Saturday, July 7, 2012

No fee ATM and no foreign transaction fee cards?

As reigning Princess of Plastic, my preference is to use a debit card vs. credit card, cash or checkwriting for as many transactions as I can. I don't like carrying a credit card balance because the interest rates sneak up and bite you in the butt!  So my search begins for a suitable card to use in our travels south.

Our current credit and debit cards will charge per ATM swipe as well as tack on 3-5% (depending on the card) foreign transactions fee--I guess it's costly to multiply the Belizean dollar x2--!!?? My goal is to NOT pay any of those fees while in Belize.

During this research time, having to read the fine print, I found many misleading ads for credit/debit cards. The number of cards with "perks"--travel, points, etc.-- is enormous. Personally, I don't want to keep track of all that mumbo jumbo, it all comes with a price--either ATM transaction fees ($2-$5/swipe) and/or F/X (foreign transaction) fees and annual fees--don't forget about the interest rates, I saw them as high as 29%!

Yes, it does exist!

After weeks of online searches and many phone calls, I've found a VISA debit card with no ATM fees and no F/X fees! Really? So, I called. This is a 2 account process: interest checking linked to a brokerage account--but who doesn't want their money to grow? FDIC insured up to $250,000 for the checking account. There is no minimum account balance for the brokerage account. Interest rate is comparable to "regular" bank savings accounts. Verified that the worldwide ATM fees are credited back to you, once a month, with a $1000USD maximum cash withdraw/day. There is no F/X fee to exchange to Belize dollars either at the ATM or POS. "Wherever VISA is accepted."

So, I went to the local branch. Paperwork in hand. Neurotic as I am, asked the same questions. Really? REALLY. Submitted the paperwork along with a check to open the accounts and now get to wait about 10 days until the cards arrive to test the waters.

Here's the information

Charles Schwab
Schwab Bank High Yield Investor Checking Account and linked Schwab One Brokerage Account


  1. I will be interested to see how that card works out for you. My card charges $$ for usage in Belize!

    1. I've done a trial run here and the ATM fee is reimbursed monthly. My first foreign swipe will be in MX, mid-November--with BZ swipes soon to follow, December 1st---fingers crossed!

  2. Still working as expected? We're hoping to be moving to Mexico in the near future and this would be a help.

    1. It works as advertised, ATM fees reimbursed at the end of the month and no foreign transactions fees!