Charles Schwab & Co., Inc. and Charles Schwab Bank are separate but affiliated companies and wholly owned subsidiaries of The Charles Schwab Corporation. Brokerage products and services are offered by Charles Schwab & Co., Inc., member SIPC. Deposit and lending products and services are offered by Schwab Bank, member FDIC and an Equal Housing Lender.
Any time you spend money in another country you’re going to pay something for converting U.S. dollars into the local currency. This is true whether you exchange cash at a money changer, withdraw local currency at an ATM, or make purchases with your credit card. Sometimes, you don’t even realize it because the bank simply gives you a less favorable exchange rate and pockets the difference. Other times, they charge you a percentage of the money changed in addition to the hidden profit they earn on the exchange rate.
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Even if you follow the advice in tip #3, it’s possible your card could get locked anyway. On top of that, it’s easy to find yourself in a situation where an ATM accepts only one network and not the other. For example, when we travelled in Japan, the only ATMs we could find that would even accept international cards were at 7-Eleven, and they only worked with cards on the Visa/Plus network. I speak from experience – there’s nothing more stressful than needing more cash and not being able to withdraw it, so be prepared and bring multiple cards on multiple networks.
Like with many (most?) checking accounts these days you will not accrue interest on your deposits. But that’s a small price to pay with what you save on using the card abroad. Instead, they do offer an option to invest your money in one of three simple investment plans, which over time should give you a much better return than the interest offered by most banks anyway.
Notify Your Bank Of Your Travels: To be certain that your card will work abroad, before departing you should tell your bank which countries you will be visiting. Otherwise, your bank may block purchases and withdrawals they regard as suspicious. You may be able to set a travel notification in your bank’s online banking system. If not, give them a call or stop by a branch.
(Sarah Page: When I applied for a Schwab Investor Checking Account I was in Argentina at the time. Due to the foreign IP address on the application, Schwab required that I bring in various forms of identification to a brick and mortar bank when I returned stateside before approving my application. I recommend not applying from abroad if you want to make the process as easy as possible.)
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