Which Credit/Debit Cards to Use for Long Term Travels

So, I was going through my wallet trying to figure out why it’s so thick when I know there’s not any cash in it… After pulling out 2 insurance cards from a company I no longer work for, 2 Bubble Tea punch cards, and a bunch of crumpled bills, I came across an expired Capital One credit card.

Huh, that’s weird… Why did we get a Capital One card?
As a matter of fact, I just remember that I got a new one in the mail not long ago, still sitting pretty in its envelope on my desk.

Then I remember that years ago during our trip to Europe, we learned that Capital One was pretty much the only credit card that did not have foreign transaction fee. After the trip, the card was forgotten.

I’m so annoyed thinking that in subsequent trips abroad we had used our Etrade and Bank of America cards that charge 1-3% fee even though we actually had, in our possession at that time, a card that has zero foreign transaction fee card.

Aaargh! I feel so stupid!

But anyway, the incident reminded us that it’s time to do some research about how we’re going to manage our finance abroad for our upcoming round the world trip. We need to find…

A debit and a credit card with 0% ATM Fee and 0% Foreign Transaction Fee

We probably will need both a credit card and a regular debit/check card. But whenever we can, we prefer to use credit cards over checking/debit cards.

Even though both have similar customer protection clause in the case of unauthorized use, if someone goes on a spending spree with our credit card, at least our ‘real’ fund would still be untouched and accessible.

Yes, your bank will reimburse you in cases of un-authorized use of your debit card. But when? Who knows.

From our research, if you’re a US resident, some of your better options are for RTW friendly bank accounts are:

Charles Schwabb High Yield Investor Checking Account

ATM Fee: 0 (Worldwide)

Only recently I’ve heard of this particular account which promises “The freedom to use any ATM, anywhere”

This RTW-friendly card refunds any fee often charged when using other banks’ ATM machines. It has no monthly fee, or minimum balance either.

What’s the catch?
Surprisingly not much if you’re a US resident. When you open this checking account, you also need to open a Schwab One brokerage account which also has no monthly fee and no minimum balance.

BUT, if you’re not a US resident you’ll be directed instead to an international brokerage account that requires you to send them hard copies of your immigration documents, including a copy of your passport and a minimum of $25000 to fund the account.

Ugh…

But like I said above, for a US resident, this account might be exactly what you need for your RTW trip.

Foreign Transaction Fee: 0%

Apparently Schwab also does not charge any foreign transaction fee. Isn’t this great! However, Charles Schwab does not offer credit cards, so you’ll have to get your travel credit card somewhere else.

And guess who offers credit card with 0% foreign transaction fee?

Capital One

ATM Fee: 0 (up to $10 per month)

Capital One does not charge a fee for using other banks’ ATM’s. And as Katie (from katiegoingglobal.com) pointed out, they reimburse ATM fee up to $10 per month). See the comparison of their checking accounts here.

Foreign Transaction Fee: 0%

Until Schwab joined the playing field, Capital One was the only major bank charging 0% transaction fee. There has been some debate on whether or not they absorb the 1% charge that VISA/MC charges, or simply pass it on to you in the form of higher conversion rate. Calling their representative seems to confirm that they simply absorb the fee as opposed to passing it on. So yay for that!


A Table Is Worth A Thousand Words

Here’s a table that summarizes everything above:

RTW Friendly Bank account
*Schwab High Yield Investor Checking Account


Coming Up Next

We just opened a Schwab checking account and will be testing its ATM refund guarantee during our upcoming trip to Indonesia. We’re also going to use our new Capital One credit card there and compare the conversion rate after we get back.

Hopefully, they’ll both perform as good as promised, then we’ll be set — bank wise — for our RTW trip. Yay!

For a very informative reading about ATM Cards and Fees while traveling: click here

Disclaimer: Unfortunately, none of these banks offer me any money for me to write this post.

Have you had any experience with any of these banks? Which banks are YOU using for your travels? Are there any RTW friendly bank accounts that we’re missing?

This site contains affiliate links that give a tiny commission if you buy from them. Thanks, guys!

35 Replies to “Which Credit/Debit Cards to Use for Long Term Travels”

  1. Try TD Bank. As long as you keep over $2500 in your account, they reimburse you for all ATM fees accrued anywhere in the world. They have branches in Canada and in most east coast US states.
    My recent post An Amazon Riverboat Cruise

  2. Try TD Bank. As long as you keep over $2500 in your account, they reimburse you for all ATM fees accrued anywhere in the world. They have branches in Canada and in most east coast US states.
    My recent post An Amazon Riverboat Cruise

  3. I do consider all of the ideas you've presented in your post. They are very convincing and can definitely work. Still, the posts are very quick for starters. May you please prolong them a bit from next time? Thanks for the post.

  4. Hey guys – just thought I'd provide an update for you. I just got an email from Capital One that they are increasing the amount of other banks' ATM fees that they will refund to $25 per month – pretty sweet deal!

  5. We ended up with Capital One for credit card and Schwabb for debit. So far, no problem. Not a lot of places take credit cards though so make sure that whatever debit card you get do not charge any fee (Schwabb has been great so far).

