Finances on the Road – do you choose BofA? Hope not!

This is a post about making the right choices in personal banking if you are gonna travel. Perhaps a cautionary note of some kind or other.

Before I left for my travels, I decided to open a second account at Capital One. I got a 360 checking account which I love. I still had a Bank of America checking and savings account which I thought would be okay because I could simply transfer money from that to the 360 account. Well, I was wrong. Some of it or most of it is my fault so take this as you will. Do not keep BofA if you travel internationally. No matter what checking account you have (personal or business) you will pay a monthly service fee. You will pay international ATM fees. You are locked in! I could open a BofA personal checking account as a backup but what I would do is keep about 5k in it as a safety net just in case my 360 ATM card stopped working. Then I could still get money on the second account. The problem here is when I go under the amount they require to not pay monthly service fees. Its BS!

Here’s my advice for what its worth. Steer completely clear of BofA and get either a Capital One 360 account or Charles Schwab account. Both of these are highly reviewed by a good source. I would never just have a single account no matter what. What if that ATM card gets damaged? What if it does and you have no cash? How will you eat and buy beer? So, to get off of BofA I opened a Money Market 360 account which gets better interest and am transferring some money there. You also do not have to set the stupid travel alerts with Capital One. Of course, the one thing with either Schwab and Capital One is you are online only doing things. The mobile apps for both of these institutions are highly developed though and can do a lot!

Just give it some thought and imagine the worst possible outcome:

  1. Your one ATM card is eaten by the machine and its midnight in Hanoi. What will you do?
  2. Your wallet gets lifted because you stupidly carry it all around Vietnam. What will you do?
  3. Your card gets corrupted.

No matter what, have a supply of local cash on hand. Imagine you might be a week without a replacement card even if your bank overnights a card to you. Nothing happens overnight in Vietnam.

My recommendation for any of the above is a backup account and having cash on hand. Food (and beer) and the necessities are not expensive in Vietnam until you have no money. Then a $3.00 bowl of Pho might as well cost thousands.

Don’t leave home without the passport and the important papers but don’t forget about money matters. Also don’t forget about your physical mail. Where is it going? To a family member so you can drive them crazy? Hopefully you have a better solution like a mail service that is there to serve you. Nothing against my ex-wife or family but why would I put all this on them?

So, there you go! My personal financial suggestions for you to have a happier trip!

Author: Michael Perry

I've been blogging for over 20 years and now am living in Southeast Asia. The blog is about my slow vagabonding wherever I want to go. My home base is in Cambodia but I'm rarely there.