When traveling abroad, you can save money by finding a bank with low wire-transfer charges, decent currency conversion rates and competitive international bank ATM fees.
Here are our favorite banks for international travel:
Charles Schwab Bank
best for using ATMs
Although some banks offer free ATM use — including reimbursement of any fees charged by the machine’s owner — it’s usually available internationally only for those with premium checking accounts, which tend to require high minimum balances.
Not so for Schwab Bank customers who use the High Yield Investor Checking Account. The account earns interest and has no minimum balance and no monthly fee. Best of all, the bank reimburses all ATM fees you incur worldwide. There are no foreign transaction fees, either.
International ATM fee reimbursement is one of the most important account features on our list. Having free access to cash machines while you’re traveling is usually cheaper than converting money at an airport or retail center, where you may be charged exorbitant exchange fees.
The checking account will need to be linked to a Schwab One brokerage account. (Read our Charles Schwab Bank review for more details.)
Capital One 360
best on foreign transaction fees
When you make purchases abroad, or even if you buy something online from a retailer based outside the U.S., many banks charge special fees on the transaction. Capital One 360 doesn’t.
Though it’s not the only bank that doesn’t ding you for international purchases, Capital One 360 is a NerdWallet favorite because its fees are low across the board. The bank doesn’t enforce monthly maintenance or ATM fees. The owner of the ATM might charge you, but Capital One 360 won’t.
All things considered, Capital One 360 is a good option if you want to make purchases in a currency besides the U.S. dollar, either online or on foreign soil. (Read our Capital One 360 review for more details on what the bank has to offer).
» Learn more about how online savings accounts tend to have lower fees and stellar rates. Check out NerdWallet’s list of best online savings accounts.
best for expats
If you’re moving out of the U.S. or trying to maintain financial ties with another country where you previously lived, opening a bank account with a large, international bank can be a wise move.
HSBC helps people relocating to other countries by allowing them to open an account before they arrive, and its mobile app lets depositors monitor and move money between HSBC accounts in multiple countries. That’s especially handy for frequent globetrotters.
The bank has several other traveler-friendly services, including the ability to send money via wire transfer. Premier checking account holders can receive international wire transfers for free. Outgoing international wire transfers may come with a fee if the receiving account is not also an HSBC Premier account.
Unless you use Premier checking, the bank charges a foreign transaction fee on debit card purchases. Still, expats may find far more pros than cons. (Read our HSBC Direct review to learn more about what the bank has to offer.)
best for wiring money
If you have relatives or other ties to people in another country, you may need to send them money regularly — and preferably without paying through the nose each time. No matter what method you use, check the fees and currency conversion rates against the World Bank’s remittance database so you don’t overpay.
While many banks offer customers a way to send remittances directly without going through a third-party wire transfer service, few do it as elegantly as Citibank, which offers free international transfers to other Citi accounts through the Citibank Global Transfers service.
There is a major caveat. If you need to wire money internationally to someone who doesn’t have a Citibank account, the fee could be as high as $35. (Read our Citibank review for more details about what the bank has to offer.)
We took a close look at over 70 financial institutions, including the largest U.S. banks based on assets, debit card volume, internet search traffic and other factors; the nation’s largest credit unions, based on deposits as well as broad-based membership requirements; and other notable and/or emerging players in the industry. We rated them on criteria including annual percentage yields, minimum balances, fees, and digital experience.
Financial institutions surveyed include: Alaska USA Federal Credit Union, Alliant Credit Union, Ally Bank, America First Credit Union, American Express, Associated Bank, Axos Bank, Bank5 Connect, Bank7, Bank of America, Bank of the West, Barclays, BB&T, BBVA, Boeing Employees Credit Union, BMO Harris, Capital One 360, Charles Schwab Bank, Chase, Chime, CIBC US, CIT, Citibank, Citizens Access, Citizens Bank, Comenity Direct, Comerica Bank, Commerce Bank, Connexus Credit Union, Consumers Credit Union, Discover Bank, E-Trade, Fifth Third Bank, First Foundation Bank, First National Bank, First Tech Federal Credit Union, Flagstar Bank, FNBO Direct, GoBank, Golden 1 Credit Union, GS Bank, HSBC Bank USA, Huntington Bank, KeyBank, Live Oak Bank, M&T Bank, Nationwide Bank, Navy Federal Credit Union, NBKC Bank, Pentagon Federal Credit Union, PNC, Popular Direct, PurePoint Financial, Radius, Redneck Bank, Regions Bank, Salem Five Direct, Sallie Mae Bank, Santander Bank, SchoolsFirst Federal Credit Union, Security Service Federal Credit Union, Service Credit Union, State Employees’ Credit Union of North Carolina, Suncoast Credit Union, SunTrust Bank, Synchrony Bank, TAB Bank, TCF Bank, TD Bank, TIAA Bank, Union Bank, UFB Direct, USAA, U.S. Bank, Varo, Vio, Wells Fargo, Woodforest Bank and Zions Bank.