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Charles Schwab Debit card

Hello! Has anyone used a Charles Schwab debit card? I have been researching debit/credit cards to use on our trip to Austria, Germany, and Italy. The credit card we are going to use is no problem but since our bank does not offer free international transactions fees, etc. on debit cards we will need to open a new account. Charles Schwab, although very difficult to find a brick and mortar location, seems to be our best bet due to the fact that they do not charge fees on any foreign transactions (or will reimburse you if you happen to be charged as well as reimburse you for fees charged on foreign ATM) no minimum balance is required, and they do not charge currency conversion fees and you have unlimited ATM withdrawals.
I see on the forums different cards people have suggested/used but I never see Charles Schwab mentioned. I just want to know if anyone has used them and, if so, have you had any trouble? They have been around for quite some time and seem to have good reveiws.
Thanks in advance!!

Posted by
68 posts

Yes, I highly recommend the CS debit card! I've seen it mentioned occasionally here on the forum, but not as much as I would expect. I opened my Schwab account several years ago and have used it on many trips, international and domestic. It feels more secure to me to travel with a debit card not connected to my local bank with my other accounts, and I can put just what I need for travel into the Schwab account. It's easy to make transfers or deposit checks using their website or mobile app. You're right, they don't have as many brick and mortar stores, but you can call to ask questions or have them walk you through opening an account. Their customer service is excellent and customers don't have to wade through a long menu to talk to a real person. It is great to have all ATM fees, both US and foreign, refunded- that was one of the perks that caught my attention at the beginning.

I would suggest giving yourself plenty of lead time to open an account before your trip, and then to make your initial deposits or link an account for transfers. I managed to do it all within a week or two, but it was tight!

Hope this helps and have a wonderful trip!

Posted by
2518 posts

Another bank to consider is Capital One Bank - same as the credit card company. Very easy and fast to open an account and receive a fee free debit card. I opened an account there years ago for that express purpose and I also use their credit cards. What’s nice is that they have an app that shows all your accounts with them and you can easily transfer funds from a bank account to pay your cc balance.

Posted by
4686 posts

I prefer credit unions when there's a choice, and I use an Andrews Federal Credit Union ATM card in Europe to get cash: no fees, no currency conversion fee (0%), unlimited number of uses. I've never been charged a few to use it. I don't even have a debit card - just a plain ATM card and savings account. So I can't use it for purchases but don't need to. I use credit cards for that.

I also had an Andrews FCU chip and PIN visa for a while (since got another card from someone else, didn't need the Andrews visa anymore). This card too has no foreign transaction fees. I used it at machines to buy train tickets in Amsterdam and elsewhere where my chip and signature cards did not work without a PIN. Some people complain that the Andrews visa card requires a signature when your transaction involves a human being, but at machines you can use your PIN, and that's all I needed. Some people use this card to buy fuel at unattended pumps.

Credit unions have weird rules about who can join - only "eligible" people can join one. But for Andrews, you can simply join the American Consumer Council (sign up for a year for a one-time $5 fee, no need to renew it) as described on the Andrews website and that's all you need to join.

Andrews is an east coast credit union (Maryland). I've never been to a branch, never needed to go to one.

Posted by
16826 posts

I think either Schwab or Capital One would be fine. I have a back-up account at Capital One. When I set it up, I remember being told that I wouldn't have access to the funds immediately. I don't know how long the hold period was, but as with Schwab, take care of this sooner rather than later.

Posted by
2039 posts

We have both, obtained the CapOne earlier, then the Schwab becasue their card is chip-an-pin and can be used as a debit card -particularly ticket machines abroad.The CapOne is only an ATM card.

I would not be concerned about there being no physical bank to go in to. Transfer can be done from your regular bank account online. Just make sure to feed the account a week before you need to take the money. The exchange rate on ATM withdrawals is .3 to .8 of 1 percent depending on card. It has been the exact rate when we used it for ticket machines, or online when a credit card would not go through. Of course no foreign transaction fee with either.

Another plus with both - if you have a joint account, you each get a card, with a different number. So that each of you can withdraw the daily limit.

