Chase vs Schwab: Why You Should Change Banks

I never really thought about my bank. Heck, I probably only visited a Chase bank branch 10 times since I opened my account in 2004. If you’re a traveler, you might be focused on how to get cash out of international ATMs. I always thought of the down-channel experience, where the bank ATMs are located vs the rip-off exchange ATMs. But it turns out, Chase was the worse bank choice I could have made as they were ripping me off up-channel on travel. I’ll explain why I left Chase and went with Charles Schwab.

First, Chase is not part of any partner ATM network, meaning wherever I go internationally I am going to pay a non-Chase ATM fee. On top of that, Chase charges a 3% foreign transaction fee for ATM/Debt transactions. Lastly, the ATM provider may charge me a fee (many in Europe don’t).

And then there’s Schwab. One day Chase froze my checking account when I tried to QuickPay a friend a small amount of money, I could not get my account un-locked unless I visited the branch. That, and looking at the fees I paid from my recent trip to Italy, was the final straw. I found out about Schwab’s checking account from a few travel blogs. They don’t charge ATM fees, they rebate the provider ATM fees, they charge 0% for foreign transaction fees and they are part of a very large domestic/international ATM network.

How much money are we talking about? Frugal travelers will do insane things to save money,  switching banks is hard but is it worth it? Yes. I’ve been with Schwab for six months and recently took my first international trip, a long 4-day weekend in Toronto, here is how Chase and Schwab would compare on the trip based on my actual spending:

Item Cost (USD) Chase Fee Schwab Fee
Oktoberfest tickets $56.75 $1.70 (3%) 0%
Food $294.81 $8.84 (3%) 0%
Hotels $574.02 $17.22 (3%) 0%
Casa Loma Brunch $196.00 $5.88 (3%) 0%
Rental Car $133.00 $3.99 (3%) 0%
Uber $14.59 $0.44 (3%) 0%
Winery $122.03 $3.66 (3%) 0%
Air Canada $665.00 $19.95 (3%) 0%
Two ATM withdraws $150 x 2 $21.84 (3% + $5 + 1.96 * 2) 0%

Grand total saved this trip: $83.52
Yearly Estimate (23 days spent internationally this year): $477.25
3-year Estimate: $1,431.75

Yes, I could have used my credit card which also has a 0% foreign transaction fee, but sometimes I don’t want to and for some items I couldn’t. Changing bank accounts is a lot of work and it’s probably why few people leave their banks (maybe I should write a post?). We just let the banks stick it to us. If you travel a lot, the juice is worth the squeeze.

Fine print: I was not paid to leave Chase or to write this post, nor am I licensed in the US to give financial advice.

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