  6. What did you end up deciding with the bank account? I'm leaning toward the Capital One account since I already have a credit card with them, but I wanted to hear your experience in terms of traveling with the card!

    Thanks – I've been loving reading about your journey through Colombia so far!

    1. We ended up with Capital One for credit card and Schwabb for debit. So far, no problem. Not a lot of places take credit cards though so make sure that whatever debit card you get do not charge any fee (Schwabb has been great so far).

  7. Fidelity is a good choice too. They don't charge int'l ATM fees and will actually reimburse you for any ATM charges by the foreign banks. Also they have fantastic 24-hr customer service.

  8. Fidelity is a good choice too. They don't charge int'l ATM fees and will actually reimburse you for any ATM charges by the foreign banks. Also they have fantastic 24-hr customer service.

  9. Wow, what a research! Hm, I don't recognize any of those… well, certainly. 🙂 When I reach that point, i will come find this post again! Thumbs up for a great research.

  10. Wow, what a research! Hm, I don't recognize any of those… well, certainly. 🙂 When I reach that point, i will come find this post again! Thumbs up for a great research.

  11. I relied completely on ATM's in my most recent trip. I already had a Capital One credit card and got a Capital One Bank ATM card too, as I live in one of the few states where they have locations. They do charge an international transaction fee from foreign ATM's but it's low…1% I think? Or maybe it was $1.25?

    What I actually found to work the best for me was my Bank of America ATM card, which is funny because in most countries they royally screw you over with a $5 charge + 1% for an ATM withdrawal. But most of my trip was in China, and it turns out, B of A owns a share in China Construction Bank, which is everywehre and meant that I could use their ATMs fee free!

    It's worth researching what sort of agreemeents your regular bank may have with the places you're going!

  12. Did I already say this is wonderful? Because this is wonderful. You just saved me about seven hours of research. THANK YOU!!

  13. Did I already say this is wonderful? Because this is wonderful. You just saved me about seven hours of research. THANK YOU!!

  14. On our RTW trip, we relied primarily on ATMs. We had two different accounts, one with Fidelity and one with PNC, that both refunded ATM fees. For us, it was good to have two separate accounts, because at one point, an ATM machine ate our card. We each had a copy of the card, but once you report the loss, both cards become ineffective. Having the second account made it possible for us to still get cash. We also carried Capital One credit card on our trip and used it whenever possible, though credit cards were useless in many of the places we visited.

  15. Hi Akila, thanks for the insight! Never really thought about that particular aspect of Schwab. We have the automatic transfer set up and that's how we fund the account. But isn't that how many banks do it too?
    It's great to hear about Capital One's customer service. We haven't had any complaint either about their credit card.

  16. Do NOT get the Schwab account. We have both the Schwab and Capital One Direct Banking accounts which we got for our trip and the Schwab is absolutely worthless because it does not have a useful online banking system. In order to add money to your account, you have to do an automatic payment, or you have to send them a check which isn't all that easy when you are traveling. The no-bank-fees promise is good but if you can't put money into your account, it's not all that helpful.

    The Capital One Direct Banking account, on the other hand, is great. No ATM fees on their part, a very good exchange rate (much better than what you get if you go to a bank to do currency exchange), and they reimburse some of the alternate bank ATM fees. Their online banking system is easy to use and you can transfer money pretty quickly and set up auto payments online.

    I could actually be a spokesman for Capital One because I think that their Mastercard is amazing for a world traveler. No fees, good exchange rates, and no transaction fees. In addition, when Europcar tried to charge us $500 for some claimed damage after we had returned the car, and we disputed the charge, Capital One reimbursed us the amount and filed a claim with Europcar directly. Their customer service is fantastic, as well.

    1. Hi Akila, thanks for the insight! Never really thought about that particular aspect of Schwab. We have the automatic transfer set up and that's how we fund the account. But isn't that how many banks do it too?
      It's great to hear about Capital One's customer service. We haven't had any complaint either about their credit card.

    2. Can't comment on Schwab, but I second the praise for Capital One. I haven't yet traveled with it, but I have found it great in general. My ATM fees are usually reimbursed within 24 hours. I have the account linked to another bank account and can easily transfer funds between them as needed (in either direction). And bill pay was very easy to set up – far easier than the previous account I had.

  17. Charles Schwabb High Yield sounds good if refunds charges made by atms we were stung pretty bad in Vietnam as we were charged at least a pound each time we used them but could only withdraw 60!

    I wrote one of these for the UK, the best one for us is a Halifax credit card and a Santander zero debit account! 🙂

    1. Thanks for the tip for UK based banks. Yeah, in theory Charles Schwab will refund those ATM charges. We're planning to use it a lot on our trip to Indo next week, so we'll find out how quickly they do the refund.

  18. Good info! Thought I'd point out, though, that I have a Capital One checking account and they do reimburse other banks' ATM fees up to $10 per month. Perhaps this is new or a feature that only comes with certain accounts, but it is definitely an option.

    1. Hi Nick, I applied for a CapOne card a long time ago when I was starting college. And if I remember correctly it was one of the easier credit cards to get for college students who didn't have much credit.

      But with the new financial reform, things might have changed. So I don't know.

Comments are closed.