Money, Money, Money! (Or, which credit cards and bank accounts we're using - not quite as exciting a title)

 
  Photo by  Josh Meister Photo .

This is not the most glamorous topic in the world, but a necessary one when traveling, especially long term. Which credit cards do you take, and which bank accounts should you use?

 

Credit Cards

Let's start with credit cards, since this is a favorite topic anyway! We figured two credit cards each was a good plan, so if one gets compromised in any way, we've got a back up option. The main priority is no foreign transaction fees, so as to get the most out of our money. There's tons of options for cards with that criteria, but a lot of them charge an annual fee. One of our keeper cards, the Chase IHG Rewards Club card falls into that category. We've had this card for years, and are happy to pay the $49 annual fee as it nets us each a free night at any category IHG hotel (previously redeemed for weekend stays at Bellagio in Las Vegas, Intercontinental Le Grand in Paris, and Hotel Indigo in Nashville), so this one was coming along for both of us. Josh's second card is a Chase Ink Business Plus card that has an annual fee of $59 (sadly, that card is no longer offered), which allows us to convert our Chase Ultimate Rewards points for travel redemptions at a really great rate, so it's very useful for us at this point. For my second card, I opted for the USAA Preferrred Cash Rewards card. You have to be a USAA member to get this one, and it offers 1.5% cash back. We'll also be carrying a few credit cards that we won't use for spend but give us lounge access or some other perks (Amex Business Platinum, Citi Prestige) until we cancel them at whatever point in the trip that the annual fees come due.

 

Bank Accounts

Bank accounts - significantly less enthralling. The main data points to consider here are ATM fees and safety. Again, we thought a few different bank account options would be a nice safeguard, and we also liked Expert Vagabond's tip on keeping the majority of your budget in a savings account, using transfers to fund a travel checking account regularly. Pre-tip, we were already using Ally and USAA for our personal accounts, both of which reimburse ATM fees in the US, but not internationally. So we opened up what seems to be the overall traveler's favorite checking account pick - a Charles Schwab High Yield Investor Checking Account. They don't charge any fees and reimburse any ATM fees incurred from other banks at the end of each month. The one drawback about this account is that you can't just open a checking account - you have to first open a brokerage account, but there's no minimum balance required and no fees on that either. To ensure quick access to money, we also opened a Charles Schwab savings account, where the majority of our budget will live, and we'll transfer money from there to the Charles Schwab checking account whenever needed, and try to keep less than $1,000 in the checking account at any one time to minimize losses that might be incurred from getting our ATM card info stolen. If something happens to the Schwab account, we plan to take ATM cards for our USAA account as well as a backup.