Banks suck. Nobody in their right mind likes banks, except for people who work in them and make money off customers like you and me. Digital nomads and expats are particularly valued customers in banks, simply because they can charge them extortionate fees to let them access their money while they are traveling.
If that’s what you’re trying to avoid, you are definitely in the right place. This guide covers all the best banks for digital nomads and expats that offer no or low ATM fees, online support, and fee-free international money transfers. Keep reading to see that it’s not too good to be true!
N26 is an online bank and it’s easily the best option for digital nomads with an address in Europe. They operate only through the mobile app so they have very low operating costs, allowing them to offer minimal fees to their customers.
The only catch is that you need to have an address in one of the following countries: Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, and the USA.
It’s worth noting that you don’t need to be a registered citizen of the countries above to open up an account with N26 – you just need an address, so it’s possible to open up an account if you have a friend living in one of the countries listed above and they’re willing to let you use their address.
The best thing about N26 is that it’s possible to open up an account entirely free of charge. They offer several service plans and of them is absolutely free. The digital bank also offers other types of memberships, so you can choose between several different options. The pricier plans also include medical and travel insurance for ultimate convenience.
The free plan includes a virtual debit card and you need to pay an additional 10 Euros if you also want a physical card. You get a MasterCard if you order a physical debit card, and any currency conversion is done at MasterCard’s exchange rates.
Additionally, there aren’t any hidden fees with N26. No transaction fees, no conversion fees, and no ATM fees no matter where you are withdrawing money. That’s the main reason why so many digital nomads and expats in Europe swear by this bank.
It’s worth noting that the no ATM fees rule only applies for the first five transactions each month if you have a free account. To get unlimited no-fee withdrawals, you’ll need to spring for one of the paid plans.
The main issue with N26 is the limited availability outside Europe. They are working on expanding to countries all over the world, but so far they’ve only expanded to the US.
If you’re living in the US, Charles Schwab Bank is easily the best option for you. There aren’t any monthly/yearly costs, no foreign transaction fees, and no currency exchange markups. Currency exchange is done at Visa’s official rate, which happens to be very close to the mid-market rate.
Charles Schwab also offers refunds for foreign ATM fees as well as free checks – yes, some people still use those. On top of all that, the bank has excellent customer service that’s available 24/7. Best of all it’s an online chat, so you don’t have to worry about being stuck on hold during long-distance calls.
There’s no cost to set up a Charles Schwab account but you do need to sign up for a brokerage account if you want access to a checking account. That’s because Charles Schwab is primarily an investment bank – you’re not obligated to use the account, and there aren’t any costs associated with it.
One thing to note is that you need to be located in the US to open an account even if you’re doing it online. If you try to open an account while you’re not in the States, it’s possible you could be summoned to one of the branches to verify your identity. You could try to use a VPN service to create an account, but you still need a valid US address – not a PO box.
HSBC is one of the largest financial institutions with branches all over the world. They’re a great bank for travelers and digital nomads who often travel between big cities and need a reliable bank. HSBC is one of the few multi-national banking institutions that still has a decent reputation, and they’re particularly popular for their excellent customer service.
Since the bank has branches in countries all over the world, it also means you can find HSBC ATMs almost anywhere and avoid foreign ATM fees. Also, the bank makes it easy – and free – to transfer money between different HSBC accounts, which is certainly useful if you’re getting paid.
They launched their HSBC Everyday Global Account a few years back and it was the first Australian multi-currency account without extortionate fees. It’s very easy for Australian residents to open up accounts with HSBC – they can even do it online. Other nationals are free to apply for an account, but there’s no guarantee they will be accepted.
Some highlights of an HSBC Global Everyday Account include no monthly or set-up fees, no foreign transaction fees, and no ATM fees globally. You can hold up to ten different currencies in your account, and there’s no markup on currency exchange. If you’re using a currency that’s not officially supported by the bank, you’re getting Visa’s official exchange rates.
Citibank is a multinational bank with branches all over the world. This alone makes it an excellent option for frequent travelers and digital nomads, and there’s a lot of other benefits on top of that. A Citibank Plus account is a particularly good option for Australian residents, provided they want to send and receive money globally without paying fees.
One of the best things about Citibank is that there aren’t any hidden fees when you use the card overseas either for ATM withdrawals or in-store purchases.
Also, there aren’t any transfer fees for sending and receiving money anywhere in the world, if you’re sending the money to another Citibank account. If you’re trying to transfer money to an account that’s not Citibank, there will likely be an additional charge for the receiver.
To open an account, you just need to be an Australian resident. There aren’t any monthly or yearly costs for account maintenance, no fees for account set-up, and no markups on currency exchange. The currency exchange is done at Visa’s official rates, so you usually get a great deal.
