So, you have just spent the past year grafting your heart out, saving for that next big adventure and planning your trip of a lifetime. The time has come, your bags are packed, your flights are booked and you are ready to go! Wait, what about an international bank account? You don’t want to be spending that hard-earned cash on paying to withdraw YOUR OWN MONEY! Not to worry, here is our guide to avoiding the withdrawal fees and choosing the best international bank account for your next trip.
International Bank Accounts
Before you head off on your next adventure, it is important to ensure you have your finances in order. This means choosing a banking provider that will allow for your nomadic lifestyle, without charging you for any international activity. The two options we opted to try before heading to Europe were the large banking providers, Starling and Monzo.
Both of these offer free cash withdrawals throughout the world, an easy solution to managing your finances remotely and worldwide access to your money, without having to let the bank know your every move.
After using them for the three months we spent in Europe, we do have a clear favourite between the two of them. However, before we get into that lets dive into each in a little more detail.
Starling was the account that I chose after reading about it on many other travel blogs and articles. As I said before, it offers worldwide cash withdrawals and card payments, with no annoying sub-charges to access my money. It also comes with an incredibly easy to use, online app for your phone, allowing you to access your account wherever you may be in the world.
The account makes transferring between any bank account very easy and simple to do, and this is something I regularly did (mostly when I spent too much on wine..). You can log into the app using touch ID, set up contacts and regular payees, and monitor your expenses throughout the month.
All of your spending is categorised to allow easy tracking, such as fuel, bills, food and rent etc. You will be notified about all of your spending by push notifications, letting you know how much you just spent in your home currency, based on the exchange rate on that day. You are also able to set a “low-amount warning” on your account, which will let you know if your account dips below a set amount.
Security wise, you are able to remote lock pretty much any aspect of your account, all independently. You can lock your card payments, cash withdrawals, online payments or all of the above at once, as well as order a new card all from your phone. This means you can relax a bit more if your wallet goes missing after a large night out. Your spending is tracked based on the location of your phone, so there is no need to let the bank know where you are headed, and no need to worry about overseas theft.
Monzo is the account that Gemma decided to try. This account runs in a very similar way to that of Starling, but with some key differences. Here is a summary of it overall.
This card also offers free card transactions and cash withdrawals (up to a point), all over the world. The app that comes with it is also incredibly user friendly, with even better features than the Starling.
The home screen shows you a graphic of your finances over the month, highlighting areas of key spending. You are able to set budgets for different aspects of your life, such as rent, social, food etc, all of which alarm when you are approaching the individual set limits.
With a similar security setup to Starling, you are able to temporarily freeze the use of your account in case of loss or suspected fraud, as well as order a new card and change your pin number right from the app.
The main difference between the two cards is the Starling’s ability to withdraw an unlimited amount of money from foreign ATMs without charging a penny, while Monzo is at a cap of £200 per month. After this cap Monzo starts charging 3% withdrawal fees, which is quite eye-watering for a budget backpacker.
Despite this flaw, Monzo’s interface and abilities in the app make it a very close contender with the Starling. Tracking your spending with alarms when you approach your set limits is very handy for anyone lacking the self-control to turn down one more beer.
Overall, we would have to rate the Starling as our favourite out of the two. This is simply due to its ability to withdraw free cash in an unlimited amount across the globe. On our most recent trip, a lot of the countries we visited would only accept cash, making withdrawals a hefty part of our lives. If we had to pay each time, we would not be the savvy budgeteers you see today!
Before you make your own decision, make sure you do plenty of research into the card that is right for you. Don’t just take my word for it! There are also plenty of cards out there, offering extra benefits such as insurance and discounts, however most of these are paid accounts.
If you found this article useful, make sure you share it with your friends so none of them fall victim to the dreaded “transaction fee”. Also check out our other travel hacks and catch up with us on social media to see what we are currently up to!
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