International Travel Tips for best exchange rates, bank card, and foreign transactions

The best bank card for traveling abroad is hands down the Schwab High Yield Investor Checking Account!

It’s a no-fee International Free debit card- I got it before I left for a 3 month europe trip, and I’m loving it!

The registration is here: www.schwab.com/public/schwab/banking_lending/checking

BENEFITS:

  • No annual fee, completely online banking
  • No foreign transaction fees, and they refund your ATM fees internationally! You will see this refunded as a lump sum on your monthly statement
  • It’s a good backup bank. (but do the signup now, it takes 2-3 weeks to process)  but you can always have them rush deliver your card and you can have it in 1-1.5 weeks if you are leaving the country!
  • AMAZING customer service – I love their 1-800 line. You talk to a real live broker right away and it’s someone intelligent and helpful EVERY TIME, not some random call center where you’re stuck talking to a rude admin person. One time my customer service call lasted 1 hr 45 minutes because the guy was giving me a hardcore Intro to Finance and Investing overview.. I felt like I was in business class again 😀

COMPARISON with other bank cards: www.flyerguide.com/wiki/index.php/Credit/Debit/ATM_Cards_and_Foreign_Exchange

After the demise of WAMU and being stuck with Chase, and seeing how B of A and all these other banks now institute a ton of fees, I am super relieved to have some quality service.

 

WHEN USING FOREIGN ATMS, CAUTION!!

I just read this on a travel blog. OMG i was always so confused when i saw that message.. sometimes i would click yes bc i thought it would help. it’s actually bad and charges you more fees!!!:
When you are paying by Visa or Mastercard, some merchants will offer to convert your transaction into your home currency (“‘Dynamic Currency Conversion'”). If this offered, you should decline it, as an exorbitant exchange rate of 7% may be charged [2]. Always check your receipt, and if you see anything involving your home currency in a country that doesn’t use that currency, ask the merchant to re-do the transaction in the local currency. If the merchant insists that the conversion is automatic, it is worth arguing or reporting the incident to your credit card company. Visa “requires the merchant to disclose the fee and must provide the consumer with a choice” of getting the bill in the customer’s home currency or the local currency. [3]

 

BEST INTERNATIONAL MONEY WIRE TRANSFER:

After doing my research, I signed up for xe.com to do wire transfers to other currencies ($5 fee). I sent money to a friend living in the country I was visiting because I wanted to be ready with money in hand to snatch a room for rent in a flat. It took about a week to go through.. but it was also my first transaction with a new account. So it’s not the fastest/not for emergencies, but it’s cheaper than wiring directly from your bank or using Western Union or Paypal.

Though it works similar to PayPal I imagine. XE deals and holds all sorts of international currencies. So when you wire money from your acct to your destination using XE. First, XE withdraws the money in local currency (no fee from your bank). Second, XE converts currency internally. Third, XE exports and sends the converted currency from their foreign account to your destination foreign account. I hope I described that clearly.

About Steven Chu


Hi, I'm Steven! I'm an entrepreneur, photographer and art director in New York. Follow this blog for self expression, fun, and most importantly: looking comfortable, at ease, and amazing in your photos no matter who takes them! I dedicate this to my amazing friends who have let me inadvertently turn all of our hangouts and travel photos into a never ending photoshoot of fun. The proof is in the pudding-- our photos rock. My other projects: I'm the founder of InstaTechie.com, a face-to-face tech concierge service for NYC. Book a techie to walk you through something you want to learn! My work focuses on socially engaged art projects which use technology to create access to resources for communities. Visit Steven Chu Studio (stevenchustudio.com) for branding & design work or Steven Chu (stevenchu.com) for photography projects.

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