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Schwab ATM/debit card

I am thinking of opening an account with Schwab to get a 0 fee debit/ATM withdrawal card. Any fees accrued they give you credit. Has anyone dealt with Schwab and this card and would you recommend it? I will be in Europe for 43 days, so will need quite a bit of money/cash. I can use my credit card on some accommodations, but some of them require cash. My Credit Union charges 2.50 for every ATM withdrawal on their end and there is also the fee from the ATM in Europe that will be charged. I am staying away from getting cash at the airport and will try to locate Banks to get cash, if possible. 15 of those days will be on a tour, but will still need money to pay for meals , some extra sightseeing and etc. Thank you for your suggestions.

Posted by
4689 posts

Several people here recommend the Schwab card. I used to have an Andrews Federal Credit Union ATM card that charged $0 per use and 0% currency conversion fee. Now they've switched to a Visa debit card which charges 1% for conversion. (Same as my regular credit union.) Although it might be tempting to get the Schwab card, I find I really don't use much cash in Europe anymore. I might use 100-200 Euros tops on a two week trip (pay for almost everything with my credit card - no foreign transaction fees). So I might save $2 (1%) for a trip I take once a year? Probably not worth the hassle for me.

$2.50 per use is higher than any credit union I've ever been with charged. (Plus they surely charge you a percentage like other credit unions do.) Do you like your current credit union otherwise? If not, you might look for another one you could join that doesn't charge these high fees - look for one that charges $0 per use .

I've never been charged an ATM fee from an ATM in Europe in over a dozen trips. Yes, SOMETIMES you'll find one (more in Spain I'm told, never used an ATM there), but if you stick to a bank-owned ATM you probably won't be charged any fee by the ATM's owner.

Just be sure to withdraw cash in LOCAL currency! (e.g. Euros). Reject attempts to withdraw or pay in US dollars (if you are American) - that's a rip-off called Dynamic Currency Conversion (DCC). Always say not - always withdraw or pay in the local currency!

Posted by
5316 posts

Many people have used and recommended the Schwab debit card -- myself included. Works perfectly for me. Type "Schwab" into the search box to see comments.
And yes, I have been charged a fee by the local bank -- most recently in Italy -- and Schwab reimbursed my account automatically. I have several IRA and brokerage accounts with Schwab, so having the checking account there is no additional hassle.

Posted by
2045 posts

We have used Schwab for several years, and their customer service when called is top notch. you actually have to open a brokerage account also, but you do not have to have anything deposited in it. The account for the ATM card is easily re-filled by electronic transfer from your choice of sources. The ATM card is chip and pin (unlike our CapOne which is ATM only), and can be used at ticket machines and the like (except apparently in Netherlands, as those seem to require a card from Dutch bank.). The friction on cash withdrawals from ATMs seems to be about a .3 or so of 1% increase on the daily exchange rate that you see online. If it is a joint account, each of you will have your own identified card, which means each of you has your own daily $1,000 limit.I would not worry that much about airport ATMs, in most places you will find bank-owned ATMs that do not charge any differently then if you encountered them downtown.And before anyone jumps in with this, it has been shown that Travelex ATMs (not exchange machines) operate in a proper manner in airports (at least in Heathrow, where they have a monopoly) with standard exchange rates and no fees, just make sure that you do the transaction in the local currency. European banks ahd been barred from charging fees for using their ATMs, but in some places this may not hold, e.g. Spain and Italy allow banks of their own nation to charge fees.

Posted by
81 posts

Thanks for the advice. The credit card/ATM card from my credit union has a 0 transaction fee and I will have to check the 2.50 fee again. I may have to shop around for a new credit union, although we have used this one for over 30 years and have been very happy. I have a Chase Sapphire Preferred Credit Card. I have been reading that Europe does everything now with chip and pin. I have been told by 2 customer service people at chase that if I use a pin on this card , the money will come out as a cash advance with a charge of close to 25%. This seems ridiculous, since this is advertised as a travel card, with no transaction fees. The customer service person told me to just ask them to run it with something I could sign such as paper without the pin. It has a chip embedded in the card. This seems absolutely ridiculous. Now, all of a sudden I am looking at a better travel credit card. All of this is very confusing and frustrating.

