One of the most frequent questions I receive about traveling involves the different cards and such I use. In this post I’m going to break down the different cards and strategies I use to manage my money while traveling.
While traveling I have 2 debit cards, and 2 credit cards.
The best all time travel debit card in my opinion comes from Schwab Bank. In the past 6 years that I’ve been with Schwab Bank I’ve never once been charged a fee. There’s no foreign transaction fee, no overdraft fee as long as you have money in your savings account, and no ATM fees. In fact, schwab refunds any ATM fees you receive at the end of the month. In August I received over 20 dollars back in the form of refunded ATM fees. In the few times I’ve needed to contact Schwab they have been very responsive and had great customer service. Currently my best friend and brother have both starting using this card and have had nothing but good things to say about their experience. For those of you interested in investing, the Schwab debit account automatically comes with a brokerage account that you can choose to use or not.
In June I went to Croatia with most of my family and some friends. While there, I ended up using my Schwab card and acting like a bank for everyone else. I was the only one with a card that would refund ATM fees, and didn´t have a foriegn transaction fee. This card saved us about $100 in different types of fees; money we of course put right into our ¨Gelato fund¨.
The downside. Literally the only downside I’ve found with this card is the inability to deposit cash. Schwab is an online bank meaning, unless you are in Texas or other parts of the southern US there are no schwab specific ATM´s or bank branches. This hasn’t been much of an issue for me as I rarely ever get cash, but if you are someone who deals frequently in cash I would recommend having two debit cards/accounts.
My second debit card is from a very, very old Bank of America account. I hate Bank of America and would never suggest anyone get a card or account with them. They charge so many fees and have horrible customer service. I would recommend having another debit card just as an emergency backup. I’ve only ever needed to use my back up once when an atm in Costa Rica ate my original.
Pro tip. In my experience ATM´s always offer a better exchange rate than currency exchange businesses. However, some ATMs offer a better exchange rate than others. ATM’s from a specific bank tend to offer better exchange rates than those they have no bank affiliate. Keep in mind that the worse exchange rate the more money you lose and the more money they make.
For my travel credit cards I again have a favorite and a second I literally only have because it was my first ever credit card and I keep it to help my credit.
Capital one venture. I love this card. The rewards are great and the yearly fee is minimal. At the moment Capital One is also offering 50,000 bonus miles if you spend $3000 in the first three months. They also waive the first years fee. After the first year they charge 95 dollars. My first card, and my now back up credit card, is a Bank of America travel rewards card that has no yearly fees. I decided to go with the Capital One card, even with the fee, because the 2x miles on every dollar easily pays for itself. Essentially for every 1000 points I earn I can get back 10 dollars. To this day I’ve only every used the points to get refunds so I can’t speak on how it works for miles.
Pro tip. When you go to make a purchase sometimes the card machine will ask if you want to pay in X currency or dollars. ALWAYS pay in the local currency. Without a doubt every time I’ve been given the option to pay in dollars the exchange rate has been horrible. Again this is just another way the card machine company is trying to make more money off of you.
If you are interested in how I budget during traveling I talked about it here. Also, if you are interested in how I save for traveling I talk about it in this post here. I am not paid or receive any money for recommending the above cards or companies. If you have a good experience with another card please let me know! I’m always looking for ways to better manage my money.