The Best Way to Get Cash Abroad

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We love credit cards here at Daily Drop, and everyone knows it.

But sometimes, credit cards are useless. What if you’re on the streets of Mumbai trying to haggle for a souvenir?

Or maybe you’re on the highway in Tanzania, and the cops demand a bribe to let you carry on? I’m not joking, I’ve had to pay multiple bribes to cops and immigration officials in the past year alone… 

It’s just part of life when you travel to some of the places that I do.

And if you think you can whip out your Amex for these things, think again.

Actually, I take that back… DEFINITELY try to do that. It would be hilarious.

The point is this: Sometimes, you need cash when traveling, and there aren’t many ways to get cash without breaking the bank.

For example, if you try to buy or exchange money at change bureaus in the airport or in a city, you’ll be charged WAY more than you should be and can lose hundreds of dollars in the process.

Some people like to just withdraw cash at home and take it with them.

That’s fine, but personally, I don’t want to be carrying around a ton of cash with me. One lost bag, misplaced item, or unfortunate incident, and it’s all gone.

The best way to get cash abroad is easy as pie: just get a checking account and hit the ATM. This is what I’ve done for years now. I love landing at an airport, withdrawing just the amount of money I need in local currency from an ATM, and NOT getting charged any fees.

Woah… no fees? How does that happen?

Well, there are a handful of checking accounts in the U.S. that are PERFECT for exactly this purpose. Here are our favorites:

1. Capital One 360 Checking

The Capital One 360 Checking account is one of the best options, and I’ll tell ya why:

  • No monthly fees to have the account

  • No ATM fees (even on foreign ATMs or Non-Cap1 ATMs)

  • You’ll earn interest on your cash (though it’s a TINY amount…)

  • No minimum balance required

  • You can open it online in minutes

I love this account because it’s just simple. No fees (except for things like cashier’s checks, but it’s 2023 - don’t use cashier’s checks), no balance requirements, and an account that’s super easy to manage yourself online.

For a lot of us who play this points/miles/credit card game, the value of something simple that doesn’t require any extra work goes a long way.

This is also great for anyone who has a Capital One credit card already, as I know many of you do… because they’re awesome…

Having more of your accounts in the same banking family definitely helps keep things straightforward with managing your finances, cards, etc.

Oh, and did I mention that they occasionally have a bonus for opening the account?

Yeah. Capital One will sometimes pay YOU to open an account that saves YOU money. Don’t ask questions, people. Just do it (don’t sue me, Nike).

2. Schwab Bank High Yield Investor Checking® account

This account is definitely the most popular among points and mile nerds because it’s a staple that’s been around for a while and has a proven track record of being awesome. It’s like Tom Hanks - at this point, I just trust him to do right by me as a viewer because he’s never let me down.

And neither will Schwab.

Much like the Capital One account, this account is great, because it has:

  • Fee reimbursements on both domestic and international ATM withdrawals

  • No foreign transaction fees

  • No monthly fees to keep the account open

  • No minimum balance required

The biggest differentiator for this account, however, is the interest your cash earns. With this account, you’ll rake in a whopping 0.03% interest.

See what I did there?

That might not sound like a lot… because it’s not… but for a CHECKING account with NO fees, it’s actually a miracle that it exists at all.

As I said, Schwab has been around for years, and this account is tried and true for frugal travel hackers, so you really can’t go wrong with it.

There are definitely other options out there, but to be honest, there isn’t much of a reason to venture any further than the aforementioned accounts; they both really cover everything you need and are with trustworthy banks with great customer service.

But here’s one final tip for you kids before you go:

I have multiple checking accounts, personally.

I have a “primary” checking account with most of my money, then an account (like the ones above) where I keep my travel funds.

If I need more money from an ATM, I simply transfer the funds from my primary account.

I don’t carry around the debit card for my primary account when I travel, which adds an extra shield to my main stash of cash.

This way, if anyone gets a hold of my debit card abroad or swipes data from an ATM, they don’t have access to all of my checking account funds, just the account that I transfer small amounts to when I need cash abroad.

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