Did you know that every time you swipe your card in a foreign country, your bank is charging you exorbitant fees and giving you a terrible exchange rate? Yet, you can save thousands every year by choosing the right bank.

If you travel abroad for a week or two per year, 3–5% in various fees and bad exchange rates for international card use is not really a big problem. But as a frequent traveler or digital nomad spending most of your time abroad, these fees add up quickly. In fact, you might be donating hundreds or even thousands of dollars yearly to your bank. I’m sure you could think of a better way to spend that money.

But what if I told you that there are banks out there that charge no monthly fees, 0% foreign transaction fees, 0% currency exchange markup, 0% ATM withdrawal fees and even refund fees imposed by ATM owners worldwide? Sounds like some sort of black magic right? Well, it’s not. I spent countless hours finding the best banks for nomads in North America, Europe, and Oceania, so you don’t have to. Read on to learn more about these incredible banks and how you can open an account with them today.

Update: In this article you’ll find personal bank accounts. If you’re a freelancer or business owner, don’t miss my article on the best business bank accounts you can open remotely. 🕴

Nomad friendly banks in Europe

N26 (EUR — EU/EEA: 🇩🇪🇦🇹🇪🇸🇮🇹🇮🇪🇸🇰🇬🇷🇫🇷🇧🇪🇪🇪🇫🇮🇱🇻🇱🇹🇱🇺🇳🇱🇵🇹🇸🇮🇳🇴🇸🇪🇩🇰🇮🇸🇵🇱🇱🇮)

Man holding N26 bank card and a phone with the N26 bank app open.
N26 makes it super easy to manage your finances on the go. Photo: N26

My favorite bank in Europe is definitely N26. By now it’s one of the most mature of the user-friendly and innovative challenger or neo-banks that have revolutionized the European banking market in the last few years.

Having started out in Germany, N26’s EUR account is now available in most of Europe. Since late 2018, N26’s EUR accounts are also available to residents of Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Poland, Iceland, and Liechtenstein. They also launched USD accounts in the United States in 2019 which work a bit differently than the EUR account described here.

But don’t worry if you’re not currently in Europe, dear nomad friends. One of the best things about N26 is that you can open an account from anywhere in about 5 minutes. You just need your smartphone, an internet connection, and your ID.

(If you’re unsure about the process, just read my article on how to open an N26 account remotely)

You’ll still need a delivery address in Europe (specifically in Germany, Austria, Spain, Italy, Ireland, Slovakia, Greece, France, Belgium, Estonia, Finland, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Portugal, Slovenia, Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Poland, Iceland, or Liechtenstein.). If you’re not currently in any of those countries, don’t worry. As a global-minded citizen, I’m sure you can make some European friends that will allow to you use their address as a C/O address to open the account. You can easily change the address after receiving the card.

N26 is now offering a few different plans, but the free plan is probably still the best bet for most—unless you can take advantage of the excellent travel insurance included with the paid plans. That’s the case if you’re mostly based in a European country and often make trips abroad of up to three months at a time.

Highlights:

  • No monthly/yearly costs
  • No set-up cost
  • No ATM fees worldwide*
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • No currency exchange markup (you get the official Mastercard rate, which tend to be the best available)
  • The entire account opening process is online — you never have to show up anywhere physically
  • Fantastic, user-friendly app
  • Also a nice web interface for when you don’t have your phone handy
  • More features than most neo-banks, including free Mastercard, Maestro card, low-cost & straightforward investment options, Apple & Google Pay, Transferwise integration, a business account for freelancers, and much more.
  • Card usage push notifications from the app, not SMS (great for peace of mind when you travel)
  • Can be opened remotely from anywhere, click here to learn more.

* They add a low 1.7% exchange fee for ATM withdrawals only in non-EUR currencies on the free plan. That’s still much lower than the competition (typically 2-5% on all foreign spend, including point-of-sale).

Things to note:

  • They only support bank transfers within Europe (through the SEPA network) — but for other transfers, you can just use TransferWise or similar services, which is the preferred way of sending money across borders/currencies anyway.
  • Like with many (most?) checking accounts these days you will not accrue interest on your deposits. But that’s a small price to pay with what you save on using the card abroad. To grow your wealth, it’s better to follow my investment guide for nomads and expats.
  • Not all features and plans are available in all countries yet.

Learn more about N26Open N26 account


Monzo (GBP — UK 🇬🇧)

Hot coral Monzo card and iPhone with the Monzo app open.
Monzo is a great choice for British nomads and travelers. Photo: Monzo

This fast-growing challenger bank is the closest thing to N26 in the UK. You get a free current account and debit card, a user-friendly app which makes it easy to stay on top of your spending, and just a few, low fees.

The account is easily opened through their mobile app (including ID verification), and the debit card can be sent to any UK address.

