To remove the pain from managing your personal bank accounts while abroad, open more than one of the no-fee or low-fee accounts that are out there. Create a backup plan for when things go wrong, because they will. And make sure to become familiar with your Bank’s online customer support system, because making calls abroad can be very difficult at times.


Are you tired of being locked out of your bank account while traveling internationally or living abroad?

Sick of the complications with those unreasonable and mysterious fees that make transferring money in and out of your account so expensive?

Well, managing your bank account while abroad can be easy.

In this blog post I will give you a game plan so that you setup your bank accounts in a way that tappers the uncertainty around accessing your own money.

Open High Value Bank Accounts

You first need to open a high value bank account. This will be with a company that does not charge international transaction fees. Oh, and those ATM fees you are charged to you while abroad; well, there are banks that will even reimburse you — at least partially — for those fees.

Here are three U.S. banks that I highly recommend…

Bank Direct

I’ve used Bank Direct for years. Not once have I ever had my debit/ATM card blocked by mistake. On top of this you can earn 100 AAdvantage miles per $1000 dollars held, each month. In contrast to a measly interest rate, your idle account balance could possibly produce significant value in a short period of time.

No international transaction fees. And ATM fees around the world are reimbursed up to the amount of $2.50 per transaction, with a max of 4 reimbursements per month.

Bank Direct

Cons: Customer support is great but not available 24/7. The biggest pain is that they are closed on Saturday and Sundays. There is a $12 monthly fee for their mileage earning account, though free checking account options are available.

Charles Schwab Bank

No fees to open an account. No international transaction fees. No ATM fees, ever. I still don’t understand how they do it.

Cons: I’ve just recently opened my own account, but I know that friends of mine have been locked out of their account at times due to false fraud alerts.

Charles Schwab Bank


Simple is completely transparent about their fees and policies. They also offer a rich set of features through their mobile apps and websites, for managing your money. Customer service is painless and top-notch. And in comparison to banks such as Chase or Bank of America, their international fees are reasonable.


Cons: International ATM withdrawal fees are $2 per transaction. In addition to this, a 1% flat fee is charged on any international transaction. For this reason, Simple is great as a backup bank account, but unsuitable as a primary account within many countries.

Create a Backup Plan

Things will always go wrong. A bank card will be lost, stolen, or eaten alive by an ATM machine. An account will be blocked due to fraud, a false-alert, or because you forget to notify your bank in advance that you’ll be in Timbuktu. But this doesn’t mean you need to worry.

The best way to combat uncertainty is to be prepared for the worst, up until to a certain extent.

So don’t just rely on one bank account. Make sure to have two trustworthy accounts, and an emergency credit card for that manner.

Personally, I now use Schwab for my primary account and Simple as a backup. If my Schwab account becomes locked, or I no longer have their ATM card; I can live with paying up to $11 in fees for an international ATM withdrawal in a pinch.

Take Advantage of Online Communication

Most banks nowadays offer secure online customer support. Either through chat or messaging. Take advantage of this. While abroad, communication can become a real issue. Phone calls — whether with telephone company or through Skype — can be quite expensive or non-existent at times.

So become familiar with your Bank’s online customer support system.