You’ll hear this bank through travel bloggers and backpackers around the world. I had heard only good things about Charles Schwab, from their commercials to other travel bloggers on the internet that swear by it. There was so much left out (most likely not intentionally). I marched right on down there only to leave mildly upset even though I got everything I wanted, a savings account and a checking account with a debit card. This is why.
Charles Schwab is Not a Real Bank–Making Things Super Complicated
They’re connected to a “brokrige” is what the woman working the office told me. The only actual bank is in Reno, Nevada. This complicates things. When you’re signing up for a checking account you have to mark down everything for the brokrige side and the bank side. I didn’t expect to have to answer all of the legal questions twice. This means it’s an investment bank, not a “normal” one that deals with money, mortgages, and financing.
They Don’t Deal with Cash–At All
This goes along with they aren’t a “real” bank. You can’t make cash deposits or withdrawls with them at any Charles Schwab bank around the world (except Reno). Only checks. There are four ways of getting the money in and they all involve checks. If you want to put cash in you’ll somehow have to get a money order or check through a different bank and either deposit it with your phone or mail it with your account and routing number to El Paso, Texas. If I knew this beforehand I would have waited much longer to open any kind of account with them. Granted, when you’re on the road you won’t really need to deposit cash but if you want this as your regular bank things get more complicated. It’s also even more complicated if you don’t have checks like me and want to put money in.
They Reimburse ATM Fees
It’s true they really do this. At the end of every month they compile all of the fees you paid and send it back into your account. I believe the number one reason they do this is because they don’t deal with cash. This means if you even want to get money you must use an ATM. Who would use a bank where in order to get your money you have to pay $3.00 every time when you could just walk down the street to an actual bank without a hassel?
The Savings Account Has a Debit Card Too
It’s not the same as a checking account debit card though. This one is really limited, only 6 uses a month. If you want a debit card but aren’t planning to use it much this might be a better option for you. Something the woman I was working with didn’t mention until after I already signed up for a checking account.
Why Was I Upset?
I didn’t expect three out of the four of these things. I didn’t even know this bank didn’t deal with cash until I was in the final stage of signing up for a checking account. I seriously thought of backing out right there! Also, I would have been okay with only have a savings account for now and only being able to use my debit card 6 times a month. Later I would have signed up with an actual checking account like I did with my first bank. I didn’t even realize this was an option until I finished my entire checking account sign up and half-way through the savings. It wasn’t up to my expectations.
Would I Recommend This to Others?
Yes. Although I’d wait until you have 2-4 weeks before you leave your first travel destination and have blank checks on hand. This is so you still have time to get the debit card in the mail. It’s still no ATM fees no matter where you are in the world. What could beat that?
Also, you need a blank check in order to open any kind of account there! Something that was not mentioned to me until after I was there, without any checks.