What is the Best Free Checking Account: Schwab or Fidelity?

Unless you carry a large balance in your account, most banks are going to charge account maintenance fees. At $3-$5 a month, these fees can add up. Paying those fees is the same thing as throwing money away. Moreover, if you travel you’ll be forced to pay out-of-network ATM fees.

There is a simple solution. Open a cash management account (a fancy way of saying checking account) with either Fidelity or Schwab.

I’m most familiar with Fidelity. Fidelity will reimburse your ATM fees, even those outrageous $10 fees incurred at strip clubs. You don’t pay any account fees. You can just deposit checks by taking a picture. It’s pretty cool.

Schwab is superior than Fidelity for international travelers. Schwab reimburses ATM fees worldwide. UPDATE: Fidelity now reimburses ATM fees worldwide.

Here are the links (no affiliate). Read up on the services for yourself to decide what is right for you:

I have agree 100% with this.

I moved abroad to Russia earlier this year. I spent a lot of time researching how to get access to my money overseas.

My research concluded that the ATM cards from Fidelity and Schwab (I have them both) as well as some seldom-known banks had the best deals. I started using the cards regularly overseas, and compared the exchange rates Schwab and Fidelity gave me vs. interbank rates on the internet.

Fidelity and Schwab typically dinged me about 0.20 – 0.25% in exchange fees (yeah, a fifth of a percentage point).

The other “low cost” banks that didn’t impose fees on me imposed lousy exchange rates… anywhere from 0.5% to 2%.

The big banks were the worst: Chase was dinging me for about 5%-6% by giving me a per-transaction flat fee of $5 plus a lousy exchange rates.

Schwab and Fidelity are just awesome for international travelers. I also investment accounts with each with a sizable sum, so I get premiere support from both. When I call, someone picks up the phone: no holding, no long phone trees and an experienced, competent native speaker fixes my issues.

I couldn’t be happer with both of them.

I have a Schwab account and couldn’t be happier. I second everything greenlander says above. It’s wonderful to not worry about finding the correct ATM and I have also experienced the perks of international travel with it. I don’t have any money invested with them at the moment and still have gotten great, prompt customer service from them so it’s not like they treat you poorly if you just use the checking account portion.

I opened a savings/checking account at my local credit union before I moved to Poland for 5 months. They reimburse all my international ATM fees and there is no commission on the exchange rate when I withdraw money. I’m not sure if all credit unions do this but it’s worth checking if you want a regular bank you can also walk into.

Interest rates suck now, but you can still get around 1% at an online bank like Ally. It’s not much but if you have a chunk of cash you might as well earn something if you aren’t going to invest it. I closed my Chase accounts because the interest rate was closer to 0.1%, they charged international ATM fees and they required minimum balances on their accounts.

Unless you’re saving for a major purchase I you’re better of investing in stocks. I have a big part of my savings in Apple and I’ve made 50-100% from buying at the $250 and $400 levels. At $550 it’s still very attractive since the price accounts for the fiscal cliff/capital gains tax selloff and it pays a dividend. With inflation at least at 2% (probably more like 3%+), you’re money is losing value even if you’re getting the best possible return on your savings. Once you have 3-6 months of living expenses saved, look to invest your money somehow instead of buying depreciating assets like cars and electronics.

D&P, What do you know about Bank of Internet? I’ve been using them for a couple years now. They have no bricks and mortors banks set up and are able to offer a higher interest rate on all accounts. I get 1.25% pa on my checking account, for example. They also reimburse up to $8 per month for any ATM charges. Honestly though, ATM fees aren’t a problem when you just take money out at the supermarket anyway.

If you aren’t a world traveler, look into your local credit union. Most people qualify for a credit union on the basis of either employment or geography. My credit union no only doesn’t charge any fees, they pay interest on checking. And I have all the bells and whistles like depositing checks through my cell phone, etc.

Any banks similar to Schwab or Fidelity in Europe?

Don’t really have that 10k$ to open an international account on neither.

I live in the states and I don’t travel internationally often. I have liked my high yield (high interest) checking account with my credit union. I opened this account many years ago when the bank was offering 6% interest. They’re currently returning 3% interest. There are other perks and there are restrictions but it has worked well for me.

I just did a quick google search and it looks like there are still a variety of high yield checking account options available from various banks and credit unions today.

Free banking: one of the perks of being British.

Something else to consider is parking some money in high interest checking accounts. Currently, I’m earning 3% on my balance.

Check out this link to find a bank or credit union in your area that interests you…

I have an account with Schwab, and I can say their customer service is uniformly superior to that of any other company. It is like calling up your personal accountant, except with better availability. Every time I’ve spoken to someone, they are unfailingly courteous, competent and helpful. Always American too.

Credit unions work well. Mine charges 1% on its credit card for foreign transaction fee and has a decent exchange rate. Chase charges 3% for that and has a crap rate on top of that. My credit union debit/ATM card also works well overseas though I do have to notify them when and where I’m going when I leave the country.

