What is the Best Free Checking Account: Schwab or Fidelity?

Checking Account

Unless you carry a large balance in your account, most banks are going to charge account maintenance fees. At $3-$5 a month, these fees can add up. Paying those fees is the same thing as throwing money away. Moreover, if you travel you’ll be forced to pay out-of-network ATM fees.

There is a simple solution. Open a cash management account (a fancy way of saying checking account) with either Fidelity or Schwab.

I’m most familiar with Fidelity. Fidelity will reimburse your ATM fees, even those outrageous $10 fees incurred at strip clubs. You don’t pay any account fees. You can just deposit checks by taking a picture. It’s pretty cool.

Schwab is superior than Fidelity for international travelers. Schwab reimburses ATM fees worldwide. UPDATE: Fidelity now reimburses ATM fees worldwide.

Here are the links (no affiliate). Read up on the services for yourself to decide what is right for you:

Now read: How to Make and Save Money.

  • greenlander

    I have agree 100% with this.

    I moved abroad to Russia earlier this year. I spent a lot of time researching how to get access to my money overseas.

    My research concluded that the ATM cards from Fidelity and Schwab (I have them both) as well as some seldom-known banks had the best deals. I started using the cards regularly overseas, and compared the exchange rates Schwab and Fidelity gave me vs. interbank rates on the internet.

    Fidelity and Schwab typically dinged me about 0.20 – 0.25% in exchange fees (yeah, a fifth of a percentage point).

    The other “low cost” banks that didn’t impose fees on me imposed lousy exchange rates… anywhere from 0.5% to 2%.

    The big banks were the worst: Chase was dinging me for about 5%-6% by giving me a per-transaction flat fee of $5 plus a lousy exchange rates.

    Schwab and Fidelity are just awesome for international travelers. I also investment accounts with each with a sizable sum, so I get premiere support from both. When I call, someone picks up the phone: no holding, no long phone trees and an experienced, competent native speaker fixes my issues.

    I couldn’t be happer with both of them.

  • Gannicus

    I have a Schwab account and couldn’t be happier. I second everything greenlander says above. It’s wonderful to not worry about finding the correct ATM and I have also experienced the perks of international travel with it. I don’t have any money invested with them at the moment and still have gotten great, prompt customer service from them so it’s not like they treat you poorly if you just use the checking account portion.

  • Nick

    I opened a savings/checking account at my local credit union before I moved to Poland for 5 months. They reimburse all my international ATM fees and there is no commission on the exchange rate when I withdraw money. I’m not sure if all credit unions do this but it’s worth checking if you want a regular bank you can also walk into.

    Interest rates suck now, but you can still get around 1% at an online bank like Ally. It’s not much but if you have a chunk of cash you might as well earn something if you aren’t going to invest it. I closed my Chase accounts because the interest rate was closer to 0.1%, they charged international ATM fees and they required minimum balances on their accounts.

    Unless you’re saving for a major purchase I you’re better of investing in stocks. I have a big part of my savings in Apple and I’ve made 50-100% from buying at the $250 and $400 levels. At $550 it’s still very attractive since the price accounts for the fiscal cliff/capital gains tax selloff and it pays a dividend. With inflation at least at 2% (probably more like 3%+), you’re money is losing value even if you’re getting the best possible return on your savings. Once you have 3-6 months of living expenses saved, look to invest your money somehow instead of buying depreciating assets like cars and electronics.

  • Unscrupulousmen

    D&P, What do you know about Bank of Internet? I’ve been using them for a couple years now. They have no bricks and mortors banks set up and are able to offer a higher interest rate on all accounts. I get 1.25% pa on my checking account, for example. They also reimburse up to $8 per month for any ATM charges. Honestly though, ATM fees aren’t a problem when you just take money out at the supermarket anyway.

  • Aleph One

    If you aren’t a world traveler, look into your local credit union. Most people qualify for a credit union on the basis of either employment or geography. My credit union no only doesn’t charge any fees, they pay interest on checking. And I have all the bells and whistles like depositing checks through my cell phone, etc.

  • Smeq

    Any banks similar to Schwab or Fidelity in Europe?
    Don’t really have that 10k$ to open an international account on neither.

  • Lance

    I live in the states and I don’t travel internationally often. I have liked my high yield (high interest) checking account with my credit union. I opened this account many years ago when the bank was offering 6% interest. They’re currently returning 3% interest. There are other perks and there are restrictions but it has worked well for me.

    I just did a quick google search and it looks like there are still a variety of high yield checking account options available from various banks and credit unions today.

  • Rex

    Free banking: one of the perks of being British.

  • J Money

    Something else to consider is parking some money in high interest checking accounts. Currently, I’m earning 3% on my balance.

    Check out this link to find a bank or credit union in your area that interests you…


  • Onlooker

    I have an account with Schwab, and I can say their customer service is uniformly superior to that of any other company. It is like calling up your personal accountant, except with better availability. Every time I’ve spoken to someone, they are unfailingly courteous, competent and helpful. Always American too.

  • Random Angeleno

    Credit unions work well. Mine charges 1% on its credit card for foreign transaction fee and has a decent exchange rate. