Banking And Traveling: Try To Avoid Getting Screwed

Posted: January 9, 2014 in Travel, Travel Tips
Tags: , , , , , , ,

I can’t speak for other countries but here in Canada we’re pretty much getting screwed by our banking system without wandering the Earth. We pay high fees and the outlook doesn’t get any better when traveling overseas, after ATM fees, foreign exchange fees and the regular ‘account maintenance’ fees your banking costs become a clear and present danger on your travel budget. So what can be done do minimize the damage? To start with, research, and do it well in advance. Sometimes it may involve switching who you bank with or maybe getting a credit card with the company you already bank with to receive some perks. Getting these sorts of things done a week before you depart isn’t happening so plan ahead. Here is my situation and what I’ve done to make the best of a already screw me in the ass situation.


I do all my banking with Royal Bank of Canada (RBC). They are one of the major banks in Canada and have deals with some ATM systems across the globe. I have my chequing, savings, a tax free savings account, a travel rewards credit card and a personal loan all with them. From what I’ve read ScotiaBank is the best Canadian option because of partnerships they have with other global banking companies but I wasn’t switching, on top of all the dealings I already have with them all my pre-authorized payments and payroll deposits are set up with the chequing account. Two days ago I had an account that cost me $14.95/month and gave me the basics, unlimited debit transactions, unlimited email transfers, a free book of cheques (I’ve used about 50 of 200 in two years and most of them became void or were used in absence of floss) and four free withdrawals from non RBC ATMs. With this account I would have been looking at $5/withdrawal at ATMs overseas. This may not seem like a lot but when you consider not wanting to carry large of amounts of cash at one time for safety purposes and the period I will be gone it’s not hard to see how this alone could add up quickly. Twenty withdrawals over five months is not far fetched and there you are at $100 in ATM fees alone. $100 can get me a lot of nights in SE Asia and that is how you need to view your budget. The account I had was the second highest chequing account RBC offers so it was easy to research my options as there is only one more. I started looking into the RBC VIP Banking option, of course the first thing I see is the $30 fee each month, double my current fee. As I read through what was offered though it became clear that the extra $15.05/month would save me money in the long run. There were two major selling points for me deciding on this account. The first, unlimited ATM withdrawals worldwide at any machine displaying the PLUS system logo. PLUS is owned by Visa and their main competitor is Cirrus which is owned by…you guessed it…MasterCard. Visa has a great map for locating ATMs worldwide, I was sure to check it before switching and there will be no problem finding a PLUS ATM everywhere from Bangkok to Phnom Penh to Luang Prabang. RBC will be sending me a new VIP debit card that magically tells these machines that the service fees are waived for me. The second big selling point, the 100% waiving of my $120 annual credit fee. I have the RBC Infinite Avion Visa card. I should mention I already had this card and did not apply for it just to pair with the VIP account. It’s a great travel reward card that awards 15000 points upon activation, the points can also be used as RBC reward points to get cool things other than just travel rewards. I should mention that my $120 annual fee was charged Jan. 1st and I switched my account on Jan. 6th. RBC still refunded the $120 for me even though technically I could have had to wait until next year to reap the reward of the waived annual fee. After some simple math the conclusion was obvious to make the switch. My account fee will be $15.05 more per month totaling $180.60 more per year. Now minus off the $120 annual credit card fee that is waived and we are at $60.60 more per year. $60 isn’t much to make up for now, on my 13th overseas ATM withdrawal (which would have been $5 a pop) and I’m in the black on making the switch. There are a few other perks like no fees on up to two additional chequing accounts and no fees on one US chequing account, priority call centre service after entering your card number (no waiting on hold!!!), some travel perks and other minor things like discounts on safety deposit boxes.


All in all I’m happy that I looked at my options. For anybody reading this that is planning on traveling for an extended period, do some homework!!! $200-$300 dollars spent needlessly on banking fees over the course of a few months could be enough to stay that extra month in SE Asia or South America, maybe it pays for your travel insurance or maybe it takes a chunk out of the cost for your rail pass in Europe. Obviously not everybody reading this banks with RBC or is even Canadian but I guarantee wherever you are and whoever you bank with, there are most likely things you can do to reduce your overall costs and have more money for your travels and less for the banks!

TIP – If you have a copy of Nomadic Matt’s book How To Travel The World On $50 A Day then you know it offers great tips on banking, credit cards etc. The book even mentions specific banks and accounts they offer. If you don’t have a copy, get one. Mine is coming with me on my trip.

HAPPY TRAVELS!!!!$$$$!!!!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s