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Ally High Yield Savings Account (Member FDIC) : Best savings account for travelCapital One 360 Checking® (Member FDIC): Best checking account for travelSoFi Money® (Member FDIC): Best all-in-one account for travel
Not all bank accounts have travelers in mind.
In fact, too many banks still charge hefty fees for foreign transactions and out-of-network ATM usage that can eat into your travel budget.
Below, check out the best accounts for travel, and keep reading for more on how we chose these accounts.
Table of Contents: Masthead Sticky
Our expert panel for this guide
We consulted banking and financial planning experts to inform these picks and provide their advice on finding the best rewards checking accounts for your needs. You can read their insights at the bottom of this post.
We’re focusing on what will make a bank account best for travelers, including foreign transaction fees, ATM fees, savings tools, and more.
The best bank accounts for travel of 2021
Best savings account for travel
Ally High Yield Savings Account
When to use it: When you want to set a savings goal for your next trip and see your money grow steadily without taking on any risk.
Ally has a bucket system that makes it easy for you to save for different goals in your high-yield savings account. Give your buckets different names, like „Birthday Trip” or „Airfare Fund.”
You can also set up a checking account through Ally. When you need access to your savings, just transfer money from the savings account to the checking account through the online portal, and you’ll be able to spend the money almost instantly.
Ally also offers an easy-to-use mobile app, making it simple to access your account while you’re on the road.
Competitive APYNo monthly feesUp to $250,000 in FDIC insurance per depositorUser-friendly mobile appBucket feature for saving for various goals in one accountSurprise savings transfers from checking to savings24/7 customer service
Keep an eye out for: Limit of six transactions per month. Federal law limits you to six monthly transactions from a savings account, regardless of who you bank with. However, during the coronavirus pandemic, the government has relaxed this limit. You may want to transfer money from savings to checking all at once so you don’t risk exceeding the six-transaction limit. If you go over six transactions in a month, you’ll pay a $10 fee.
Best checking account for travel
Capital One 360 Checking®
When to use it: You socked away money for travel in your high-yield savings account and need to transfer it to checking so you have immediate access to your cash while you’re traveling. You’re most comfortable with a well-known retail bank and want no-fee cash withdrawals at home and in select countries abroad.
Capital One has a few hundred physical locations in the US and top-notch online banking services. You can withdraw up to $1,000 a day at any ATM worldwide using your MasterCard and Capital One won’t charge a fee, though the ATM operator may. The bank ranks No. 1 on J.D. Power’s US National Banking Satisfaction Study.
Capital One also offers a solid high-yield savings account, which is a good choice if you want to keep your savings at the same bank as your checking.
No-fee withdrawals at Capital One and AllPoint ATMs in the US and Mexico, Canada, Puerto Rico, the United Kingdom, and AustraliaNo monthly feesNo foreign transaction feesUp to $250,000 FDIC insurance per depositorUser-friendly app with mobile check depositAll balances earn 0.10% APY
Keep an eye out for: If you travel to Europe, Asia, or any other place where Capital One and AllPoint don’t have ATMs, you may have to pay third-party ATM operator fees to take cash out (Capital One will never charge you an additional fee).
As for branch access, the bank only operates about 470 branches in nine states, though Capital One Cafés are popping up in big cities around the US.
When to use it: To save up for a trip and then use your debit card to make purchases and withdraw money for free from the same account, no transfers required. Good for people who are OK with banking entirely online.
SoFi Money, a product from online lender SoFi, offers the best of both worlds. It’s a hybrid savings/checking account with a competitive interest rate and a MasterCard debit card for easy access to your cash like a checking account.
SoFi is part of the Allpoint ATM network, so you have free access to 50,000 ATMs worldwide, and SoFi doesn’t charge a foreign transaction fee when you make a purchase with your debit card abroad.
When you open a SoFi Money account, you’re also granted a SoFi membership, giving you access to financial planners, an online community, social events and experiences, and rate reductions on future loans.
0.25% APY if you set up monthly direct deposits of $500; otherwise, 0.01% APYNo monthly feesNo overdraft feesNo out-of-network ATM feesFree access to 50,000 ATMs worldwideUp to $1.5 million in FDIC insuranceUser-friendly app with mobile check depositJoint accounts
Keep an eye out for: Again, SoFi is completely online – you’ll need to call customer service when you want help with your account rather than walking into a physical location.