Posted by
852 posts

I haven't had a problem when needing to sign with purchases made with my American chip card. You won't need to ask for them to run it special--I think it prints automatically. Sometimes the clerk seems surprised when they look at the slip and see a signature line.

Posted by
5316 posts

Try different customer service people at Chase -- are you perhaps talking to local branch personnel instead of international specialists on an 800 line ? We use CSP and CSR and have no problems.

Posted by
81 posts

I will be going on a 15 day tour in the Balkans where I will need several different currencies besides Euros. I will start in Budapest for a few days and end in Split Croatia on the tour The other Countries I will be in are Slovenia, Austria and Germany. Are there any suggestions for a 0% transaction fee credit card? I will spend a short time in the Amsterdam airport on the way over and arrive in the Budapest airport where I will need Ft forints right away.

Posted by
81 posts

I have noticed that you can get different answers from different people. Usually the people at Chase are very professional and I always call the # on the back of the card. I will try again.

Posted by
2045 posts

We have a Capital One Quicksilver Mastercard and a Chase Visa Amazon Rewards card, neither of which charges a foreign transaction fee. The Cap One has 1.5% cashback on everything; the Chase Amazon card has 3% cashback on Amazon purchases, 2% on restaurants. The restaurant cashback has always worked properly in Europe. We have used these cards, and also the Schwab, in all the countries you mention. Schwab does want notification of travel, so if you must pull some euro on your layover in Amsterdam make sure you mention both Netherlands and Hungary for that day, but for a layover your credit card should be sufficient for your needs.

BTW, the answer Chase gave you is partially correct, partially wrong. What they ashould ajve said was that if you use your credit card to get cash from an ATM, it will be a cash advance, and in fact at those usurious rates.

Posted by
4689 posts

I have a Chase Sapphire Preferred Credit Card. I have been reading that Europe does everything now with chip and pin. I have been told by 2 customer service people at chase that if I use a pin on this card , the money will come out as a cash advance with a charge of close to 25%. This seems ridiculous, since this is advertised as a travel card, with no transaction fees.

The agent was mistaken - slightly. If you use that Chase credit card at an ATM, to get cash? Yes, you'll pay a steep cash advance interest rate.

If someone tries to charge your credit card as a "debit card?" Yes, same thing, probably: you'll pay with a cash advance.

But I've used my non-PIN cards dozens of times in Europe, and that's never happened. When the transaction involves a human being instead of machine, instead of requesting a PIN, they print a slip and have me sign it (sometimes they don't realize I am supposed o sign the slip and leave a copy with them - I try to remind them). At a machine, a PIN is often not requested at all.

In fact, I've never requested a PIN for my regular credit cards (because I've never wanted to use them for a cash advance!). I doubt it would work for credit card purchases.

I have a true chip and PIN credit card as well to use in those rare cases when a machine won't work with my other non-PIN credit cards. Rarely need to use it.

Posted by
56 posts

Regarding schwab you don’t need a checking account, all you need is a brokerage account and they can send you a debit card tied to the money mkt acct within your brokerage acct. schwab will pull a credit report to open a “checking” account, pls. read the checking acct. small print. Chase sapphire travel credit card customer service told me the same thing. I did not get a pin b/c I won’t be making transactions that are considered cash advances.

Posted by
9421 posts

We have had a Schwab account since our first trip to Europe in 2010. we like it so much, it has become our primary account whether we are traveling or not. Combined with a no-fee CC like Cap One or United Mileage Plus Explorer, I feel like we aren't being gouged for fees.

BTW, never accept DCC or "Dynamic Currency Conversion" when you use your card for an expense in Europe. This option does not offer the best exchange rate.

Posted by
81 posts

Thanks for info on the Chase Card. I will ditch that pin number. I am glad you like the Schwab accounts. It sounds like the way to go to avoid those ATM fees. When I used the one I have in Mexico last September, it cost me 16.50 to get $200.00.

Posted by
2961 posts

I love the convenience and no cost of my Schwab debit card. I use this account exclusively for travel. No ATM fees ever and no foreign transaction fees. I am a person that needs to have saved up for the cost of the trip before I will go on a trip. This accounts works great for me. I just put my "travel money" each month into the account and I always know how much I have saved up towards the next trip. I've even used it in Africa with no problems.

