My top 5 American travel banking recommendations

If you are an American (USA) travelling abroad, fees for using foreign currencies can quickly add up. Foreign exchange (FX) fees, travellers checks and bank fees are just part of it! Here are a few ways you can avoid these extra charges.

Note: Your situation may vary, check first that these options are best for you. Information was correct at time of writing, but verify anything directly with the financial provider.

Not American? Check out my Australian and UK recommendations!


Regardless of bank, debit or credit – not all providers are the same. The big three are Visa, Mastercard and American Express. Amex is big in the USA and moderately accepted in Australia, but is almost never possible to use South East Asia (except in high-end western stores). Mastercard is widely accepted – but Visa… Visa is king.

Visa is the most accepted method in South America and South East Asia. Some ATMs in the Philippines will only work with Visa debit cards, for example. Be aware of this when picking a card. Having multiple cards through different providers is recommended, in case one network is down.

Accessing Cash

Need cash? Go to any ATM with Charles Schwab! Never use travel cards.

Charles Schwab

This is easily the best recommendation, thanks to the ATM fee refunds, zero fees and is Visa-based.

Account name: High Yield Investor Checking

Fees: none. No fees of any kind.

Bonuses: Refunds all ATM fees. This is a huge benefit.

Requirements: None.

Card type: Visa

Capital One

This is suitable as a back-up account, but isn’t as good as Charles Schwab’s High Yield Investor Checking account.

Account name: 360 Checking

Fees: none.

Bonuses: none.

Requirements: None.

Card type: Mastercard


This is suitable as a back-up account, but isn’t as good as Charles Schwab’s High Yield Investor Checking account.

Account name: Cash Management Account

Fees: 1% foreign transaction fee. Otherwise, none.

Bonuses: Refunds all ATM fees. This is brilliant, but beware of the 1% foreign transaction fee.

Requirements: None.

Card type: Visa

Credit Cards

Bank of America

A free card that doesn’t charge you anything AND gives you points? This is a great offer as long as you pay your bill each month.

Account name: Bank of America Travel Rewards

Fees: none.

Bonuses: 55 days interest free period. 25,000 points on sign up ($1000 spend in 90 days), 1.5 points per $1.

Card type: Visa

Transfering Money

If you have large money to send, like paying a big hotel or dive trip bill, Transferwise is almost always the best option by far.


Fees: varies based on country

Send money internationally for a fraction of the bank or Western Union rates. Can send from a variety of sources – even pay by credit card (might be cheaper than some overseas credit card rates!)

First time is for free! (the first $611USD is, anyway)


For those further North, options are more limited.


This is a bit different. This is pre-paid Mastercard. So, it acts like debit card (but uses the credit system).

Account name: Stack (they only have the one product).

Fees: none. Free ATM withdrawals and no FX fees.

Bonuses: Discounts at a wide variety of shops (see their website). Get $15 for each referral (and your referrals get $5 themselves)

Card type: Mastercard