Thursday, August 29, 2013

Charles Schwab Bank: Easiest way to use USD abroad

One of the main worries about becoming a first time expat is how to use/transfer your dollars to use in Europe.

One of the ways many people have talked about is having a account with your American bank and a account with your Spanish account. To have this work you need to have a separate email address with both accounts. Personally, I think this is too much work. Maybe it’s best to save this option for when you are going home for good and need an easy way to send euros to the US.

For me, my preferred method for using my USDs abroad is with the Charles Schwab High Yield Investor Checking account. Long name, I know.  Schwab is actually a stock broker service so when you call to set up your account you need to make sure you ask to talk to the bank part and not the brokers. When you do set up your account they will make a brokerage account, because it’s required, but you don’t have to use it unless you want to get into the stock market.

(I think here is a good place to put that I don’t work for Schwab and didn't get paid to write this, I’m just a very happy customer)

Lets go over the reasons why Charles Schwab is awesome:
  • No international fees!
  • They refund all ATM fees at the end of each month, national and international.
  • You can link accounts to other US banks. This makes transferring money back and forth really easy!
  • No minimum balance requirements
  • No fees to open or maintain your account, and even better. No hidden fees!
  • AMAZING customer service. Seriously. Amazing. 24 hours a day, basically no waiting to talk to a live person and you don’t get transferred around a lot. The people are always very knowledgeable, helpful and most importantly nice! **
  • Easy set up of the account and not a lot of wait time to receive your card. Also, for a $15 fee that can expedite the card.
  • International calling number! I had to call from Spain and they emailed me a Spanish number to use which connected to someone in the US. Also, you can call them collect from outside the US.
There are probably many more reasons, but that’s about the basics of it. If anyone else has had experiences with Schwab (good and bad) please leave a comment!
Here is what you will need to set up your account:
  1. Application
  2. Social security number
  3. Drivers license number
That’s it!

Here is the number to call to set up your account or for questions: 800-540-6718

Other numbers for future reference:
24 hour help line: 1-800-435-4000
International collect number: 1-317-596-4501
International direct dial number (Spain): 900-96-1285 (call from a land line phone)

**During the 2012 Olympics I ended up buying a fake ticket that cost me over $700. Schwab was able to get all my money back in just a few weeks! Super helpful! They gave me updates every few days on the progress


  1. Hi Allison,

    I'm going to be a "Valencia Expat" in (fingers crossed) a few months so I really appreciate this info. I was going to open a Citi account in the U.S. before I leave and then access my money from one of their Spain branches. But I am wondering now if this would incur international fees. Charles Schwab sounds like a great option. Thanks!

  2. Great info. Thanks for sharing!