. You can receive unlimited ATM fee reimbursements. For example, if an ATM machine in London charges you £5, Schwab bank will reimburse you that fee at the end of the month. No matter how many times you use the ATM abroad, Schwab bank will automatically reimburse all fees charged by those ATM machines at the end of the month.

2.    No foreign transaction fees at all for using ATM worldwide. You can withdraw cash in local currency from any ATM in the world without worrying about foreign transaction fees.

3.    You get the best conversion rate on currency when you withdraw cash in local currency from any ATM abroad. Make sure you choose local currency because some ATM machines abroad give the option of receiving cash in US dollar or local currency. You should always choose local currency when withdrawing cash from an ATM abroad. This option will always give you the best currency exchange conversion rate ever.

4.    No minimum balance or monthly services fees.

5.    Excellent 24/7  US-based customer service. I am always satisfied with the service they provide every time I call them. They always exceed my expectations.

6.    Free online bill pay and free standard checks.

7.    Mobile check deposits. You can easily deposit checks from Schwab mobile app.

8.    FDIC-insured deposits up to $250,000

9.    You can link the account to your other bank accounts to easily transfer money in and out of your Schwab checking account. You automatically get a linked Schwab brokerage account. They don’t require you to use the brokerage account and they don’t charge you fees at all for it. By the way, Schwab offers very good low-cost index funds and that might be appealing to you if you are a fan of low-cost passive index funds. The expense ratio of their Schwab Total Stock Market Index Fund (SWTSX) is only 0.03%.

By having the above ATM/debit card from Schwab bank, you will no longer need to go to currency exchange stores to exchange US dollars into local currency and you will no longer pay any ATM fee and any foreign transaction fee and you will always get the best conversion rate on currency when withdrawing cash in local currency from any ATM abroad. In other words, this is really a fantastic deal that no other banks can beat.

Credit Check:  Schwab bank places hard pull inquiry using Equifax and ChexSystems when you apply for Charles Schwab Investor Checking Account.

What about credit cards? What are the best credit cards to use abroad?

I personally prefer to use Visa or MasterCard credit cards that don’t charge foreign transaction fees and annual fee when traveling abroad and I usually carry a small amount of cash in local currency to use at places that don’t accept credit cards. I use Schwab ATM card to withdraw a small amount of cash in local currency and I use credit cards for all other transactions if possible.

If you travel abroad, then it is time for you to shop for a good Visa or MasterCard credit card that does not charge foreign transaction fees and annual fee.

UBER Visa Signature Card By Barclays Bank

Credit Check: Excellent credit is required. Barclays bank pulls Transunion report.

UBER Visa card offers very impressive rewards and charges no annual fee and no foreign transaction fees. It is very rare to find a card that offers great benefits for no annual fee. Continue reading to find out how great this card is.

Why do I recommend this card?

1.    No foreign transaction fees for using this card anywhere in the world where visa is accepted.

2.    No annual fee.

3.     This card by default comes with chip and pin capability that lets you use your card at self-service chip terminals for maximum global acceptance. You will need this feature a lot if you travel outside the U.S.

4.    You get the best currency conversion rate if you choose to process the transaction in local currency of the country you are visiting. For example, if you are in Paris, choose the transaction to be processed in Euro. Most machines by default choose the local currency but some machines give you the option of paying in US dollar or local currency. Always use local currency if you are given the option.

6.    Visa card is accepted worldwide almost in all places that accept credit cards.

7.    4% cash back on restaurants, takeout, and bars, including UberEATS.  3% cash back on airfare, hotels, and vacation home rentals. 2% cash back on online purchases including Uber, online shopping, video and music streaming services such as Netflix, HBO, Hulu. 1% cash back on all other purchases.

8. Up to $600 in mobile phone protection including damage and theft when you use your Uber Visa Card to pay your monthly mobile phone bill.

9. Up to $50 credit for online subscription services after you spend $5,000 on your card per year.

10. Many other great benefits such as insurance for trip cancellation and interruption up to $1500, baggage delay, and auto rental collision damage waiver. This is a great benefit for a card that comes with no annual fee.

Citi Costco Anywhere Visa Card 

Credit Check: Good credit is required. Citi pulls Experian report.

Effective January 25, 2018, the Costco Anywhere Visa card no longer charges foreign transaction fees. This is a great card for Costco members.

Why do I recommend this card?

1.   Effective January 25, 2018, no foreign transaction fees for using this card anywhere in the world where visa is accepted.

2.   No annual fee (requires annual Costco membership).

3.   Visa card is accepted worldwide almost in all places that accept credit cards.

4.   4% cash back on eligible gas, including gas at Costco. 3% Cash back on restaurants and eligible travel purchases, 2% cash back on all other purchases from Costco and costco.com, 1% cash back on all other purchases.

5.   Many other great benefits such as insurance for trip cancellation and interruption up to $3000, baggage delay, and auto rental collision damage waiver. This is a great benefit for a card that comes with no annual fee for existing Costco members.

What I don’t like about Citi Costco Anywhere Visa Card:

This card may not come with chip and pin capability. It comes with chip and signature capability only. Some self-service machines abroad may not accept it. For example, you may not be able to buy train tickets from automated self-service terminals/machines at airports and train stations in some countries.

Chase Amazon Rewards Visa Signature Card

Credit Check: Excellent credit is required. Chase pulls Experian report.

Why do I recommend this card?

1.    No foreign transaction fees for using this card anywhere in the world where visa is accepted.

2.    No annual fee.

3.    You get the best currency conversion rate if you choose to process the transaction in local currency of the country you are visiting. For example, if you are in Paris, choose the transaction to be processed in Euro. Most machines by default choose the local currency but some machines give you the option of paying in US dollar or local currency. Always use local currency if you are given the option.

4.    Visa card is accepted worldwide almost in all places that accept credit cards.

5.    3% cash back on amazon.com purchases (5% if you are amazon prime customer), 2% cash back on restaurants, gas stations, and drug stores, 1% cash back on everything else.

What I don’t like about Chase Visa Rewards Card:

This card does not come with trip cancellation and interruption insurance. Also, this card does not come with chip and pin capability. It comes with chip and signature capability only. Some self-service machines abroad may not accept it. For example, you may not be able to buy train tickets from automated self-service terminals/machines at airports and train stations in some countries.

What card do I prefer from the above list?

I prefer UBER visa signature card over Citi Costco and Amazon Visa Signature Card because of its chip and pin enabled capabilities, generous cash back rewards, and the other benefits that I mentioned above.