How do you put together the finances for your travels, long-term or short-term? What do you sacrifice in order to save up the necessary cash? What's your best money-saving tip on the road? Share your money tips - and pick up a few - right here.

Best Banking Options for Long-Term Travelers from the US

WeKeepMoving

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  • Added on: February 25th, 2009
My husband and I are about to head off on an open-ended vagabonding tour of Central America. We're looking for the best way to manage our funds while on the road long-term.

We'll be camping and hosteling and mostly dealing with cash. We expect to withdraw maybe a couple hundred dollars every so often. We would prefer to use a debit card rather than a credit card. In addition to the funds we have managed to save so far, we anticipate at least a very small income from advertising on our blog so we will need some sort of merchant account option (I think?). Savings or checking or a combination of the two are ideal.

Any insight veteran travelers can provide in this fascinating economic cycle will be greatly appreciated.

Thanks!

skobb

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  • Added on: February 26th, 2009
It seems to me that any online bank should suffice. I use ING DIrect as one of my accounts. They tend to pay a pretty decent percentage on their accounts (down now because all interest rates are down at the moment), but there are others you could check out. Just get a debit card and use ATMs along the way.

travis

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  • Added on: February 27th, 2009
I've tried many different ways and think I've finally found the one that best suits my needs.

I have an online savings account through one of the big online guys, like HSBC, ING, etc... And then I have a checking account with a local credit union. Every month I have scheduled transfers from my main savings account to my checking account in my credit union. Then I use an ATM card. With my credit union there are no atm fees, no international currency conversion fee's, it's great! I also have a credit card that I hardly ever use, mainly for plane tickets. And I can pay it online with just a few clicks from my savings account. And as a back up I have another checking account with a local bank and an ATM card, I only have $600 in there and keep it as a back up.

Works well for me!

vagabondette74

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  • Added on: March 7th, 2009
I use my credit union debit card and I have a credit card for backup. Also, I'm not sure what you mean by needing a merchant account option. What kind of income from your blog are you talking about? Adsense? Are you selling adspace? Affiliate programs? Either way, with all three, you should be able to arrange electronic deposits or, if they send a paper check (as one of my affiliate programs does) then you will need a friend to deposit them. You should not need a merchant account of any time unless you're actually selling products and even then paypal will most likely suffice. I make all of my travel income off of my websites so if you have more questions on that topic feel free to ask.
Traveling through Mexico and Central America starting in January '09. Hit me up if you want to meet!

nancy sv

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  • Added on: March 9th, 2009
We opened a Schwab One account just before we left on this journey and are using the ATM card on that account. There are no ATM fees anywhere in the world with this account. You really need to look for a debit card with no fees - the fees will eat up your savings in no time!

As for the money from your blog - open a PayPal account and then link that to your bank account. You can transfer the money from PayPal to your bank in a few clicks of hte mouse. It works great!
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Dalin

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  • Added on: August 4th, 2009
I just went in and signed up for a Schwab checking account as well. I'd highly reccomend it for long-term international travelers. Not only do they not charge any fees internationally, they will actually reimburse you for any fees the ATM machine charges you. The account is completely free when you sign up for a brokerage account which is also free. No minimum balance required, no direct deposit, or minimum number of transactions. It really is just a no strings attached, free way to access your money anywhere in the world. It's available to all residents of the US, just go to schwab.com to sign up. (Jeeze, I sound like I work for the place huh? They should pay me for the free advertising ;) ) The only hassle I've found with them is they don't have very many actual brick and mortar banks, so depositing a check requires snail mail (ugh) but they have great 24/7 online and phone support. Check them out!
Do one thing every day that scares you.

Zuleika

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  • Added on: August 5th, 2009
Which ever account you decide to use - always have a backup plan (or 2), another card you can use, some emergency funds stashed on your person or travellers cheques. The amount of people I have come accross who got stuck because their card wouldnt work in one country or you needed to find partcular ATMs for different cards etc etc
Life is such an adventure, I can't wait to live it some more.

bakpakaddict

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  • Added on: February 4th, 2010
I'm a US traveler doing 1 year in Mexico, Central, and South America. Just thought I'd share what I've learned so far for other US Travelers.

After doing heaps of research, I've decided to agree about Schwab with the other posters here and on other travel sites. My money will be managed in the following way:

1. A High Yield Investor Checking Account with Charles Schwab

This IS a checking account, even though Schwab is primarily a brokerage firm. In order to open the checking account, you do have to open a basic brokerage account; however, there is NO fee, minimum deposit, or minimum balance for either account. You are not required to make any trades or buy any stock with your brokerage account; in fact, once you open it along side your checking account, you never have to touch it ever again if you don't want to (again, no minimum balance).

