Best International Bank Accounts for Travelers & Digital Nomads

Are you a digital nomad or just a frequent international traveler who is looking for a free international bank account that is easy to set up? Perfect!

In this comprehensive guide, I will introduce you to the best bank accounts for travelling.

 

As I am traveling full time for more than two years now, I am using and testing many of these services to find the cheapest and most valuable solution for my banking activities overseas.

 

Ideally, I am looking for a free debit card, that can be managed from my smartphone.

Further requirements are:

  • low transaction fees,
  • low fees for cash withdrawals
  • and no fees for transactions in foreign currencies

  • click on the image to expand

In this guide about banking options for digital nomads and international travelers I will rate suitable digital banks and money transfer services according to the following factors.

This list includes international bank accounts that come with a free debit card.

Note that some of the digital banks offer premium cards with additional features and annual fees.

This determines whether you are eligible to open a bank account and order the card based on your residency. Many digital banks that give out international bank accounts to travelers require a proof of residency. This can be your national ID (with your address on it) or any official letter (residential registration) no older than a few months. 

Some of the international banks only operate in certain geographical areas. If you don’t reside in those countries, the bank will not be able to send you the debit card and you won’t be able to use all of the features of the bank account.

Bank account fees are the annual fees that you need to pay for your debit card (or bank account). Most of the digital banks and online money services (money transfer providers) offer a free plan with some basic functionalities and a free debit card.

Bank account fees should be however considered when comparing international bank accounts for travelers.

If you are looking for the best bank account for traveling, you might as well be looking at the fees connected to cash withdrawals. While in some countries such as Iceland or Australia you can pay all your bills with the card, in most third-world countries you won’t get too far with a plastic debit card. 

Sooner or later every traveler needs cash. In Asia, you will only pay with cash as most sellers ask for a 3% fee for each card transaction. The best debit card to use abroad should therefore have low or no fees when it comes to cash withdrawals.

Most travelers and expats don’t think on the fees for transactions in foreign currencies, however if you are traveling a lot, this can be quite an important factor.

In case you hold EUR, USD or GBP in your bank account, the bank can deduct a foreign currency fee if you decide to pay in Thai Baht or Malaysian Ringit. Make sure to be aware of those fees. Best travel debit card usually waive those fees.

If you are a digital nomad you might receive payments from clients from all around the world. You will probably also send money to people you work with. In this case you should have a look at the transaction fees for wire transfers.

If you open an European bank account online, some digital banks allow you to send SEPA Transfers (Single Euro Payment Area) for free. This isn’t however the rule.

Some money transfer services allow you to send money to other users that use the same service for free. If you send money to someone who does not use a bank account from the same provider, you might be charged a fee. The sa

This category represents the application that you will use to manage your finances. Most international bank account providers offer mobile-friendly apps that give you access to your digital bank account.

My rating within this category will include the security of the app (login options), the functions (statistics, transfer options) as well as additional features (multiple currencies, insurance, saving features).

You would be surprised, but it’s not always as easy to sign up. You need to verify your identity, send proof of your residency, take a selfie or upload your ID.

It can take a few hours or days to review your application.

When opening an international bank account, make sure that you can receive the card as in most cases, the digital bank will only send it to the address where you reside.

Last but not least we will have a look at the support provided by the issuer of your debit travel card. If you don’t have any issues you won’t need the support, however if you want to revert a transaction or lose your card, the support will be needed.

In my review of the best international bank accounts I will share some of my experiences with the support of those companies to give you an idea of how they operate.

In this comparison of international bank accounts for travelers and digital nomads I will list those companies that offer a debit card for their international bank accounts.

 

Note that Payoneer is the only money transfer service that does not offer a free debit card as compared to other companies in the list.

Best Digital Banks for Travelers

  1. N26
  2. Revolut
  3. Transferwise
  4. Monese
  5. Monzo
  6. Payoneer
Best Banks for Digital Nomads N26 Revolut Transferwise Payoneer Monese
Country Requirements European Economic Area European Economic Area + Australia Worldwide Worldwide Europe
Annual Fees from €0 from €0 from €0 €26,70 from €0
Fees for Cash Withdrawals no fees within EUR-Zone, other currencies 1,7% €200 free, 2% fee after €200 free, 2% fee after €2,15 €200 free, 2% fee after
Foreign Transaction Card Fees €0 €0 0.35% - 1.0% fee 3.5% fee €2.000 free, 2% fee after
Wire Transfer Fees €0 €0, other currencies up 0% on weekdays, up to 1% on weekends between 0.35% and 2.85% (depending on the currency) same currency €1.50, other currencies up to 2% free to Monese users, 2% fee for non-Monese accounts

N26

 

N26 is a digital bank with a banking licence from Germany. N26 caters travelers and digital nomads mainly from European countries. The N26 bank account can be operated through your smartphone, while there is also an option to login via your web browser (limited features). Note, that the N26 bank account allows you to only hold Euro (you cannot hold multiple currencies).

