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Questions about the Schwab accounts and debit card

I see this recommended a lot here. As I understand it, we open a Schwab brokerage account and then get an associated checking account and debit card. Two questions:

Are there any fees for the checking account, or minimum balances for the two accounts?

Does anyone know if Schwab will handle wire transfers to European banks from the checking account? If so, what are the fees?

We had a Chase account that charged $40 for wire transfers and monthly checking account fees, so we closed it. Then we learned that our credit union, which is now our exclusive bank, does not do wire transfers. there are times when it would be nice to be able to do this. For example, my husband will be competing in a Masters rowing event at Lake Bled in September, and we will stay there 4 nights. Almost all of the lodging at Bled is under the control of the rowing association, and reservations must be secured with a deposit into the specific hotel's account by wire transfer. So I had to scramble and find a place outside of the association lists that does not require a wire transfer deposit. I did manage, but it was a hassle.

In the past few trips to Germany, the Dolomites, and the UK I have found places we really wanted to stay but which required deposit by wire transfer. In each case I explained why I could not do that ( my bank, Insaid, lives in the dark ages). And in each case they took pity on me and let us book "on trust" with no deposit. But the booking form for the Bled race association was pitiless and allowed no exceptions.

Next year we are going back to Switzerland and I will be looking for apartments. And I bet one or two of the ones I like will require a wire transfer for the deposit. So I would like to have a bank account that can be used for that.

Posted by
1735 posts

We use our Schwab account for cash using an ATM- no fees at all. I'm not aware of any balance minimums. Our brokerage account has only a couple dollars, literally. Our checking has a few thousand waiting on our next trip, but I don't recall a minimum balance, but ours has always had a few hundred at least.

We ran into the "wire money" issue and was able to solve it by using PayPal. I think one hotel wanted a wire transfer ( we had never heard of that before!) but instead they opened a paypal account and I paid their $5 fee so I could send my money there. They were satisfied and later on suggested they might keep it for more options. Maybe European travelers can wire easy and cheap?

I never did look into Scwab doing the wire.

Have a great time in Slovenia Lola!

Posted by
4805 posts

I agree with the above poster, no checking fees, no minimum balance, though I too use this for travel only, so money not used stays and I add to it regularly for the next trip.

Schwab offers a number of transfer options, I regularly use the online transfer function to move money from my Credit Union to the account at no fee's, there is a wire transfer option, there may be a fee, but that option is available only from the brokerage account, a fee may be dependent on the amount and destination, you could certainly talk to a representative for details.

Posted by
2704 posts

I have rented 7 apartments or houses in Europe and wiring money has never come up. There's always an option to use a credit card with no fee (to pay a deposit or the whole balance) OR use PayPal (to pay just the deposit) which has a low fee structure if transferring in money from a bank, like $5-$15, never as high as the $40-$50 required to do a bank transfer. And PayPal is quick.

Posted by
20598 posts

Just ask these question directly of Schwab instead of a third party. For some reason these seems to be fascination on this site with the Schwab. I am sure it works well but there are other banks that work just as well. It is my understanding that wire transfer is a far more common way of payment in Europe than the US. As a result maybe banks in the Europe do not charge the same rate. I am guessing that Schwab would charge a similar to other banks. No one is going to do it for free since it does involve some work.

Posted by
16763 posts

I do not remember the details because I've never needed to wire money overseas, but at least one poster here has mentioned using a web-based wire transfer service to pay European traffic fines. The expense was quite modest compared to what his bank was going to charge. Some Googling might turn up details.

Posted by
945 posts

Fidelity has a no-fee ATM feature that you can link to a brokerage account. Online wire fees are $10.

Posted by
11677 posts

Thanks, everyone. I will investigate further at Schwartz and also take a look at the other options suggested.

Edit: found the answer to my wire transfer question on the Schwab checking account details page. Schwab does not do wire transfers outside the US.

Posted by
5486 posts

Fidelity has a no-fee ATM feature...

I have a Fidelity cash account with a Debit card. As with everything financial, read the fine print or in Fidelity's case the foot notes. Fidelity Visa ATM/Debit Card:

  1. All Fidelity ATM withdrawal fees will be waived for your Fidelity® Cash Management Account. In addition, your account will automatically be reimbursed for all ATM fees charged by other institutions while using a Fidelity® Visa® Gold Check Card linked to your account at any ATM displaying the Visa®, Plus®, or Star® logos. ATM reimbursements will be credited to the account when the transaction posts. Please note, there is a foreign transaction fee of one percent that is not waived, which will be included in the amount charged to your account. [Bold emphasis added.]
Posted by
1478 posts

It's true that within Europe wire transfers are easy (and free, I believe). I did one with a lodging last year and my bank charged me $40 and the recipient's bank in Italy charged her euro 26.25. I went ahead with it because the lodging itself was so unbelievably inexpensive, but usually I just do not choose any lodging that requires a bank transfer. Too bad.

Posted by
2525 posts

Schwab does offer international wire transfers at $25 and I've used the service. To reiterate, there is no foreign transaction fee which is often three percent, such as my local bank and credit union and not counting out of network fees. Also, any fees assigned by the bank ATMs issuing foreign currency are rebated. The card has worked flawlessly for us around the world and customer service...real people...is superior. So the "fascination" is because it's really that good.

Posted by
11677 posts

Bruce, are you certain those were foreign transfers? Or have they changed their policy on this? It says right here that

"Outgoing wires: $25 Domestic wires only (Schwab Bank does not send wires to countries outside the U.S. and its territories)."

http://www.schwab.com/public/file/P-6425867/SLS77378-01.pdf

I guess I could go and talk to them. This is really the only feature I need, as I already have a good no-fee debit card.

Posted by
2941 posts

Everyone has already answered the questions, but I did want to clarify that the brokerage account need not have any money in it at all. You open it, you don't have to fund it. I use this account to put my "travel money" aside from the rest each month and I have never had any fees. I have been pleased with the service and my card has worked great on 4 continents.

Posted by
2525 posts

@Lola: Yes, international wire transfers are available and cost zero-$25 depending on money held in your account. Note: international wire transfers takes place from your brokerage account, not from your checking account. See: http://international.schwab.com/public/international/pricing_services/wire_transfers Moving money between a checking account and a brokerage account, either direction is very easy and fast. Their smartphone application is good.

Posted by
11677 posts

Thank you so much for clarifying, Bruce. That helps a lot.

So we could fund the brokerage account from the checking when we anticipate the need for a wire transfer?

I think I have found a Mürren apartment that takes credit cards, but I am pretty sure the one I find in Bettmeralp will need a wire deposit.

Posted by
2525 posts

@Lola. Yes. Easy and fast to move money, either way, between your checking account and brokerage account. Travel on!

Posted by
5486 posts

...we anticipate the need for a wire transfer

Wire transfers are certainly desirable from the viewpoint of the recipient in that it is instantaneous and more secure than a cashier's check. In general, the transfer is not reversible. If you want your money back, you are at the mercy of the recipient.

Posted by
2525 posts

I get sweaty palms when setting up an international wire transfer.