Here are the top banking mistakes I learned living internationally for 13 years.
If you are looking for expert ideas in international taxation or how to hide millions offshore, I am not your guy. However, If you just want to learn how a normal guy has traveled around the world for 13+ years to 65 countries while maintaining access to his money, this is for you.
I will cover these banking secrets I learned living internationally in reverse order with the most important tips last. If you are smart, you will set all of this up before you fly away. The Internet will trust you much more when you do all of this preliminary work from your home country because your IP address (computer location) will match the place you have lived for the last 20 years or whatever.
Backup Plans in Place
Design your money access so you have backup plans in place. If you are like me, you may only go back to your home country once every few years. That means you need backup plans because everything eventually fails at least temporarily.
Things that Go Wrong Eventually
The Internet goes down so you can’t always use your ATM card. Credit cards are declined for no good reason. Your ATM card will go missing temporarily or permanently. Your credit card will go missing. Your cash may go missing. Your computer or phone will go missing or lose connectivity so you can’t do online banking, for a time. It could take weeks for your bank to send you a new credit or ATM card in another country. You have to have a backup plan in place for any of the temporary or permanent things that will eventually go wrong when you live outside your home country.
You need an account open at two different banks in your home country and I don’t mean different branches of the same bank. You need an ATM card for each account at your 2 different banks. Preferably, at least one of your accounts should reimburse you any ATM fees you are charged when you withdraw money from international ATMs. Charles Schwab reimburses international ATM fees. In your home country, Google “what bank reimburses ATM fees for yourcountryname.”
Make sure you have online access to both banks over the Internet. Set that up on your smartphone and your computer before you leave this USA. The bank probably has an Ap for your phone.
If either or both banks require you to notify them when you move between countries, make sure to keep that current. That is usually accessible on their web page so you can do it remotely every time you change countries. Either or both banks should allow you to pay bills online. Online bill payment should include the ability to (snail) mail someone a check in your home country. Transfer money from Bank A to Bank B, and back again, all completed before you leave the USA.
Your banks will eventually require two-factor authentication via a smartphone App or text code confirmation.
Two-Factor Authentication–You Need A Home Country Telephone Number
Many web pages including banks requiring two-factor authentication to access your accounts online. Set that up at both banks and test it before you leave the USA. This will often require you to maintain a local phone number in your home country. In the USA, I accomplished this by porting my local smartphone number to Google Voice. That way, if anyone ever asks me for my home number in my home country, I have the old phone number I can use. Google Voice is free. So I can answer my phone, texts, and two-factor authentication texts from all over the world. Here is the link to port your smartphone number to Google Voice. So I answer voice and texts on my smartphone on the Google Voice app no matter where I am in the world. I also have a backup plan for Google Voice.
Warning: At this moment in time, Google Voice works for two-factor authentication for both of my banks. However, I am told that some banks and stock brokerage houses do not allow Google Voice for two-factor authentication. So make sure you handle this and test it before leaving the USA.
I have a Skype Number on my phone also. The Skype Number is a USA-telephone number that people can call or text. Those calls and texts are received by the Skype App on my Smart Phone. Here is the link for a Skype Number you can get. I have not tested my Skype Number for two-factor authentication yet.
Since both Google Voice and Skype require an in-country telephone number for verification to set up your account (at the time I signed up) I recommend adding them in this order, as I did:
-Sign up for Skype App with your existing smartphone number as your in-country verification number to set up your account.
-Get a Skype Number (with USA area code) for your Skype account.
-Sign up for Google Voice with your Skype Number as your in-country verification number
-Port your smartphone number to Google Voice.
-Complete all of this before you start traveling. Then test any of your web pages that require two-factor authentication before you leave the USA.
Here is my free eBook that teaches (in more detail) about Google Voice, Skype, and other things you need to do before you leave your home country. You will save yourself tons of time and energy (and return flights to your home country) if you set things up right before leaving your home country.