The N26 bank offers three different plans. A free plan and two premium plans (black and metal card).

 

Here are the fees for the free N26 plan:

Annual fees: €0
Cash withdrawals: €0 within EUR-Zone, 1,7% in foreign currencies
Card payments: free worldwide
Wire transfers: €0 within Europe, up to 1% in foreign currencies

 

 

You are eligible to apply for the N26 account if you have an address in the following countries:

Germany, Austria, Ireland, France, Spain, Italy, the Netherlands, Belgium, Portugal, Finland, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Slovenia, Estonia, Greece, Slovakia, the UK, Poland, Sweden, Denmark, Norway, Liechtenstein, and Iceland.

 

 

The N26 app, that you will need to use to manage your money is very user friendly. Some of the options are however not available in all countries. In the German area, N26 offers also the option to invest into funds and take loans, this isn’t possible in many other countries.

Please note that the application process might also vary depending on your country of residence. German speaking customers that apply for the N26 card need to go through a credit check (as they might use the overdraft loan), while others don’t need to hassle with this.

 

Functionality of the N26 app

N26 is a mobile bank, that’s why they put a lot of effort into building a bug-free mobile app. The app has many valuable features. Apart from viewing your balances, check expenses sorted in categories, you can also use features like “Spaces” that allow you to set money aside and save.

 

Sign up and card shipping

As mentioned before, if you are from the german speaking countries, the sign-up process is slightly more time consuming. The first shipment of your N26 card is for free and might take up to a week (depending on your address).

 

Traveling with N26

If you travel to countries where you don’t need cash, the N26 card is in my opinion the best you can get, if you reside in Europe. As soon as you go to a country that hasn’t adapted the cashless payments, it might get expensive though. The N26 free card charges 1,7% fees for cash withdrawals.

I have been using the free N26 card for years, until I it got taken by an ATM in Thailand. Then I ordered the N26 black card, which costs around €9 per month. This card however comes with 0% fees for cash withdrawals. If you travel in Asia you will need a lot of cash and therefore the N26 black (premium) card will be a better deal for you.

Revolut

Revolut is a digital bank from the UK with an European banking licence. Compared to N26, Revolut has a bit more global approach. With Revolut you can hold up to 32 currencies. Additionally, you can exchange and transfer currencies for the market exchange rate. There are no additional fees that apply.

Exchanging currencies with Revolut proved to be the cheapest option amongst digital banks. Read more about it in my comparison Revolut vs N26.

Revolut offers similar to N26 three different plans. A free plan and two premium plans (premium and metal card).

 

Here are the fees for the free Revolut plan:

Annual fees: €0
Cash withdrawals: up to €200 worldwide for free, 2% fee after
Card payments: free worldwide
Wire transfers: €0 in currencies you hold, up to 1% on weekends

 

 

You are eligible to apply for the Revolut account if you have an address in the following countries:

Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Republic of Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, United Kingdom, Switzerland and Australia

 

Revolut also allows you to store crypto currencies. This feature is however by far not what a crypto trader would hope for. The functions are very limited and the exchange rate is compared to the market rates you get from crypto exchanges such as bitfinex (that’s where I trade), very bad. Recently Revolut introduced stock trading, which is currently only available for metal card users.

 

Functionality of the Revolut app

The Revolut app is in my opinion slightly faster compared to N26. You have similar analytics of your spending however the interface is a bit more appealing. I also like the option to pay Revolut users nearby or request a payment link. A neat feature is the vaults, which allow you to save spare cash on purchases into a separate “space” which acts as a piggy bank.

 

Sign up and card shipping

Revolut has a very fast and efficient process to sign up. You can use your account within few minutes and order the card immediately. In the meantime, you can also use virtual cards that give you an additional safety layer when paying online.