While SoFi doesn’t charge any foreign transaction fees when you withdraw cash at an international bank or ATM, MasterCard will charge 0.20%, and SoFi won’t reimburse you.
Other bank accounts we considered and why they didn’t make the cut
Chase Total Checking®: This account appeared on our best checking accounts list, but it charges $5 per withdrawal and $2.50 for any transfers or inquiries at ATMs outside the U.S., Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Fees from the ATM owner still apply.Schwab Bank High Yield Investor Checking® Account(Member FDIC): This no-fee checking account reimburses ATM fees worldwide, but it doesn’t have as many US branch locations as Capital One, if that’s important to you. You also have to open a brokerage account when you open a checking account, though it’s free of charge.Discover Cashback Debit Account: Discover’s checking account has no monthly service fees and allows you to earn 1% cash back on up to $3,000 in debit card purchases every month, but its use is limited to the US, Canada, Mexico, and the Caribbean.The Citi Account Package Checking Account: A fine checking account with options to waive the $12 monthly fee and branch locations abroad, but customer satisfaction is below average, according to J.D. Power’s US National Banking Satisfaction Study.HSBC Premier Checking Account ($600): HSBC offers a good variety of checking accounts, although only those with high minimum balance or deposit requirements get ATM fees reimbursed.Wealthfront Cash Account: Although this account operates similarly to a high-yield savings account, it’s technically a cash management account, so you aren’t limited to six transactions per month like you are with Ally. Wealthfront also makes it easy to save for different goals. Wealthfront’s APY is much lower than Ally’s rate, though.Betterment Checking Account: Betterment reimburses all foreign transaction fees and ATM fees worldwide, and the app is easy to use. Some features are still in the works, including joint accounts, physical checkbooks, and mobile check deposit.Marcus by Goldman Sachs High Yield Online Savings Account: Marcus has a good high-yield savings account, but doesn’t have as many goal-setting features as Ally, if that’s important to you.American Express® High Yield Savings Account: With a solid APY, this high-yield savings account is a good option if you don’t mind not having mobile access.
Are these banks trustworthy?
The Better Business Bureau assesses companies’ trustworthiness based on responses to customer complaints, honesty in advertising, and transparency about business practices. Here are the BBB grades for our favorite travel accounts:
InstitutionBBB gradeAllyCCapital One 360ASoFiA+
The only one of our top picks with a poor BBB score is Ally. The BBB cites the high number of customer complaints for Ally’s C grade. On the bright side, most of those complaints have been resolved on the BBB website.
Despite its strong BBB score, SoFi does have a recent scandal regarding dishonesty. In 2019, the Federal Trade Commission ordered SoFi to stop running advertisements that claimed customers could save more money by refinancing than actually possible.
Neither Ally nor Capital One 360 has any recent public scandals.
Frequently asked questions
Why trust our recommendations?
At Personal Finance Insider, we strive to help smart people make the best decisions with their money. We spent hours comparing and contrasting the features and fine print of savings accounts and checking accounts so you don’t have to.
We understand that „best” is often subjective, however, so in addition to highlighting the clear benefits of an account – a high APY, for example – we outline the limitations, too.
How did we choose the best bank accounts for travel?
Generally, bank accounts are designated either savings or checking. When you’re saving up for a big trip, a high-yield savings account is appropriate because you’ll be able to earn some interest on your money, but still be able to access it when you need to.
A checking account may be more appropriate to use while traveling, as you’ll be provided with a debit card to use at shops, restaurants, and ATMs. You may also consider using a credit card, which could provide rewards and other travel-related benefits.
That said, the best bank accounts to use for travel expenses should be appropriate for your everyday life too, with low fees, good earning potential, and easy access.
Which bank is best for traveling abroad?
The best bank for traveling abroad depends on what you’re looking for, whether it’s branch access, fee-free withdrawals, or no foreign transaction fees. We think the best banks in general charge low or no monthly service fees, have low minimum balance requirements, and offer good earning potential on your money.
With that said, we think SoFi, Ally, and Capital One are three of the best places to keep money you’re planning to spend on travel. It’s worth noting, though, that SoFi is a brokerage and not a traditional bank. This company partners with banks to bring you products that function the same as those at traditional banks, and often with better features.
Which bank has no foreign ATM fees?