You need at least two credit cards issued by different entities. I use a Visa card issued by my bank in the USA. I also have an American Express card. Neither card charges me an annual fee and I pay them off 100% every month. For some reason unknown to me, Visa cards do not work as well outside the United States. Whenever Visa is declined I use my American Express. It works 100% of the time.
Never Hand Your Credit Card or ATM Card to Anyone
Never hand your credit card (or ATM card) to someone. Instead, let them bring you the machine (or you walk to the machine) and insert the card yourself. If anyone is able to have your card long enough to copy the numbers, mysterious charges could start showing up in your account. Then you will have to cancel the card and have a new one issued and sent to you. Not an easy thing when you are overseas.
Just take cash out at the ATM and use cash to pay for everything on the ground in each new city. Use your ATM fees rebate card (like Charles Schwab) so you are not paying $7 USD every time you take money out internationally.
Use your credit cards to buy things online, like flights, and accommodations where cash can not be used. I don’t use my credit cards to do on-the-ground purchases in a foreign country. I use cash. The fewer times my data is flying over the Internet, the fewer times my cards can get hacked.
If possible, one of your credit cards (the Visa) should be with a bank that allows you to use virtual credit card numbers for such online purchases. A virtual credit card number is a number that if stolen, can be shut down without requiring a new credit card to be sent to you. Another way to pay for things without using cash and without handing anyone your credit card or ATM card is to use a digital wallet.
Google Pay, Samsung Pay, Apple Pay, etc.
When you are in countries that accept digital wallets such as Google Pay, you can add a digital wallet application to your smartphone that will allow you to make in-person and online purchases without giving anyone your credit card information. The digital wallet acts like a credit card but the vendor never has access to your actual account numbers.
Paypal is an online payment system that allows you to make purchases without giving online vendors your credit card numbers. It is also a way you can pay people money or let them pay you money.
Transferwise (now called Wise) is a great way to send money from your bank to another person’s bank anywhere in the world for a much lower fee than a wire transfer. It even has very reasonable conversion rates if you are sending one kind of currency (dollars) and you want it to arrive in another currency (baht).
Separate ATM cards and credit cards into different sets. Keep different sets in different places. If one is stolen or goes missing, you have another complete set to cover you until you get the first set replaced. Maybe hide one in your room (or safe) and carry the other one with you. Never carry anything valuable in a wallet or back pocket. If you have a wallet it should be a decoy for pick-pockets. You should have just enough money in the decoy wallet so they don’t start searching you for your hidden cash.
At night, just bring a little cash with you but no credit or ATM cards. Evaluate the risk of where you are and try to make sure that one set (of cards and ATM) survives potential circumstances. If you are moving between destinations during travel, think of clever ways to keep assets in different places so if one gets swiped you have a backup hidden somewhere else. Like one in a backpack you keep in your lap and one deep in a pocket somewhere too hard for a pickpocket to easily get. Don’t keep valuables (monetary or technology) in luggage stowed away out of sight.
If all else fails, your third backup should be some cash. I’ll let you be the judge of how much. But you should try to have enough cash to live meagerly while you wait a month to have credit and ATM cards replaced by your home country bank. Any more cash than that is probably too risky.
Never Keep Large Sums in Suspect Foreign Banking Systems
The rules are different all over the world. Keep your money in the same bank in your home country that you have trusted for the last 20 years. Never trust the laws or banking rules that you don’t know. You are not in Kansas Dorthy and you may run into the Wicked Witch when it comes time to get your money out.
Here is the eBook I mentioned in the above video, “How I Fired My Boss and Traveled the World for 13+ Years.”
Here are the two additional posts I promised in the above video:
My goal is to make this channel better every day. But I need your help. Please leave your new topic ideas, criticism, and other thoughts in the comments below.
This is Dan from Vagabond Awake, the YouTube Channel for VagabondBuddha.com. The world is your home. What time will you be home for dinner?