Highlights:

  • No FX fee for card spend in any currency (you get the official Mastercard rate)
  • The first £200 of ATM withdrawals abroad is free every month, after that, it costs 3%
  • Can be used with both Apple and Google Pay
  • Very good mobile app with excellent budgeting features, subscription management

Things to note:

  • You won’t accrue interest on your deposits
  • Only native support for domestic UK bank transfers, for transfers to other countries you can use the built-in TransferWise integration
  • There’s currently no web interface, so you can’t access your account without your smartphone

Learn more about MonzoOpen Monzo account


Honorable mentions

  • Monese (GBP & EUR — UK 🇬🇧): Free to use globally, but with certain limits. Affordable upgrade in case you’re a big international spender or need more than €/£200 in monthly ATM withdrawals.
  • Bitwala (EUR — Germany 🇩🇪): Crypto-friendly banking product (the actual bank account is powered by SolarisBank) with no fees, both in Europe and abroad. Also comes with Bitcoin and Etherum wallets. Low international fees, but maybe not mature enough to be used as your primary bank account.
  • DKB (EUR — Germany 🇩🇪): Similar fee structure to N26, but I personally found their support to be quite had to work with as a non-German speaker (insisting that you email them in German, not English for example, else refusing to respond). Could be a good option for Germans still.

TransferWise Borderless—the global, multi-currency account 🌍🚀

This isn’t your run-of-the-mill bank account. It’s worthy of a special mention because it’s a fantastic product for those of us that earn and spend in several currencies.

You’ll get local bank details in the United Kingdom 🇬🇧 (GBP), the Eurozone 🇪🇺 (Belgium or Germany—EUR), the United States 🇺🇸 (USD), Australia 🇦🇺 (AUD), New Zealand 🇳🇿 (NZD), and Poland 🇵🇱 (PLN), which makes it easy to get paid from all over the world.

Pair that with a free debit card that can be used worldwide with very low fees, and the fact that it’s available to residents of most countries, and you have yourself a winner. They offer both personal and business accounts. Open TransferWise Borderless

Nomad friendly banks in North America

Charles Schwab Bank (USD — United States 🇺🇸)

Charles Schwab Visa Card, which refunds your ATM fees in the US and abroad
This debit card can save you thousands in fees and unfavorable exchange rates. Photo: Aranami (Flickr)

By far my favorite bank for nomads in the US, and perhaps even in the world. Pretty much anything is free, from all card usage globally to unlimited free checks (if you still use those). They even refund you unlimited amounts of ATM fees imposed by ATM owners worldwide.

The only thing that leaves me wanting a bit more is their online banking solution and mobile apps. They have improved a lot in since I first started recommending Schwab, but I will still only characterize them as OK. Then again, most US banks suck in this area.

Like most US banks it also requires you to be a US resident. But as long as you keep a US address on file, they assume you are living there. If you don’t have a US address while traveling or living abroad, your account might be subject to closure. A mail scanning and forwarding service that offer street addresses (not P.O. boxes) can take care of this for a low monthly fee.

Highlights:

  • No monthly/yearly costs
  • No set-up cost
  • No ATM fees worldwide (they even refund fees imposed by the ATM owner!)
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • No currency exchange markup*
  • The account opening process is primarily online — you never have to show up anywhere physically. They do however have a few branches around the country, and I opted to open my account in one of them since I’m not a US citizen.
  • Get $100-$500 deposited in your account after opening—click here to access the deal. (Nomad Gate members only—it takes 30 seconds to register for free!)

* You will be charged Visa’s official rate, which is pretty darn close to the mid-market rate.

Things to note:

  • You need to be a resident of the United States. However, I opened my account while being in the country as a tourist through the visa waiver program. But I do have a Social Security Number, and I had just applied for a State ID card, so I supplied that ID number as well.
  • The checking account comes bundled with a Schwab One brokerage account. Unless you have a brokerage account with them already, you need to sign up for one when you apply for the checking account. It has no cost, and you have no obligation to use the brokerage account.
  • If you are outside the US when opening the account online it is essential that you use a VPN. If not they will ask you to physically present yourself in a branch to verify your ID. This is the VPN I personally use, which works fine for this purpose. If you don’t want to keep it, you can ask for a refund for 30 days after signing up.

Learn more about Schwab BankOpen Schwab checking account


Honorable mentions

  • Capital One 360 (USD — United States 🇺🇸): Quite similar benefits compared with Charles Schwab, but does not refund your ATM fees.

  • STACK (CAD — Canada 🇨🇦): While not techically a bank, this prepaid Mastercard is the only Canadian option with no FX fees, not ATM fees, and no monthly fees. Highly recommended for Canadians who travel abroad!

Do you know any nomad friendly banks in Canada? Let me know, so I can add them here!

Nomad friendly banks in Oceania

HSBC Everyday Global Account (AUD + 9 more — Australia 🇦🇺)

HSBC Everyday Global Visa Debit Card
Probably Australia's best debit card for digital nomads and frequent travelers. Photo: HSBC

Launched in the spring of 2018, the HSBC Everyday Global Account is the first Australian multi-currency travel card and bank account without foreign transaction fees or “criminal” exchange rates.

Australian residents can apply to open an account online. Non-residents can try to apply through a branch, but you may not be accepted.