The checking account gives you an ATM/Debit Card. Schwab does not charge any ATM fees and reimburses you for ALL fees charged to you at the ATM by another banks with a lump-sum credit at the end of every statement period. Additionally, there are NO international transaction fees. The only "fee" you will pay is related to the exchange rate and the use of Visa, which is very standard and minimal. It's been discussed ad nauseum in on lonely planet's debit card thread and IMO it's generally agreed that if this is all you pay, you're in the best situation you can be in as a US traveler.

I plan to make a automatic bi-weekly transfer from my Chase savings account where the bulk of my funds are to my Schwab checking account for spending purposes. It will be as if I get a paycheck every two weeks and it will help me budget. I have a reserve fund and a credit card for emergencies and splurges when they don't fit into my bi-weekly budget.

Something to note on transfers: A lot of banks charge fees for transferring money to other banks/institutions. I know Chase charges $30 for wire transfers and $3 for electronic transfers to other banks. But the $3 fee only applies if you initiate the transfer from Chase's site. The trick to keeping my Chase Savings and using the Schwab Checking is this: if you add your savings/primary account (be it Chase or anyone else) as an "external account" to your Schwab online banking, and set up the regular automatic transfer from Schwab.com you are not charged a fee at all from either bank. However, if I set up my automatic transfer on Chase's site, and add Schwab as the external account on Chase.com, you are charged $3 per transfer by Chase. So in sum, if I do my transfers on Chase.com I get charged, if I do them on Schwab.com I don't, even though it's basically the same thing. I can't tell you why this is the case, but I checked with both banks and it is. Regardless, I've found a way to keep my current savings account and use my Schwab checking while traveling with the absolute minimum fees.

2. Schwab Visa Credit Card

No international transaction fees and 2% back on ALL purchases. They literally send you 2% of what you spent on your credit card back to you. Sounds like a good deal to me. I asked the broker about 50 times what the catch was, and there is none.

I don't plan to fly a lot, so miles are not important to me. However, if you want to collect points and miles, Capital One has a variety of cards with different rewards packages. According to their website, NONE of the Capital One credit cards charge international transaction fees. So you can choose any card that's right for you without having to worry about that aspect.
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
If anyone has experienced anything that would lead you to think anything I've said is untrue, please let me know! I leave March 25th and am excited.

Happy travels!

K2

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  • Added on: February 23rd, 2010
What's the most common method of payment while travelling abroad? Cash?

In what cases would you use your credit card? Booking airplane tickets?

2wanderers

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  • Added on: February 23rd, 2010
K2 wrote:What's the most common method of payment while travelling abroad? Cash?
Define "abroad." It's a big planet.

In western Europe + the US, I use my credit card fairly heavily, similar to how I use it at home. In most other places I've been, cash is king. Local currency for purchases, and a backup supply of US dollars if you get caught somewhere there's no bank machine. There's always the occasional use for a credit card. Airline tickets for certain, often tour companies take cards. Rental cars. A night or a meal in a fancy hotel, often a great treat when you're road weary, can be paid for by card. If you end up in a tourist-heavy location, stores that cater to tourists will likely take cards as well. Sometimes they charge a hefty service charge, though, ask first.

K2

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  • Added on: February 23rd, 2010
It sucks that I got turned down for the Schwab credit card AND capital one...due to my unemployment.

I got a Citicard but 3% foreign transaction fee will kill me if I keep using it.

2wanderers

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  • Added on: February 23rd, 2010
K2 wrote:I got a Citicard but 3% foreign transaction fee will kill me if I keep using it.
3% is fairly typical, though obviously lower is better. Changing cash is more expensive, and travellers cheques even worse. ATM withdrawals also have fees attached, so you really can't win. Exchange fees are basically just one of the costs of traveling, and the extra $1-$3/day that it might cost you shouldn't significantly alter your trip. If you can get a card with no fee, great, but if not...don't sweat the small stuff.

busman7

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  • Added on: February 28th, 2010
As a Canadian there is basically no choice but to let the banks rip you off on service charges so just have to suck it up & carry on. :(

Oh yeah & get a Capitol One card as back up for the times the Canadian cc "that works everywhere" or so the bank says doesn't! Never had a problem using the Cap One 8-)
"Being normal? Ugh. I can't imagine how awful that must be" unknown

Papaya

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  • Added on: March 23rd, 2010
Not sure how much you have in terms of cash, but I used HSBC premier and was really happy with them. During my year-long RTW, they caught THREE fraudulent charges on my credit card and emailed me about them. Very nice.

Also they don't charge int'l atm fees, which saved me heaps.

2wanderers

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  • Added on: March 25th, 2010
busman7 wrote:Oh yeah & get a Capitol One card as back up for the times the Canadian cc "that works everywhere" or so the bank says doesn't! Never had a problem using the Cap One 8-)
Out of curiousity...have you ever had problems with other cards? Because I've used BMO and CIBC cards extensively all over the world, and never had a problem. Including at least one place (Cuba) where a Capital One would not work.


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