Try Astoria Federal Savings if you are in NYC, especially Brooklyn. No minimums, free if you have one withdrawal or transaction every three months or so (easy for a normal person), on-line banking, unlimited checks per cycle and the cutest Eastern European girls at many branches. Just going into the neighborhoods where they are I have scored lays. There are many other banks that cater to immigrant communities with great, free customer service and serve in little or sometimes not so little enclaves where it is like traveling to Eastern Europe.

I worry when aspiring gamers do too much over the telephone and internet as it is a cycle that limits meeting targets. Sometimes you can get convenience and opportunity at the same time. Honestly, I had a good bank for my business that was closer but left it because of how ugly the females working there are, bad attitude too. It makes a difference when you walk in as a business man and a cute female services you. It used to be that to work in a bank you had to at least have the proper waist to hip ratio, no more for non-immigrant areas.

Charles Schwab, $100 Checking Bonus

Charles Schwab is offering a $100 bonus when you open a new account with them. The good part about this is that there are no requirements besides a $1,000 opening deposit, but the bad part is that it is a hard pull. If you’re only looking to get the bonus, this is probably not the best offer for you. If you’re looking to take advantage of their no fee account while traveling abroad then this is a good time to sign up.

New clients who do not have a Charles Schwab & Co., Inc. account (other than a Stock Plan Services account), open an eligible retail brokerage account, and enroll in the offer can earn a $100 Bonus Award. The Bonus Award will be credited to the enrolled account within approximately one month of account open. For taxable accounts, the account must be maintained at Schwab for at least one year or Schwab may charge back the Bonus Award. A minimum deposit of $1000 is required to open most Schwab brokerage accounts.

The offer is limited to one per account, with no more than one account enrolled per client.

For taxable accounts, the value of all Schwab offers received will be reported as Other Income on your Form 1099-MISC if, when combined with Other Income earned, the value totals $600 or more during the calendar year.

As DoC points out, it’s a good idea to open a High Yield checking account and a brokerage account and it would only be one hard pull. You can then apply for the Charles Schwab Amex credit cards that would get you a sign up bonus. You could also cash out MR points at 1.25 cents a piece, not the best use, but a better cash out rate.

With the Schwab Bank High Yield Investor Checking Account you pay no ATM fees worldwide, there are no monthly service fees, you’ll earn interest on your balance (nothing crazy, just 0.06% APY). The account minimum balance is $0 as well.

Whoa, the Charles Schwab Checking Account Is Perfect for Travel

It doesn’t matter that you have an anti-theft RFID, chain-mail, knife proof cash belt with +20 resistance to fire; or that you’re “really, really careful.” Having too much cash on you is just unsafe. In most cases, you’re better off depending on a good credit card or pulling cash out of an ATM. With a little know-how, you can skip the fees, too.

You probably know Charles Schwab as an investment banking firm, but they also have an online checking account called High Yield Investor Checking Account. If you constantly find yourself getting cash from foreign ATM fees, only to have your bank also charge you a separate fee, this checking account is going to flip your world upside down. Charles Schwab will reimburse you for any ATM fees incurred at the end of the month–with no limit to the amount, apparently.

I first heard about this from a friend, and after looking it up, I quickly signed up. The process is painless, assuming your credit is healthy. A couple of steps to know:

  1. Before they send you the debit card in the mail, you need to verify your existing checking account from another institution. They make two tiny deposits in your account and you just have to confirm the amounts, similar to how PayPal does it.
  2. Once verified, sync your other checking account to your newly opened Charles Schwab account so that you can transfer funds back and forth. Initiating a transfer to and from your Charles Schwab account should not incur any fees. I double and triple checked with the representatives and even checked my account.
  3. Allocate a certain amount of money to your Charles Schwab account, which henceforth should be your nest egg for getting and using cash any time you travel. You don’t have to worry about the ATM fees, which can add up if you tend to withdraw a lot.
  4. You’ll be sent your debit card once you’ve transferred some funds to the Charles Schwab account.
  5. One caveat: When activating your debit card, you’ll need to do it while you’re in the U.S. Trying to do it overseas gave me problems with finalizing my pin (something about being unable to read touch tones from international phones). In any case, if you open an account, make sure to have everything set up before you leave the U.S.

I use this account solely for traveling. It’s nice that I can just throw in a certain amount of money and not freak out if it gets lost or stolen. Before this, I just withdrew and exchanged a certain amount of “starter” cash for the country I was visiting. This involved some arbitrary, nonsensical calculations in my head about how much I think I would need, but I almost always overshot this and would return with leftover cash that was too little to make the selling worth it. Not to mention, I didn’t feel comfortable carrying a lot of cash on me. Nowadays I let my Chase Sapphire Reserve credit card and Charles Schwab ATM card take care of everything.

It’s worth noting that Charles Schwab’s High Yield Investor Checking account isn’t the only account that waives foreign ATM fees. Capital One and Fidelity also have something similar, but my experience is directly related to Schwab’s and I have so far found it super convenient and hassle-free.

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