How to Avoid ATM Fees While Living Abroad

Occasionally I have a friend or fellow expat ask me how I deal with ATM fees while living abroad. This usually results in me looking at them with a WTF look on my face. I use Charles Schwab because they refund any ATM fee.

Note: Schwab is only available to American citizens, so all you Europeans will have to find some other bank.

Avoiding Fees with Charles Schwab

Charles Schwab is the best checking account because of the lack of ATM fees. Now, if you are abroad and want to open the account, then I recommend using a US based VPN to open the account.


If you open the account abroad, then you will have to go to a branch and verify your identity. Some sort of  anti-money laundering or anti-fraud thing.

Also, Schwab will allegedly suspend your account if you are out of the United States for more than six months. Not sure how to get around that other than calling them and begging to reinstate the account. However, I have met travelers that have had an account for years while living outside the US with no issues.

Guess it just depends on the algorithm.

Have a backup debit card

You should still have a backup debit card. Your Schwab card could get lost or hackers could steal the number on it. I have a backup debit card that I keep locked in my room for that exact reason. Just gives me some peace of mind.

Final Thoughts

Open a Charles Schwab debit card before you move or travel abroad. Even if you don’t travel abroad I still recommend it. I remember having to withdraw money at an NFL game and not caring one bit about the $5 withdrawal. Felt good.

Stay safe out there and save money.

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