The card shipping is fast and free of charge. The first card needs to be delivered to your home address, if you however lose it while traveling, Revolut can send you another card everywhere in the world. That’s not the case with N26.

 

Traveling with Revolut

The Revolut free card is the perfect compromise for anyone who does not withdraw more than €200 (or equivalent) of cash per month. Free payments worldwide, best exchange rates and a fully functional and secure app are reasons why Revolut is one of the best international bank accounts for travelers.

Transferwise

Transferwise is an electronic money service and not a bank like N26 and Revolut. The service primarily started offering transfers in different currencies for low rates.

Later on, Transfewise introduced the borderless account, which allows you to hold up to 40 currencies. You can store, send and receive money from anywhere in the world.

The Transferwise bank account is very popular amongst digital nomads and freelancers as you can receive money from AUD, USD, EUR, GBP, NZD without any fees. I myself have been using the borderless accounts since I started traveling full time in 2017.

 

Here are the fees for the free Transferwise account:

Annual fees: €0
Cash withdrawals: up to €200 worldwide for free, 2% fee after
Card payments: free worldwide for currencies you hold, 0,35% - 1% for other currencies
Wire transfers: 0,35% - 1%

 

Almost anyone can open an international bank account from Transferwise except users from the following countries:

Afghanistan, Brazil, Burundi, Central African Republic, Chad, Congo Republic, Crimea (sub-territory), Cuba, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Eritrea, Hong Kong, India, Iran, Iraq, Japan, Libya, North Korea, Sevastopol (city), Somalia, Republic of South Sudan, Sudan, Syrian Arab Republic, US states (Hawaii and Nevada)

You can order the Transferwise card if you reside in Europe.

 

 

The benefit of the Transferwise account is, that almost anyone can open it. The international bank account isn’t limited to travelers who reside in Europe. That’s amazing, because now you can open a bank account in EUR even if you reside in the US or in Canada.

The disadvantage is however that you cannot order the Transferwise card if you aren’t from Europe. As a non-European you need to transfer the money from transferwise to your current account to pay with it in stores.

Having a EUR account enables you to invest on European P2P lending platforms, which I am a big fan of. Learn more about my investment strategies here.

Transferwise does not offer various plans for private users, however you can opt-in for a business account, if you think it’s worth it.

Apart from holding multiple currencies and transferring money online, Transferwise does not offer much more. You can use the service either from the mobile app (with limited features) or from the web browser.

 

Functionality of the Transferwise app

If you have ever used Revolut or N26 the Transferwise app will just feel obsolete. It’s not as intuitive and it takes quite a while to get used to it. Additionally you won’t have so many features as compared to the other mentioned providers.

You can view your balances and transfer money to different accounts. When it comes to troubleshooting Transferwise also isn’t the fastest and best company to talk to. Reverting wrong transactions made by a transportation company in Thailand was a nightmare.

 

Sign up and card shipping

Sign up with Transferwise is painless and easy. As the identification requirements and anti money laundering regulations get stricter, you need to verify yourself, if you want to open the borderless international bank account. If you reside in Europe, you can also order the card. The shipping takes only a few days.

 

Traveling with Transferwise

Transferwise is an amazing bank account for expats, travelers, freelancers and people who deal with international transactions. However it has its limitations. The ecosystem isn’t by far as advanced and if you don’t reside in Europe you can’t order the card.

When it comes to the fees, you can compare the free Transferwise bank account with the Revolut bank account. However exchanging money with most currencies will be cheaper with Revolut, which makes it superior.

Monese

Monese is a UK based current account, that can be opened by anyone from the European Economic Area. The concept is very similar to N26 and Revolut. The difference is however that Monese does not have a banking licence. Your money isn’t therefore protected by the European Deposit Scheme. Monese allows you to hold EUR and UK in your bank account.

The digital bank account offers three different plans (simple). A free plan and two paid plans (basic and premium). Both paid plans come with higher limits for ATM withdrawals as well as lower fees for foreign currency card spending and foreign currency transfers.

 

Here are the fees for the free Monese account:

Annual fees: €0
Cash withdrawals: up to €200 worldwide for free / month, 2% fee after
Card payments: up to €2.000 free worldwide/ month, 2% fee after
Wire transfers: free to Monese accounts, 2% to non-Monese accounts

 

The Monese bank account is available to anyone who lives within the European Economic Area, regardless of the citizenship.