Highlights:

  • No monthly costs
  • No set-up cost
  • No ATM fees worldwide
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • You can hold a total of 10 different currencies on your card: Australian dollars, US dollars, British pounds, Euros, Japanese yen, Chinese yuan, Canadian dollars, Singapore dollars, Hong Kong dollars and New Zealand dollars.
  • No currency exchange markup (you get the official Visa rate if you spend in currencies other than the ones supported)
  • Can be used with both Apple and Google Pay

Things to note:

  • You won’t accrue interest on the first $9,000 of your deposits
  • $1,000 ATM withdrawal limit and $10,000 card purchase limit
  • Currency conversions between supported currencies are not real-time over the weekend but are processed the next bank day. Card transactions will still work, even if you don’t have a large enough balance in the relevant currency, but at a worse exchange rate than usual.

Learn more about HSBC Everyday GlobalOpen HSBC Everyday Global account

Citibank (AUD — Australia 🇦🇺)

Citibank Plus account banner
Citibank Plus: The account that will make you sing out loud! Photo: Citibank

Citibank has earned a reputation for being a good option for Aussie travelers. Although their internet banking is so-so, with the Citibank Plus Transaction Account, you get fee-free banking around the globe, with no foreign transaction fees and you get the official Visa exchange rate with no additional fees both for ATM withdrawals and regular transactions around the globe.

To open an account, you need to be a resident of Australia. You can easily complete the online account opening process, but you have to stop by one of their branches to show ID proof before they open the account. They have branches in most larger Australian cities.

Highlights:

  • No monthly/yearly costs
  • No set-up cost
  • No ATM fees worldwide*
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • No currency exchange markup**
  • Free bottle of wine when you dine in select restaurants
  • Fee-free international transfers

* They do not refund fees that the owner of the ATM might add, which is a common practice in large parts of the world.
** You will be charged Visa’s official rate, which is pretty darn close to the mid-market rate.

Special thanks to Grum of wgopn for sharing his experiences with Citibank!

Open Citibank Plus account

ING Orange Everyday (AUD-Australia 🇦🇺)

ING Orange Everyday Visa Debit card
Australia's most orange bank card... Also, it's great for travel! Photo: ING

Another recent contender in Australia, ING now refunds ATM fees (charged by the ATM owner) worldwide with their Orange Everyday account, as long as you meet the following two conditions:

  • Receive at least $1,000 in your account every month
  • Make at least 5 card purchases per month

The downside is that if you don’t meet the requirements, you don’t only miss out on the refunds, but you’re also charged a $2.50 international ATM fee, plus a 2.5% foreign transaction fee for both purchases and withdrawals.

Highlights:

  • No monthly/yearly costs
  • No set-up cost
  • No ATM fees worldwide*
  • No foreign transaction fees*
  • No currency exchange markup**

* Only if you meet the $1,000 deposit + 5 card transaction requirement in the preceding month.
** You will be charged Visa’s official rate, which is pretty darn close to the mid-market rate.

Special thanks to Chloe R for the tip!

Open ING Orange Everyday account


Honorable mentions

  • TransferWise Borderless (NZD, AUD, EUR, GBP, USD + dozens more—Australia 🇦🇺 & New Zealand 🇳🇿): As previously mentioned, this is a fantastic product that give you local bank details in 6 countries (including Australia and New Zealand), and let you hold several dozens more currencies. You can convert between currencies at some of the best rates in the market, and you get a free debit card that makes spending around the world a breeze.
  • Air NZ OneSmart (NZD, AUD, SGD, HKD, JPY, GBP, EUR, CAD, USD—New Zealand 🇳🇿): This innovative prepaid card offer 3 free international ATM withdrawals per calendar month, and can hold a variety of different currencies. If you are in a country with one of the supported currencies, this card can be a good option. If you need to use the card for transactions in unsupported currencies, there is a 2.5% fee. There is now also a $1 monthly fee.

Other nomad friendly banks?

I have included all the nomad friendly banks I came across in my research, but if I missed a bank in your country please let me know, so I can update the article!

If you’re not able to open accounts with any of the banks listed in this article, check if there’s a bank in the Global ATM Alliance in your country. These banks usually waive any fees when you use your card in a partner bank’s ATM. Note that they often still charge foreign transaction fees of up to 3%.

Another alternative can be using a bank with a significant global presence, such as HSBC, and as much as possible use their ATMs abroad. Yet, tracking down the few ATMs you can use fee-free in a particular city can be quite impractical.


Transferring money between banks

If you successfully open one of the bank accounts that I’ve listed above, you might wonder how you can fund your account if your current account is in a different country. Usually, the fastest and easiest way is to use TransferWise and is what I would recommend in most cases. Even if your bank supports international transfers, you’ll most likely get a terrible exchange rate, plus loads of fees—especially if the transfer goes via the SWIFT network.


I hope this article was helpful! If you have any questions, please post them in the comments below. If you know of any other nomad-friendly banks, please send me a tip! 🙌