Posted by
1452 posts

I can't believe how long it took me to find the Schwab debit card! It's changed the way I acquire and manage cash - for the better.

Posted by
1 posts

I switched to Schwab when I went on my first RS tour in 2009. I have never had to pay any bank fees in Europe or the US for that matter. There is also no charge for ordering checks. Any bank/atm fees that you get charged at the time of usage, they refund you at the end of the month. I recommend getting a Schwab account to anyone traveling or not.

Posted by
1620 posts

I also use my Schwab ATM exclusively for traveling abroad. Make sure you call ahead and tell them about your travel plans. In order to prove to them I am using my card to travel, I purchase something with the card at the airport of departure. They then know I am on my way. Make sure you take a back up card with you just in case the card doesn't initially work upon arrival abroad. I make sure that a family member in the States can call them if need be to tell them, once again, I am traveling. After that initial glitch, it's smooth sailing.

Posted by
4690 posts

I use State Department Federal Credit Union both for 0% transaction credit card and fee-free ATM withdrawals. Lots of Western Europe doesn't have local ATM fees. My wife uses Capital One. Both have rather low credit limits compared to too-big-to-fail giant banks. Annoyingly, the SDFCU debit/ATM card has to be used every six months or it shuts itself down. Until recently, paying the bill for the SDFCU credit card could not be done next-day electronically, but only with a paper check. Now it's an ACH transaction like real banks.

I would not want a debit card on the Brokerage account with my retirement money in it!

Posted by
2045 posts

With Schwab, you must open the Investor Brokerage account in order to also get the Investor Checking Account. But you don't ever have to deposit anything in the Investor brokerage account, and the ATM card is never linked to it no matter what, it is for the Checking account only.

Posted by
629 posts

We travel with Schwab and Capital One. You can “Lock” both cards very easily when you aren’t using them. I only use them to withdraw local currency when traveling. As soon as I finish my withdrawal, I lock the card until I need to withdraw money again.

Posted by
5316 posts

To Tim's comment about not wanting an ATM card attached to a retirement account -- my card only has access to money in my Schwab checking account, which gets funded only for travel needs. Works for me.
EDIT: Note that any withdrawals from a retirement account would be reported to the IRS on form 1099-R -- and subject to early withdrawal penalties if you are below specified age.

Posted by
56 posts

Points of Clarification with Schwab Debit Card...
There are 2 options...
Option 1.) If you are opening your first checking account with Schwab bank, Schwab will pull your credit and you will have a hard pull on your credit report for the next 3 years which will lower your credit score.
Option 2.) Open a brokerage account and get a debit card tied to the "brokerage account money market" account. Regarding Tim's comment about not wanting to pull money from his retirement account. One can open more than one brokerage account with Schwab. The new brokerage account could contain one's traveling money in the "brokerage account money market" and can be withdrawn using your Schwab debit card worldwide. How would you make sure that you are not withdrawing money from one's retirement account? Do NOT get a debit card for your retirement account, instead only get a debit card for your "brokerage travel account".

Posted by
2961 posts

I'm a little worried that the information in the post from joyful traveler may not be entirely accurate. Perhaps the conditions have changed over the time from when I opened my account or perhaps joyful traveler is a little confused.

I opened a brokerage account at Charles Schwab. This did not impact my credit rating. I did not put one penny in the actual account. I then opened an investor checking account with the ATM/debit card associated with it and it has worked extremely well as my travel debit card.

Posted by
81 posts

I spoke with Schwab and they assured me that I only needed money in the checking account and that it was FDIC insured and if there was money in a brokerage account that it was also secured. The person I spoke to said they will do a credit report no matter what. To me it would be worth it and I have excellent credit scores. I am going into their office this week to discuss all the details. I really appreciate all of the helpful comments. Thank you!

Posted by
81 posts

I checked the Nerd Wallet link and they did say it would be a hard inquiry on your credit report.

Posted by
2045 posts

Wow. I opened the two accounts at Schwab, and nothing bad happened. As for the "Hard credit pull", Nerd wallet describes such an action as can cause 5 point drop in your FICO score. Seriously, if causing a 5 point drop in one's FICO score, for presumably a short period of time, will be a problem, perhaps one is not in the financial position where one should be traveling internationally.

