As we’ve been traveling full time since 2009 we do get a lot of questions asking us how we manage our money while we travel. I think there is a misconception about banking while traveling- its actually quite easier than most people think. While I’d love to say we have a bunch of credit cards to help us with our travels at the moment we don’t even have one. Nope. Not even one. As a matter of fact I haven’t had a credit card since 2007. I know I can gain travel miles this way, but I am not particularly aiming for that right now. It is something I’m considering for the future, but I wanted to share a bit of how to select the best bank account for yourself while you travel.
Right now we have 2 different bank accounts each. I have one from my year I spent in Australia, and I have decided for now to maintain it open as its a free checking account and I can move money from one account to the other at a low cost. The moment it starts costing money to maintain the account I’m closing it. When I was living in the US I had a few different accounts such as Bank of America and Chase, both which I advise against because of the monthly fees. I remember an incident with my Chase account while I was living in Australia- I had a few pennies left and I took money out but I miscalculated the conversion rate, in any case I only had about $4 dollars left. They then deducted a monthly fee of $12 which put my account overdrawn- so they also added another $30 or so, and then proceeded to immediately began calling my mother’s house non-stop. I had an agreement with the bank that they’d freeze my account while I was traveling so I was immune to the monthly checking fee, and I’d been banking with them for the past 10 years. Needless to say I called the bank up and they removed the overdraft fee, and I promptly closed my account.
Comparing bank accounts effectively before you start traveling will help save you time and money in the long run, so do your homework on who you choose. The best idea would be to get a local account in your hometown and to also have a back up account in case your bank card gets stolen so you always have a back up account that you can continue to use money from. Right now I haven’t been home long enough to source one out, but Mike has one from California and although the banking hours are horrible, they work for the moment. We have also set up an account with Charles Schwab because there are no monthly fees, they provide free checking, and I like the service they provide as far as making it easy to transfer money around to my other bank account. We also use PayPal to send and receive money, and you can apply for a PayPal Mastercard that you can use from the funds in your account. I have the PayPal card but I’ve never used it. Still its a good emergency card in case my other bank cards get lost or stolen.
So to sum it up: the best way to go about managing your money while traveling is to have 2 bank accounts minimum. A local account from your hometown and another company like Charles Schwab or Lloyds bank that you can set up and manage easily as you travel. Keep in mind that if you keep all your money in a local account the banking hours are likely to not be as convenient when you need to get a hold of them, so having 2 accounts makes it easier to contact either one in an emergency.