Saying No to Bank Fees

14 Nov

No, this isn’t related to current events in the U.S. Although, I am very happy to hear that Bank of America never went forward with their idea to charge $5 per month for using a debit card!

This is about how we get our money from the U.S. to our pockets in Buenos Aires paying zero bank fees. (These two suggestions apply just about anywhere in the world when coming from the U.S.)

This practical information is normally missing when we read other bloggers’ sites, so we thought we’d take a timeout from the photos and stories to share what we’ve learned about avoiding ATM and foreign transaction fees.

Getting Cash

If you’re not a resident of Buenos Aires, you can’t open a local bank account. So, if you want cash (you can only get pesos from the ATM) you have to withdraw it from your home checking account. Just like in the U.S., the fees for using another bank’s ATMs can add up. Right now in Buenos Aires they are about $4 per transaction.

Maggie and I don’t pay a penny in these fees, because we heeded the advice to open up a Charles Schwab brokerage account and investor checking account. You need the brokerage account in order to open the checking account, but you don’t have to use the brokerage account ever. Granted, to get money into your Schwab checking account you either have to mail in the checks or set up online transfers. We set up online transfers from our Bank of America checking account.

Once you have your Schwab account, use the debit card for cash withdraws only. Say yes to the ATM fee and on the last day of the month Charles Schwab will pay you back all the fees you incurred throughout the month.

Just don’t use that card for purchases. Chuck charges a foreign transaction fee for retail, restaurant and most other vendor purchases outside of the U.S., which leads us to the second suggestion.

Using Credit

We unknowingly signed up for an amazing credit card when we were married. At first, it was to help us earn points we could use to redeem for a flight. That turned out to be pretty amazing.

Since then, we’ve learned that with this credit card we don’t get charged foreign transaction fees. We didn’t even know such a thing existed, but it helps us keep what little money we have in our hands and not in the bank’s. Our credit card is no longer offered or I’d say get it. Just remember that your credit card matters. Only sign up for one that has no foreign transaction fees. You’ll thank me later.

Follow these two suggestions and you’ll save a decent chunk of change overtime. For us, if we’re going to make it in Buenos Aires, we need every bit of help we can get. This is one way we’re trying to keep money in our pockets.

**We owe a big “thank you” to all the helpful and knowledgeable expatriates at who have helped us figure this all out.**

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