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Best Banks for International Travel 2018

Banking, Banks & Credit Unions
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Best Banks for International Travel

Whether you’re traveling outside the United States for business, studying abroad or visiting family in your home country, you can save money by finding a bank account with low wire-transfer charges, decent currency conversion rates and competitive overseas ATM fees.

Read on for details on our favorite banks for international travel.

Best for using ATMs

Aspiration

Aspiration
Learn more
at Aspiration
Aspiration’s Summit Account comes with unlimited ATM fee reimbursements worldwide. You’ll also have the opportunity to grow your money; balances of at least $2,500 earn an annual percentage yield of 1%, while smaller balances earn 0.25%. The Summit Account is FDIC-insured, and there’s no monthly fee or minimum balance requirement. (Read our Aspiration review for more details.)

SCHWAB BANK

Schwab+Bank
Read full review
on NerdWallet
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. There’s no minimum balance and no monthly fee, and 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. (Read our Charles Schwab Bank review for more details.)

Best for expats

HSBC BANK

HSBC
Learn more
at HSBC
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 from other HSBC accounts for free. Outgoing international wire transfers may come with a fee, determined by the destination and the amount you send.

Unless you use Premier checking, the bank charges a foreign transaction fee on debit card purchases. Still, expats will find far more pros than cons.

Best on foreign transaction fees

CAPITAL ONE 360

Capital+One
Read full review
on NerdWallet
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, even if you use a machine in another country. The owner of the ATM might charge you, but Capital One 360 won’t. It also lets you receive international wire transfers for free.

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.)

Best for wiring money

CITIBANK

Citibank
Read full review
on NerdWallet
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.)

Tony Armstrong is a staff writer at NerdWallet, a personal finance website. Email: tony@nerdwallet.com. Twitter: @tonystrongarm. NerdWallet writer Virginia C. McGuire contributed to this article.

Updated Nov. 14, 2017 


METHODOLOGY

To determine the best accounts, we took a close look at 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 rates, minimum balances, fees, digital experience and more.

Financial institutions surveyed include: Alaska USA Federal Credit UnionAlliant Credit UnionAlly BankAmerica First Credit Union, American Express, AspirationAssociated BankBank5 Connect, BankDirect, Bank of AmericaBank of InternetBank of the WestBarclays, BB&T, BBVA CompassBoeing Employees Credit Union, BMO Harris, Capital One 360Charles Schwab BankChaseChimeCITCitibankCitizens Bank, Comerica Bank, Commerce BankConnexus Credit UnionConsumers Credit UnionDiscover BankEverBankFidelityFifth Third Bank, First Citizens Bank, First National BankFirst Tech Federal Credit UnionGoBankGolden 1 Credit UnionGS Bank, HSBC Bank USA, Huntington BankKeyBankM&T BankNavy Federal Credit UnionPentagon Federal Credit UnionPNC, PurePoint Financial, Qapital, Radius BankRegions BankSantander Bank, SchoolsFirst Federal Credit Union, Security Service Federal Credit Union, Simple, Star One Credit Union, State Employees’ Credit Union of North CarolinaState Farm BankSuncoast Credit Union, SunTrust Bank, Synchrony BankTCF BankTD BankUnion Bank, UFB Direct, USAAU.S. Bank, Varo, Wells Fargo, Woodforest National Bank, and Zions Bank.

How we rate banks and credit unions