You can open a Monese account if you live in the following countries:

Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Republic of Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden and the United Kingdom

 

 

Functionality of the Monese app

The Monese app looks very similar to the app from Revolut and N26. You can track your spending, check exchange rates, request payments from your contacts and pay bills with your Monese card.

While the Monese app does not have much additional features like Revolut and N26 and it does not support the login with fingerprint yet, it is still very useful for the regular user.

 

Sign up and card shipping

Opening a Monese bank account is very simple and hassle free. During the application process you will need to verify your identity with a photo of your passport, driving licence or national ID card. You will also need to take a short video from your face. You can order the Monese free debit card that will arrive in a few days to your doorstep.

Be aware that it will be delivered to your address within the European Economic Area. So if you happen to be not around, you will need to ask someone to ship it to you.

 

Traveling with Monese

Whether Monese is the right fit for your travels depends highly on where you go. If you don’t spend more than €2.000, don’t transfer money and don’t withdraw more than €200 a month, the Monese bank account is still a good fit.

However if you exploit those limits, it can get “pricey” - let’s say there are better options. What’s however very interesting is the Monese paid plan, called “Classic”. You only pay €4,95 / month and get up to €800 / month of free cash withdrawals worldwide as well as up to €8.000 card spending in any currencies for free. The only fee that applies is the 0.5% transaction fee when transferring money to non-Monese accounts.

For travelers who don’t transfer huge amounts of money and operate within the limits for card spending and cash withdrawals is this the best bank account in terms of value for money. Note, however, that the exchange rates when traveling aren’t as good as compared to Revolut.

Sign up with my link and get €15 bonus

Monzo

Monzo is a UK based digital bank that offers bank accounts for travelers who reside in the UK. Monzo has a UK banking licence - your money is therefore protected up to £85.000 by the Financial Service Compensation Scheme.

Monzo currently only offers bank accounts in GBP. Like Transferwise, Monzo also does not offer multiple plans as compared to the Revolut, Monese and N26.

 

Here are the fees for the free Monzo account:

Annual fees: €0
Cash withdrawals: free within UK / free up to £200 worldwide / month, 3% fee after
Card payments: free worldwide
Wire transfers: free to UK accounts, up to 1% in foreign currencies

 

You can open a Monzo account if you live in the following country:

the United Kingdom

 

 

Functionality of the Monzo app

The Monzo app isn’t very different from the mobile apps like N26, Monese or Revolut. It also does not have so many extra functionalities. However it supports overdrafts and you can view the spendings sorted in categories. You can also make transfers to UK accounts via Faster Payments. Overseas money transfers can be done with the help of Transferwise. Similar to N26, Monzo also uses Transferwise to deal with overseas transfers.

 

Sign up and card shipping

Opening a bank account with Monzo is very similar to the previously mentioned bank accounts. You will need to verify your email address as well as your identity. To pass the verification you need your passport or ID card. Upon account verification you will be able to order the Monzo debit card to your address in the UK.

 

Traveling with Monzo

Compared to other international bank accounts, Monzo does not seem to be superior. It caters mainly UK based travelers. If you reside elsewhere you are out of luck. N26 and Revolut offer their service to a bigger audience. The apps of those digital banks are also more user friendly and costs for travelers are generally lower.

Paying abroad is free according to Monzo, this however does not mean you will get the best exchange rate. Monzo is using the Mastercard exchange rate and not the real interbank rates. The Mastercard exchange rate is worse than any rate you will get from N26 and Revolut. That means, even though you will not pay any bank fees when paying with your Monzo card abroad, you will get less for your money as with the Revolut and N26 cards.

Payoneer

Payoneer is a popular money transfer service, used by thousands of freelancers around the globe. It offers a simple and easy way to receive money from all around the world. If you happen to be a digital nomad, you probably heard about Payoneer.

The US based company offers a prepaid debit card, that allows you to spend money, that your receive to your Payoneer account.

This is a good option if you reside in the US and are not eligible to open a N26 or Revolut account. You can apply for a Payoneer account and order the Payoneer card from anywhere.

 

Here are the fees for the Payoneer card:

Annual fees: €26.70
Cash withdrawals: €2.15
Card payments: 3.5% fee
Wire transfers: between 0.35% and 2.85%

 

You can open a Payoneer account if you live in the following countries:

worldwide

 

 

Functionality of the Payoneer app

The Payoneer mobile app is by far the least developed app in the list of international bank accounts for travelers. You can hold USD, EUR and GBP which are already more currencies than with Monzo. Apart from viewing your balances, you can also view past transfers. Basic features like requesting a payment, manage currencies, withdraw money or view statistics are not supported within the app.

