Monday, November 28, 2022

Banking While Cycle Touring


How do you get cash while you are cycle touring?

In the US, it is easy to get cash back from a grocery store purchase if you use a debit card to pay. Using a debit card is the easiest way to get cash while touring. Sometimes, grocery stores only allow a small amount of cash back. This can be as little as $20 and is especially true for smaller grocery stores in small towns. For day to day expenses while touring, $20 may be enough. (I've never been able to get cash from a grocery store purchase using a debit card anywhere outside the US.) When you need more cash you can always find a local bank ATM machine. If the ATM machine you find isn't in your bank's network there will be extra fees for the convenience of using the machine to get cash. Often, the ATM bank will charge a $3 fee and your bank will charge an additional $3. If you use out of network ATMs often, these fees can add up. I bank with a small local credit union and the banking network is fairly small. A bigger, national bank, like Wells Fargo or Bank of America will have a bigger network. On a cycling tour, you probably aren't going to take the time to find an ATM that is in your bank's network. Is there a way to get around paying these out of network fees? Yes, there is.

Charles Schwab debit card

Aside from my credit union account, I also have a checking account with Charles Schwab. A number of years ago, brokerages were allowed to expand into banking. My Charles Schwab account is linked to my credit union account and I can transfer money easily from one account to another. If I request money from my credit union to the Schwab account using the Schwab website account menu, the transfer will take 3 days. If I request money to my Schwab account using my credit union website menu, the transfer will take 1 day. The Charles Schwab account reimburses all ATM fees anywhere in the world as well as foreign conversion fees. This is very nice for traveling to foreign countries. All fees are reimbursed immediately after they are incurred. I haven't seen a pending reimbursement. 

I have never incurred a banking fee anywhere in the world from using this debit card. I was able to set up my Charles Schwab checking account completely online. In fact, I have never been inside a Charles Schwab office. There have never been any fees associated with this account. No one from Charles Schwab as ever called, sent me junk mail or email or attempted to sell me any of their other services. I only transfer money into the Charles Schwab checking account as needed and the account rarely has more than $200.

I think Charles Schwab was the first brokerage bank to offer a checking account debit card reimbursing all ATM fees. It's very possible that other banks or brokerage accounts also offer this now. My only other piece of advice is to set up your debit card pin for any account with 4 numbers. Some country ATMs have this restriction.

Happy traveling!

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