It’s worth noting that Citibank doesn’t impose ATM fees, but they don’t refund them either. You’ll still be paying fees that are imposed by ATM owners, and these are common in most parts of the world. Last but not least, it’s worth noting that Citibank account owners get a complimentary bottle of wine in certain restaurants!
Australia and New Zealand Banking Group (ANZ) is one of the few options for digital nomads and expats from New Zealand. Their ANZ Go account is a good option for frequent travelers, especially if you prefer to do your banking online. You can do everything with an app and a debit card, and you never need to stand in line at the bank again.
ANZ Go doesn’t have any fees for automated transactions, which includes ATMs worldwide. They won’t refund ATM fees imposed by owners though, so it’s still not an ideal solution.
Also, they do have a 2.5% fee for foreign exchange transactions – it’s negligible if you rarely withdraw cash, but eventually, the fees will stack up if you spend a lot of time overseas. That’s $25 for every $1000 you withdraw outside of New Zealand, so keep that in mind.
Another upside of ANZ Go is that you can use their credit cards to store airline miles. This will be useful if you fly often, and it could potentially save you a lot of money in airline tickets – more than they will take out of your account for fees anyway!
One thing worth noting about ANZ is that their customer service needs to improve a lot. They don’t offer live chats, so you’ll need to call the bank whenever you have an issue. You do get the option of sending a message via an online contact form, but it takes them 24-48 hours to go through those. If you need a problem solved quickly, a long-distance phone call is the only way.
Revolut is a good solution for digital nomads and expats in Europe. The digital banking service is available only for residents of the European Economic Area and Switzerland, so it’s one of the more localized options. But that still covers a good chunk of Europe, and it’s certainly a worthy alternative for EU citizens.
This service lets you keep up to five different currencies in your account and withdraw them from any ATM on the planet. You can use Revolut to send and receive money globally, and they don’t charge fees for international transfers as long as the amount is within your foreign exchange allowance limit. If it exceeds that amount, you’ll be charged a measly 0.5% fee.
In addition to that, Revolut also has a cryptocurrency exchange that allows you to convert currencies into crypto alternatives like Bitcoin, Ethereum, Litecoin, etc. Another great thing about Revolut is that they issue disposable virtual cards. The details of a virtual card get deleted after every transaction, for fraud protection.
In case you decide to get the Revolut Premium Plan, you will also get travel insurance for trips up to 40 days. The main downside of Revolut is that it doesn’t support Apple Pay, but it does support Google Pay. Also, there aren’t any fees for the first $300 you withdraw each month, but there is a 2% fee for transactions after that.
Wise – formerly known as Transferwise – is another excellent solution for digital nomads and expats. It’s a good option particularly if you’re dealing with multiple currencies since this service lets you hold up to 56 different currencies in a multi-currency account. It’s not technically a bank, but the service is so convenient and useful that it’s definitely worth mentioning here.
Wise helps you avoid currency exchange fees when shopping online, they offer 2FA protection, they let you link your account with Amazon and PayPal, and best of all, they are entirely transparent about how they store and use your data.
The best thing about Wise is how easy it is to transfer money between accounts. Even international transfers are handled quickly and easily, without exorbitant fees. Also, they use the mid-market exchange rate for transfers between different currencies, so you’re actually getting a fair deal.
You can order a card from Wise for a very low fee and you’re free to use it in 200 countries worldwide. It works just like any other debit card, with the bonus of PIN reminders and instant transaction notifications on your phone. You can also link it with Apple Pay and Google Pay in supported countries.
Payoneer is an online banking service similar to PayPal. It’s a good option for remote workers and expats because you can use it almost anywhere in the world. Also, you can order a card from them that you’re free to use for payments, online shopping, and ATM withdrawals, which is really useful.
Payoneer is popular among digital nomads because of the service’s partnership with major freelancer platforms like Upwork and Fiverr. For some people, this is the only way they can get paid. You can manage your account and transfer money on their website or with their app. The app is intuitive and easy to use, and I quite like it.
The main downside of Payoneer is that they have high fees, especially if you get the card. There’s a flat $3 fee per transfer, a yearly fee of $30 for account maintenance, and exorbitant ATM fees if you order the card. Payoneer is a great option for larger e-commerce businesses, but they’re not ideal for the average freelancer.
Also, you can only send money to other Payoneer accounts, so it’s certainly not an ideal service if you send money to others often. But if you just want to get paid while you travel the world, they’re definitely an option worth considering.
Roger is a little obsessed with travel. He has been to over 40 countries, broken 3 suitcases and owned over 10 backpacks in 12 months. What he doesn't know about travel, ain't worth knowing!