 

Sign up and card shipping

The sign up process and the verification takes roughly one to two business days. It isn’t the fastest. You can order the Payoneer card as soon as you reach a balance of $30 in your Payoneer account, which makes sense as Payoneer will want to deduct the annual fee from your balance.

 

Traveling with Payoneer

Traveling with the Payoneer card is everything but cheap. At least when comparing the prices with cards from Revolut or N26. Payoneer charges you for everything: €0.80 for declined transaction, €0.80 for an ATM balance inquiry and. 0.5% fee for exchanging currencies within the account. The user experience with the Payoneer ecosystem is also very bad, compared to the digital banks mentioned above.

The only benefit here is that you can order the card regardless of the country of residence. If you therefore reside in the US or Canada, this might be your only option to get an international bank account with a dedicated card. If you are only interested in the bank account, then I suggest to go with Transferwise, due to lower costs.

Use your local account

If you travel the world you don’t necessarily need to limit yourself on international bank accounts. There are plenty of banks that offer bank accounts suitable for travelers.

Although those might not be as popular, you can do your own research and ask banks in your area what fees they charge if you decide to use their bank account while traveling the world.

 

Ask about the following fees:

  • Annual account fees
  • Fees for cash withdrawals in other currencies
  • Currency exchange rates
  • Fees for wire transfers

 

These are the main factors that you should use to narrow down the offers. Additionally you can have a look at the ecosystem (mobile app), safety features and optional insurances.

While the above mentioned bank accounts from digital banks are in my opinion few of the best bank accounts for travelers and digital nomads, using local bank accounts can be the only option if you live in countries, where you can’t get a debit card from Revolut, N26 or Transferwise.

 

Which one is the best bank account for travelers?

Now you have an idea what to look for but you still might be confused to decide what option you should go for.

I am using some of the above mentioned accounts for years now and I have been traveling full time around the globe since 2017. To find the best bank account for travelers you need to define your needs first.

Let me help you to find the best fit for you!

 

Are you in a country where you don’t need more than €200 in cash per month?

my choice is the Revolut free card - no monthly fees, best exchange rate, free cash withdrawals up to €200 / month

 

Are you in a country where you need a lot of cash?

If you happen to be in Asia or Africa, you will probably need to pay everything with cash. In that case you want the lowest possible fees for cash withdrawals.

→ my choice is the N26 black card - the monthly fee is only €9.90 and it pays of as soon as you withdraw more than €532 per month (there is no additional fees)

 

Are you frequently sending money in other currencies?

When it comes to sending money abroad, Revolut is my go to digital bank. The conversion rate is even better than N26 with their Transferwise feature.

 

Interesting alternative: A good bank account is also the Monese Classic (plan) account. You pay only €4.95 per month and can withdraw cash for free up to €800 / month. The only downside is that you pay a transaction fee of 0.5% when sending money to non-Monese accounts.

 

Do you want to open an European bank account online?

You can open an European bank account online within minutes with Revolut, N26, Transferwise or Monese. If I should choose the best European bank account, I would go with Revolut.

Choosing the best bank account for traveling

I have been traveling to over 30 countries and it took me quite some time to find the best fit for me. My guide should make your choice a bit easier.

Before we round up with this post, here are some points you should consider when choosing a bank account for traveling and withdrawing money abroad.

  • Get a separate travel insurance
    When choosing a bank account, don’t base your decision on the travel insurance that might come with it (this isn’t of much value to you)
  • Define your needs
    Do you need a lot of cash or can you pay for your expenses with the card only? There are significant differences in fees. Choosing the right fit can save you tens of Euros every month.
  • Look for ATMs that don’t charge any ATM fee
    Regardless of the bank account, you might need to pay ATM fees, finding a good ATM might be difficult in some countries, ask around if needed
  • Always withdraw in local currency when abroad
    The exchange rate in ATMs is a ripp-off

At the end of the day it always comes down to your requirements and the way you will use your debit card abroad.

You should always compare the ATM fees, cash withdrawal fees, wire transfer fees as well as the annual fees for your debit card.

Based on those factors you can make an educated decision and choose the best bank account for traveling.

 

Any further questions?

Do you need help finding the best bank account for traveling that suits your needs? Ask your questions in the comments bellow.

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