And both have excellent customer service.

Posted by
106 posts

I opened a Charles Schwab account last year primarily to use the debit card when traveling. The account was opened through the mail and online. I’ve used the card at ATMs in Greece, Spain and England with no problems. All ATM fees are refunded into my account at the end of each month.

Posted by
412 posts

Another vote for the Schwab card, it is and does everything the above posters mentioned. I used it in Germany and Austria in September.

Posted by
9419 posts

We got a Schwab account 8 years ago due to a planned European trip and never looked back. They have fantastic service and became our primary bank. It was very useful when we lived overseas. We couple that with three credit cards that have no foreign transaction fees: Cap One, AMEX Gold, and United Mileage Plus Explorer Card.

Posted by
2954 posts

I've used the Schwab debit card for the last 3 years for travel and have been quite pleased. When my card was "skimmed" in Victoria 2 years ago, their fraud dept caught it almost immediately and I was made whole within a week.

Posted by
2525 posts

The Schwab ATM/debit card is great and I’ve been a very satisfied customer over the years. As noted, the financial benefits are great. Also, if two cards are issued on an account, each card has a unique number. If one card is compromised, the other can function safely. Customer service is excellent....knowledgeable people quickly answer my calls and provide accurate information.

Posted by
345 posts

I carry two debit cards for ATM cash withdrawal when on the road. They do not charge foreign transaction fees, and will refund non-network ATM fees. With no fees attached, I make small withdrawals enough for a couple of days' expenses. No need to worry about dealing with a large sum of cash. I use one card at home and on the road, and carry the Charles Schwab debit card as a backup. I don't use that account for any other reasons, and have to remember depositing money before each trip.

https://www.thebudgetmindedtraveler.com/how-to-set-up-a-charles-schwab-bank-account-and-avoid-atm-fees-anywhere/

Posted by
125 posts

Thank you for the link to set up the Schwab acct. It also contained like from the podcast Budget Minded Traveler, which was great!
Thanks to everyone for your prompt and informative responses. We will be going with Schwab as they sound like a great option!

Posted by
5308 posts

Great! I think you will like Schwab. Just make sure you do this far enough ahead of your trip so you can avoid the FedEx charge for expedited delivery of the card.

Posted by
13 posts

Hi--
Sorry to reactivate this thread.

Those of you who use a debit card abroad (specifically Schwab), do you use it for all purchases (ie at restaurants, transportation tickets, etc.), or only for ATM withdrawals? I've used the Schwab card for ATM withdrawals internationally but never for purchases. What do you recommend?

Posted by
4686 posts

As a rule, I don't use debit cards for purchases unless absolutely necessary, and I've never done so in Europe. I don't see any benefit to it unless I don't have a credit card with no foreign transaction fees - but those are easy to get nowadays.

Posted by
5308 posts

Only used my Schwab card for a purchase once -- wasn't thinking straight, pulled it out to buy a transit pass in Budapest when I meant to use a credit card. But I also don't use my regular debit card at home for anything but cash withdrawals.

Posted by
4820 posts

Concerning Charles Schwab:

  • When you open an account, you are setting up a credit line and an investment account. You need not invest, and need only put money in the "checking" account, but it is more involved than a basic account at your local bank or credit union, it is close to a Mortgage Application.
  • Daily withdrawal limits are much higher than your local bank, basically $1000 vs $250, $300, or $500.
  • Any fees charged by the ATM are refundable..with the exception of Dynamic Currency Conversion (DCC) and built in Network Fees.

Our experience is that it is our "go to" debit card when travelling, in fact, that account is just for travel. We do not use the card for purchases, Credit card makes more sense (we have a true Chip and PIN with PIN priority)

Posted by
1949 posts

I love my Charles Schwab debit card. I use it primarily for ATM withdrawals. The only time I use it for payments is when I need to use a pin for a purchase (like at machines for train tickets).

Posted by
3277 posts

I never use a Debit card to purchase things. I only use it to get cash from an ATM to then purchase things. I use credit cards for all purchases I don't use cash for. If the credit card gets compromised, it is the bank's money that gets taken so they are more urgently pursuing recovery.

