It’s no secret that we’re major travelhackers. This one time, we flew for three days straight just to maximize our time in the business class cabin.

We get these flights and access to premium lounges by using bonuses earned from credit cards (affiliate link), so they don’t cost very much.

Travel Hacker's Toolbox

Most travel hackers are interested in these cards that reward you. Credit card bonuses give you thousands of miles in bonuses and points that you can use to reach the ends of the earth in style.

But…what do you do when you get there? You’re gonna need some cash.

While many places in the world accept credit cards, cash is king when you’re talking about versatility for travel.

So for travelers, it may surprise you that the one card to rule them all is not a mileage earning card. It’s actually a automated teller machine (ATM) card, often also referred to as a debit card.

Unless you plan on carrying a suitcase full of currency for that one-year RTW trip, the only other strategy that would make sense is to carry an ATM debit card. 

These cards give you access to your bank account in your home country from nearly anywhere in the world. 

But not just any card will do. You need one that gives you immunity.

No, not immunity from some exotic disease or virus that you might contract in one of the many remote countries you plan to visit. The kind of immunity I’m talking about is immunity from bank fees.

Nearly every bank in the world charges some sort of access fee to use its ATM machines. Even if your own bank at home has a no-fee policy for using any ATM, that policy does not cover the fees charged by banks whose ATMs you access abroad.

no atm fees

These can be anywhere from $5-$10 per transaction. Over time, you will weep as you pay a small fortune in fees just to withdraw a few hundred bucks here and there as you slowly conquer the world.

Before I continue, let me just say that I am extolling the virtues of the card below purely as an act of kindness. Schwab Bank does not pay us any commissions or referral fees for mentioning this account.

I'm just so excited to share this treasure with everyone from the US who is tired of paying ATM fees.

This is precisely why I recommend all my US-based traveler friends (and even people who travel infrequently) to sign up for the the Charles Schwab High-Yield Investor Checking Account with ATM debit access. Whew…that’s a mouthful isn’t it!

I’ll cut to the chase now before I end up writing a novel about debit cards. There are three reasons you MUST have this card in your wallet are:

1. It’s a FREE account - This is a no-fee interest bearing checking account linked to a brokerage account that has no minimum balance requirements. It’s a FREE account!

2. No fees for unlimited ATM transactions - Charles Schwab bank does not charge you ANY fees for using this card to withdraw funds from any ATM in the world.

3. Get paid back to use other banks’ ATMs - Here’s the HUGE benefit: Charles Schwab bank rebates you back any fees that the other banks charge you for using those ATMs abroad.

Lots of banks offer the first two features, but number 3 is where this card cements its position as the one card that every long-term traveler must have.

With these three incredible features, it costs you practically nothing to access your cash accounts while you are abroad.

Important Note: The no-fee features are only available for ATM Withdrawals. Point of sale purchases are still subject to foreign transaction and bank fees. So it's best to use this card only to withdraw cash, not for making purchases!   Also, this account is available only to US citizens.

Do you have your own strategy for avoiding ATM fees while traveling? We'd love to hear about it in the comments!