Posted by
3313 posts

I opened an investment account at Schwab (not for travel but actually for investing). They did a "soft" credit inquiry. My score was not impacted. It actually went up 2 points since I opened the account 3 months ago.

Anyway, I guess YMMV. And don't believe everything you find on the web.

And Larry, I agree. If your credit score is that precariously balanced that any inquiry will actually be detrimental, maybe you should work on your credit score instead of traveling?

Posted by
56 posts

It’s all about making INFORMED decisions - having complete and accurate information BEFORE making decisions. Knowing that something can have a potentially negative impact (financial or otherwise) BEFORE one makes a decision is always wise rather than suffering the consequences.

Posted by
101 posts

I've had a Schwab brokerage account and IRA for a long time. I have checks and a debit card to withdraw cash from the brokerage account. I don't have a separate checking account with them. I have no idea whether they did a credit check when I opened the accounts. If someone's credit is in a condition that an inquiry to open a checking account is going to have a material negative impact on their rating, maybe a trip to Europe isn't such a good idea.

Posted by
2045 posts

Was your credit score dropped? How much? Do you actually know anyone who this happened to?
Because if not, you are merely repeating something you saw, and flying in the face of everyone who has actually been involved in this. I would wager that you do not any involvement with Schwab and these accounts, as what you are stating and warning people away from is contrary to the experience reported by those who are with Schwab (and it seems fairly clear you don't know their account structure). Making an "informed decision" ought to be based on actual information from the source, and not an article on the internet that wants to make sure you read it and keep clicking. Keeping score here, we have 9 satisfied users of the Schwab set-up on this thread alone, countered by this one repeated reference to an internet article that comes from a site that is supported by many banks who are paid advertisers -and surprise, surprise - Schwab is not one of Nerdwallets paid advertisers. It couldn't possibly be that it is in their interest to advise away from a business that does not support them, could it?

And just to add - a look at the various rules indicates that applying for a debit card -which is not credit and pays out of your account with funds you have - does not create a hard pull. it takes an application to receive credit to do that. But, it appears to be in Nerdwallets' interest to misinform on this.

Posted by
56 posts

Why are you getting upset? Financial institutions (e.g. schwab, banks, etc.), airlines, etc. change their rules all the time. People/travelers should do their own research and it’s very easy to do that these days by googling the topic, calling the institution, etc. Relax information is power and folks can use the information provided on these forums to do further research.

Posted by
2045 posts

I am not getting upset, why are you getting defensive?

This thread started as someone's inquiry about Schwab accounts, and how to save some fees and have more convenience.nAnd that was what they were getting in reply (which same information, if one took the effort to enter a search here on this board has appeared here many times over the years), when suddenly there appeared the out of the blue warning about the spurious credit check, along with a misstatement about the Schwab accounts, coming from someone who is not with Schwab. And when this was subsequently ignored by further posters, followed with further misinformation about Schwab, and that dire warning about getting a hard credit pull and the consequences (Yikes-a drop of 5 in FICO score, which can be challenged, BTW). And when this was challenged, it turns out the source of this all is an internet site that runs on paid advertising from banks and financial institutions (the site lists them), and Schwab does not pay them, so the discrediting information about Schwab can't be trusted. Nor should it, since a hard credit pull would not be done for opening an account that does not involve issuing credit -this can be found by searching hard credit pulls online and what generates them.

So if indeed you "provide accurate information so that people can make INFORMED decisions", then accurate information is what this is about. And not advertising sites that provide information solely to the benefit of their advertisers while detracting from those who have not paid in. Any place change its own rules. You find those rules by going directly to the source, not by going to a paid third party site that will issue information according to its own interests.

The optimal ways to handle money is one of the most frequent topics on this site, with the same questions, and answers, repeated ad infinitum. The information that has been repeated regarding the hard pulls, and regarding the numerous misstatement of the account types, does a great disservice to the infrequent users of this board who will not have seen how this contradicts information that is already available.

Misinformation, and misinforming people, is not power.

Posted by
81 posts

I have made a decision and thank you for your input. I found Schwab extremely professional to work with.

Posted by
187 posts

A lot of great info about the Schwab debit card - thank you! I am pretty sure this is the route I’ll take for my next trip. Really no reason to pay any ATM fees these days.