Having lived a more or less nomadic life for close to a decade, a handful of products and services have proven to make my life on the road much easier and more affordable.
The tools listed below are the ones I routinely use myself or have used regularly at some point. That means that some of the products listed are only available to EU or US residents, but most are open to everyone.
Contents: Banks · Money transfer services · Investment brokers · US credit cards · Other personal finance tools · International phone service · VPNs · Travel insurance · International health insurance · Accommodation search · Gear
The most complete of the European “neo-banks,” and also the cheapest to use for traveling (free card spend, worldwide). If you don’t qualify for American credit cards like Chase Sapphire Reserve below, this is the card I would recommend that you use for all your travel purchases. If it fits your travel pattern and especially if you rent a lot of cars with high insurance deductibles it can be worth upgrading to their Black or Metal card. Otherwise, the free plan is sufficient.
Charles Schwab (US)
If you qualify (US residents with a Social Security Number), definitely add a Charles Schwab debit card to your wallet. It’s completely free of charge, is free to use and even refund ATM fees worldwide.
- Pros and cons of a Charles Schwab account
- Get $100 when opening a Schwab account, here’s how (members only—it’s free to join)
For other countries and options, check out my article on the world’s best banks for nomads and frequent travelers.
Top money transfer services
In most cases and between most currencies, TransferWise is both the cheapest and fastest way to transfer money abroad. Not only do they offer money transfer, they even give you local receiving accounts in a range of countries (US, EU, UK, and Australia) so it’s easier to get paid from clients in these countries.
A very good money transfer service, with a twist: You can either choose to have your money converted instantly, or wait for a “match”—i.e. someone transfering money in the opposite direction at a potentially even better rate. Overall it’s quite comparable to Transferwise, so sign up for both and use the one that have the best offer for your specific transfer.
Get three free currency transfers. To activate the offer, simply click here, then click ‘Sign Up’.
Top investment brokers
If you live in Europe, chances are the Dutch broker DEGIRO is your best bet for where to invest your retirement savings—it’s what I’m using for my personal investments. In addition to generally offering among the lowest fees in Europe, they also have a long list of commission-free ETFs (conditions apply, check DEGIRO’s site).
Legal disclaimer: I’m not a financial advisor. Do your own research. Investing involves risks of loss.
Top US credit cards
Chase Sapphire Reserve
I almost exclusively use this card for my travel and dining (including drinks) purchases. It gives me a range of benefits, including 4.5% cash back towards travel, free access to a thousand airport lounges around the world, travel and rental car insurance, and much more. Taking into account the $300 travel credit, the effective cost of the card is only $150 per year. All this, plus the fact that there is no foreign transaction or FX fee, makes this card the best credit card for any frequent traveler that qualify (US residents with SSN only).
Tip: Combine the CSR with one or both Chase Freedom cards (Flex and Unlimited) for higher earning rates, e.g. 7.5% on travel booked through Chase and rotating bonus categories, 4.5% on drugstore purchases, and 2.25% on everything else. Use the Freedom cards through a Curve card to avoid foreign transaction fees.
Other personal finance tools
Curve is a little hard to categorize, but it’s one of the products on this list I use the most. If you’re like me and have a range of bank accounts with debit and credit cards from multiple banks and countries, you need Curve. You can add all your credit and debit cards to their easy-to-use app, and then choose with a tap which card to spend from when using your Curve card. It’s completely free to use (and 0% FX fee), even for ATM withdrawals (which is great, since most credit cards charge for this—but not if you do it through your Curve card).
Top international phone service
Whenever I’m traveling outside of the free roaming area in Europe, I switch to my Google Fi service. It’s even built into my Pixel phone—but also works with other phones with a SIM card. It can be activated for as little as a day at a time and works at US prices in about 170 countries around the world. At $10 per gigabyte (capped at $60 per month), and the fact that you’re only charged for what you’re actually using, makes it very competitive. If you’re staying in a single country long-term (say at least a few weeks), it might be worth it to research local prepaid cards, but for shorter stays, it’s magical to land in a new country and instantly be connected before even stepping off the plane.
Get Google’s Project Fi, plus $20 credit by using my referral link (I will also get $20 credit after you’ve been a customer for a while, so thanks!)
One of the best investments you can make as a frequent traveler or nomad is a good VPN. When doing research for articles I’ve tested approximately 40 of the best VPN services, and the following are the ones I’ve found to be the best options for most people that care about a good balance between user experience, quality/speed, and price.
Currently, the one I’m using on a daily basis. Especially if you get their hidden deals it is an excellent purchase—I’d argue the best price/quality ratio you’ll find. I haven’t had any problems with performance, and their apps for both computers and smartphones are among the best in the industry.
Of all the VPN providers I’ve tried, ExpressVPN is probably my favorite. They offer outstanding performance, and their apps are excellent. The reason I currently use NordVPN over ExpressVPN myself is simple: Price. But if you simply want the best product, and a few dollars extra per month is not that important to you, then ExpressVPN is the one to get.
Top travel insurance
This is the only travel insurance specifically designed with digital nomads, freelancers and remote workers in mind—and it shows. It’s easily the most affordable option for full-time travelers, and their subscription model is extremely useful. It’s what I personally use when traveling.
- The World’s Best Travel Insurance for Long-Term Travelers (includes some other options as well)
Top international health insurance
I did a lot of research when choosing which international health insurance I should get when I was no longer covered by any government programs—and MSH International surfaced as the best option in terms of price/quality, customer service, and actually treating you like a human being and not a criminal. Tip: You’re better off choosing at least a €750 yearly deductible.
Top accommodation search
It’s hard to beat Airbnb for furnished apartment/room rentals of up to a month in a new city. For longer rentals, see the options below.
If you prefer sharing your living area with nomads, entrepreneurs, and other interesting people from all over the world, check out what Coliving.com has to offer. It’s best for stays of a month or longer.
You can get up to $50 off your first booking if you join using this link today.
For a bit longer rentals, Uniplaces is a good bet in many European cities. Although primarily designed for university students studying abroad, it actually meets the needs of digital nomads very well. Their service fee is based on the first month’s rent only (see here to get 10% off), so it’s a good deal for longer-term stays (a couple months and up). I also find that the prices are closer to what a local would pay than what you will find on Airbnb.
This is a metasearch engine for medium-term, furnished rentals. It will search through many sites (including Uniplaces) and present the best offers in an interface similar to Airbnb. They seem to find quite a lot of listings in lots of cities worldwide.
…for everything else. For shorter term stays (hotels, hostels, apartments) it’s hard to compete with Booking.com. They simply have the most inventory and the best prices.
Here are a few brands and products that have enhanced my life the most as a long-term traveler:
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