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NerdWallet’s Best Banks for International Travel 2017

Banking, Banks & Credit Unions
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Best Banks for International Travel

Whether you’re traveling outside the U.S. for business, studying abroad or visiting family in your home country, you can save a lot of 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 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 globe-trotters.

The bank has several other traveler-friendly services, like 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 where you’re sending the money and how much you’re sending.

Unless you use Premier checking, the bank charges a fee when you use an HSBC debit card issued in one country to make a purchase or get cash at an ATM in another country. Still, expats will find far more pros than cons here.

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.

Capital One 360 will let you receive an international wire transfer for free from most banks outside the U.S., but there are exceptions depending on the country or security guidelines.

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.

» MORE: Debit card foreign transaction and international ATM fees

Best for using ATMs

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. You need a Schwab investment account to qualify, but that’s the only real requirement. 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.

» MORE: NerdWallet’s best online checking accounts

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 wire transfers to other Citi accounts through the Citibank Global Transfers service.

There is a major caveat. If you need to send money to someone who doesn’t have a Citibank account, the fee is a steep $35. In such cases, you’re better off going with Wells Fargo’s ExpressSend service, which charges around $5 or $7 for most transactions.

» MORE: NerdWallet’s best military banks and credit unions

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.

Verified Feb. 3, 2017. 


METHODOLOGY

To narrow down our list of the best banks and credit unions for international travel, we took a close look at more than 50 financial institutions: the largest U.S. banks based on assets, debit card volume and Internet search traffic, the nation’s largest credit unions with broad-based membership requirements, and other notable and/or emerging players in the industry. We then compared the features of these institutions to determine our final list.

Financial institutions surveyed: ableBanking, Alliant Credit Union, Ally Bank, American Express, AmTrust Direct, Associated Bank, Bank5 Connect, Bank of America, Bank of Internet, Barclays, BB&T, BBVA Compass, Boeing Employees Credit Union, BMO Harris, Capital One, Charles Schwab Bank, Chase, CIT, Citibank, Citizens Bank, Comerica Bank, Connexus Credit Union, Discover Bank, EverBank, Fidelity, Fifth Third Bank, First Convenience Bank, GoBank, HSBC Bank USA, Huntington Bank, KeyBank, MetaBank, Moven, M&T Bank, Navy Federal Credit Union, Pentagon Federal Credit Union, PNC, Regions Bank, Santander, Security Service Federal Credit Union, Simple, State Employees’ Credit Union of North Carolina, SunTrust, Synchrony Bank, TD Bank, Union Bank, USAA, U.S. Bank and Wells Fargo.