Trips abroad can be expensive (worth it), but why make it more expensive than it needs to be? Some banks, credit unions and credit cards offer ATM cards that don't have any international fees and some charge CRAZY fees just to access your cash (which would you rather have?)!
Volunteering abroad in Russia, China, Costa Rica (or one of these ILP countries of your choice) doesn't have to be over the top expensive -- I promise! You just have to know what you're doing.
Going abroad can be overwhelming. You're going to be researching so many things from the best ways to get around to best things to do to how to exchange your cash when you arrive. Figuring out which debit card is going to be the most affordable probably isn't on your radar. Good thing I did the research for you!
After much research, if you want the most affordable option here are the ONLY three you should be using:
Bank Cards With No International Fees
- Capitol One 360
- Charles Schwab Bank
- Discover Bank
When looking for a card to use internationally, make sure you check that they do not charge an out-of-network ATM fee (here's how to use those foreign ATMs BTW), currency exchange fee, or additional fees. Many banks and credit unions waive one of the other, but not both. These three cards waive both and do not have additional fees.
Capitol One 360
Capitol One 360 is probably the best debit card out there because of the benefits. They will not charge you any currency conversion fees or out-of-network fees. If the ATM you are using charges you a fee for using their ATM while not a member, Capitol One will reimburse you. Open a checking account and you can use it both at home or abroad. They also have credit cards, like Venture One that help you earn credits for more trips!
Charles Schwab Bank
Charles Schwab offers UNLIMITED reimbursements for any ATM foreign transaction fee around the world. Does not matter where you are, how much you pull out or how many times you do it. You will always be reimbursed any fee. They also do not charge any sort of currency exchange fee. The only downfall with this card is that if you're not making more than 1 trip a year or not using it at home, your account is deactivated for inactivity. This may be best for frequent travelers who really caught the travel bug.
Discover Bank is not for everyone. Their fees will only be non-existent if you're in the US, Canada, Mexico, or the Caribbean (great for all you ILP Mexico, ILP Haiti and ILP DR volunteers out there). They do not charge any foreign ATM fees or currency exchange fees.
Also, Discover isn't always accepted. It's becoming more and more common, but there are some places that only accept Visa and Mastercard, so I always carry one of those as a backup.
When deciding which card would work best for you, make sure you decide if it's worth it to switch. Most of the time, it's absolutely worth it. However, some banks and credit unions charge a very minimal fee. Decide if the fee or your time spent getting a new card is worth more!
Ready to start your semester abroad? First things first, follow the ILP Instagram to see all the awesome things current ILP volunteers are doing! Then, apply for for the International Language Programs by click that green button below!