I have the Capital One 360 account. The Debit card is a MasterCard, has a chip in it, you can make purchases as well as use it in an ATM. It has worked everywhere in the world I have tried to use it and I have never been charged any fee at all for using it. Capital One even absorbs the 1% network fee that MasterCard charges them for international access. Capital One does have multiple accounts, make sure you get the 360 account if you chose one of their account because it is completely fee free. Some Caital One account do charge fees for various things.

Posted by
1 posts

I have had CS debit card for 8 years and love it. Also have a USAA debit card who also reimburses you, but not everyone will qualify for that one. That one is my backup. I live and travel in Europe more than the US, so occasionally I need more than the customary amount withdrawn. I tried to get a cash advance for $3000, and could not do it in some countries, so you want to allow yourself enough time to make multiple withdrawals over a few days when you need larger sums. Most European banks have there limit on how much you can withdrawal daily even if you call Schwab and up your one time limit.. I ended up going to Veneto Bank where they have a 1500 Euro daily limit which is a lot larger than most.

Posted by
1 posts

pampaguy2 - can I ask, have you ever used your USAA debit card at ATMs in Italy? We are heading to Florence & Rome in October, and are considering using our USAA debit card for atm withdrawals, but have heard frequent complaints about their debit cards not working abroad. Might just get a CS account, since the reviews are so good. Thanks!

Posted by
5308 posts

I can verify that Charles Schwab debit card worked in Italy in May 2017 -- and CS refunded the €3 fees charged by the local bank (I kept using the same bank in different cities-- it always seemed to be the one nearest me when I wanted cash.)

Posted by
2 posts

One negative of Schwab is that they do a hard pull of your credit report when you open any account. I still may open an account for the advantage of no foreign transaction fees ... but I'm still looking for one that matches Schwab on this, but does NOT do a hard pull.

Currently, I have the Fidelity Cash Management Account debit card which is great in the U.S. as it reimburses all ATM fees but they charge a 1% foreign transaction fee.

I have the Andrews debit card, and am trying to research if they do indeed charge NOTHING. I'm going to find the answer today, because if that's true, it's better for me.

Someone mentioned CapOne360. The negative with them is that they do NOT reimburse certain ATM fees: i.e. if the ATM machine owner charges a fee. All this matters to me as I'll be spending 5 months abroad next winter.

Posted by
2 posts

Question for Paul ... you say you have a "true chip and pin with pin priority CC". Curious which card that is. A while back I got my account at Andrews for the sole purpose of their credit card that I THOUGHT was "pin priority", but when I was in Europe, I could NOT get it to work at a man-less train station ticket machine in Italy... I later learned that the Andrews card really ISN'T "true"... Maybe they have since upgraded their card, and i need to get a new one. Or you have a different card entirely?

Posted by
4820 posts

My Chip and Pin card that is PIN priority is from the United Nations Federal Credit Union (UNFCU). It has worked great in Europe, even defaults to PIN here in the US, I have never run into a situation where it has not worked, even in ticket kiosks in the Netherlands.

I did have to join an "organization" for a small fee to make me eligible for the Credit Union, and then open a line of credit. Could have also got a checking account and debit card, but already have several.

Posted by
3277 posts

CapOne360. The negative with them is that they do NOT reimburse certain ATM fees: i.e. if the ATM machine owner charges a fee. All this matters to me as I'll be spending 5 months abroad next winter.

If you are in Europe, there are very few ATMs that charge a fee to get money. You can simply move to a different ATM operated by a different bank to avoid the fees. In nearly 15 years of travel to Europe using my debit card I have never paid a fee to the ATM, so whether or not Cap One refunds those fees is moot. I do know that some countries in Europe (Spain) you do see some ATMs charging fees now, but there are still multiple options where there is no fee.

Posted by
5308 posts

Agree with Mark that few banks charge an ATM fee and it's easy to avoid by finding another bank -- but if you already have a Schwab card, it's one less thing to look for. Full disclosure, my company 401(k) was at Schwab, transferred it into an IRA when I left, so I have a long-term investment relationship in addition to the checking account.