The World’s Best Bank Accounts for International Travelers and Nomads

Did you know that every time you swipe your card in a foreign country, your bank is charging you exorbitant fees and giving you a terrible exchange rate? Yet, you can save thousands every year by choosing the right bank.

This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at

Hey Thomas

Thanks for an extensive reply. When it comes to reviews, I tend to concentrate on the more recent ones, as good companies sometimes go bad - and going back to beginning of 2018, the bad reviews beat the good ones by 10 to 1… Of course, when a company does what it’s supposed to do, not everyone posts a review, so I’m quite sure thousands of happy customers were just fine.
However, it’s a bank… and several claims to the tune of “they closed my account and kept my money” sends chills down my spine.

I’m not their client, I’m still researching various places I can park some money, so I don’t keep all eggs in one basket…

Hey Thomas thanks a lot for the article. I’ve been battling with a few US banks. Huntington is the worst, it’s impossible to access without a VPN and I am not a fan of its online capabilities. The banker who assisted with opening my business account said it would be okay not to fund it. I totally forgot about it and now when I need it, the banker can’t help me re-open it without my physical presence. Anyway…

Glad I came across this article as I might join the Schwab account. You mentioned about the visa waiver program, can you please elaborate on that?

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Visa Waiver = ESTA (90 day Visa free entry).

If you have a solid credit history in the US, you should be able to open a Schwab account online without going to a branch. Just remember to use the last address according to your credit report (so it will be automatically accepted by the system). And to use a VPN.

If you don’t have access to mail delivered at that address any more, you can set up USPS mail forwarding to another address in the US you do have access to, so the card will be forwarded there.

Appreciate the reply! A weird question - do I have to be sincere in specifying my country of citizenship on the application? (:

Do they ask for that? It has been a while since I opened my account. But yes I would answer that sincerely. But for residency/address, put the US.

They do… As they also open a brokerage account with the checking, there is a fair share of legal mumbo jumbo that follows. It might affect tax situation depending on the citizenships one specifies, so it’s better to be sincere.

I opened the account, but they did ask for a drivers license or some ID verification form. My DL has expired while I’m away so I sent in the international passport.

Thanks for the suggestion!
Can’t wait to start using it

or PNC is going to hit a trillion dollar mark on my fees alone :grin::grin:

Well, let us know how it goes! :crossed_fingers:

Hi, I have some questions about Charles Schwab bank. First of all I’m actually Italian, but I live in Cancun, and I have easy access to cash us dollars, so I could find a way to deposit them through money gram. However, what would happen if they close my account because of the fact I live in Mexico? As I use Estafeta, which is a delivery service people use in Mexico to purchase stuff on eBay, I have a personal address in Laredo, which is where I send what I buy on eBay and then estafeta sends it to my address in Mexico. Could I use that Laredo address? And third question: They would probably notice I’m using the card in Mexico very frequently, would that be a problem?

Hi Andres,

First of all, do you have a US Social Security number, some credit history, a US ID card etc? If not if will be hard/impossible to open an account with Schwab or most US banks—especially remotely.

Regarding the address, it’s better to use a proper street address as the address by most mail forwarding companies is just a PO box address. If the address isn’t already in your credit report, you might have to show documentation that you’re living there (plus probably visit a nearby branch).


No, I never lived in the united states, so it’s impossible I have a credit history there. What do you recommend me to do then? I travel at least twice a year and having an account in us dollars would be very useful for me

Ok, let’s say I would use N26, my parents live in Italy, I’m an Italian citizen, I have an address and some history there. I would send my parents cash USD through FedEx or UPS, how could they then deposit the USD to my EUR account? I definitely can’t deposit them from Mexico, unless I first convert them to MXN, but then everything would be nonsense…

Transferwise bordaless is available for exchange and sending most of currencies for you including USD, EU, ,w multicurrency master card.
Or you could have TIN for credit card
if you send form to IRS, and say you would like to pay tax (don’t worry, you do not have to).

Thank you for the answer, can you give me more detailed information? I see transferwise lets you transfer money, burnt what would be the detailed process to do it, if you are in Italy, have cash USD, and want to deposit them to a N26 account? And what’s TIN, IRS? I really don’t know what you’re talking about. Is there a tutorial?

It’s a virtual bank, you could manage it with app in smartphone.
You could link your banks and cards with it, and deposit, exchange, transfer your money in it.

TIN, tax Id number
IRS, internal revenue service

I finally opened an account with N26, as my parents live in Italy. I’m still struggling though to find the best way to deposit from Mexico. About the exchange rates, I’m not sure they use the MasterCard official rates, because I read in the contract that they use the Deutsche Bundesbank table

Hi Andres,

I think the best option for you is to simply take US dollars cash on your next trip and convert it to the local currency at your destination.

Since you live in Mexico, I think the only way you can deposit money to a European bank is by converting your dollars to pesos at a Mexican bank and doing a wire transfer. This is not a good idea since you would lose money on a double conversion (usd → mxn → eur) and pay wire transfer fees.
I believe Transferwise does not support sending pesos abroad at the moment, only receiving pesos from other currencies or sending pesos domestically within Mexico. Even if Transferwise supported the Mexican peso as a sending currency, you would still need to do a double conversion to get your USD into Euros.

Therefore, I don’t think it’s worth the pain of going through all this trouble and getting a travel-friendly bank when you have no easy way of funding the account. Also, the idea of sending cash through Fedex/UPS is absurd. Not only are you risking the loss of your money, you would be paying expensive delivery costs which would likely cancel out any savings with your European bank account.

It is actually. I’m seeing the possibility through moneygram, in their customer service they insist telling me I can do it, but here they say I can only receive money, so the only way would be sending in cash through western union to my father, and then he deposits from Italy

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If you’re okay with the ridiculous fees and exchange rates that Western Union charges then go ahead. I didn’t mention a service like Western Union because I didn’t find it wise spending money on double exchange and transfer fees to load a bank account in another continent.
According to NerdWallet, the fee for Western Union “depends on the amount you send and selected country. For transfers up to $1,000, the fee ranges from $0 to $95, while the median exchange rate markup ranges roughly between 0% to 10%”

Most people use a bank like N26, Monzo or Charles Schwab to save money on fees over traditional banks. I don’t see the point in having such an account if it’ll cost you more in fees to fund it than you’ll save in using it. Perhaps you need the account for another reason that I’m not aware of and/or the fees are not important to you.

Based on your situation, it would make more sense to just use cash everywhere or open a local bank account in Mexico. For example, Scotiabank Mexico has no fees when withdrawing on the Global ATM Network.

Forget TransferWise. Xoom has much better rates for international xfers. Used them a few times from US to EU transfers and their rates are MUCH better than TransferWise.