Charles Schwab reimburses all ATM fees worldwide. Others, like Capital One and CitiBank, have a massive network of ATMs where you can access your money without fees, but if you go out-of-network, you may be charged a fee by the ATM operator.
Is it better to use a debit or credit card abroad?
Credit cards are generally the safest method of payment both in the US and abroad. Protections on credit cards are more extensive than debit cards, and if your credit card gets stolen, you won’t need to worry about a thief draining your bank account. A no-foreign-transaction fee credit card is your best bet – you can keep your money safe and earn rewards on purchases.
The experts’ advice on choosing the best bank account for you
To learn more about what makes a good national bank and how to choose the best fit, four experts weighed in:
Tania Brown, certified financial planner at SaverLifeRoger Ma, certified financial planner with lifelaidout® and author of „Work Your Money, Not Your Life”Mykail James, MBA, certified financial education instructor, BoujieBudgets.comLaura Grace Tarpley, associate editor of banking, Personal Finance Insider
Here’s what they had to say about finding a bank. (Some text may be lightly edited for clarity.)
How can someone determine whether a bank is the right fit for them?
Mykail James, CFEI:
„The No. 1 thing about a checking account is you should know what provider the debit card is coming from. And a lot of people don’t think about that, because there are places that don’t accept MasterCard or don’t accept an Amex.”
Laura Grace Tarpley, Personal Finance Insider:
„I would look for the bank that charges you the least in fees. This means either no monthly fees, or you qualify to waive the monthly fees. If you never overdraw from your account, then a bank’s overdraft fees won’t matter much to you. But if you occasionally overdraw, then I’d look at the fees or overdraft protection options. If you travel frequently, search for an account without foreign transaction or out-of-network ATM fees.”
What should someone look for in a brick-and-mortar bank?
Tania Brown, CFP:
„How can that bank grow with you? If you are 25, single or newly married, and all you need is a checking account, that’s going to look very different 15 years from now when you may have had a couple of jobs, you may have an IRA roll over, or you may want a financial adviser.”
Mykail James, CFEI:
„How accessible it is. So where are the branches? And if I am to go out of town or something, how accessible is my money to me?”
What should someone look for in an online bank?
Tania Brown, CFP:
„With an online bank, absolutely online customer service, because you do not have the advantage of walking inside and talking to a human being. How often are you able to get them? What are their hours?”
Roger Ma, CFP:
„How onerous the transfer process is, transferring money in and transferring money out. Is it same day, next day? Is it pretty easy to sync a brick-and-mortar checking account to this particular high-yield savings account?”
Mykail James, CFEI:
„When it comes to online banks, you want to be a little bit more strict about what type of interest rates they’re providing. That’s the biggest thing, because online banks are supposed to have the higher interest rate because they don’t have the overhead of the brick-and-mortar. You want to make sure that it’s well above the national average. What type of securities do they provide? Do they have two-factor identification? If it’s an online bank, they should definitely have – at the bare minimum – two-factor authentication in how easy it is to change your passwords and things like that, because you want to be a little more hypersensitive about the cyber security for a strictly online bank.”
Generally, what makes a high-yield savings account good or not good?
Roger Ma, CFP:
„It might not be as seamless to get your money out of an online savings account as it is a brick-and-mortar, but you don’t want to have so much friction where it’s such a pain to get the money out when you need it.”
Mykail James, CFEI:
„Anything with a fee is not a good high-yield savings account. Anything that restricts how much you can save is, to me, not very good. If I can’t save more than $10,000 in this account, and then I have to move it over somewhere else – to me, that’s not a really good savings account, because it’s not really prepared to help me expand and grow, which is what a savings account is supposed to do. I also look at interest rates, definitely. I look to see when the interest is paid. Is it quarterly, or is it monthly? How often do they pay out interest, and what are the interest rate stipulations?”
What makes a checking account good or not good?
Roger Ma, CFP:
„I would look at the ATM branch locations and then minimum balance amounts to not incur a monthly fee … I think there’s other stuff that could make life easier, whether it’s a free checks, online bill pay, are they in the Zelle network?”
Laura Grace Tarpley, Personal Finance Insider:
„I would make a list of the top three to five things you want out of a checking account. Is it a great mobile app, 24/7 customer support, no ATM fees? Then research the best banks for those features.”
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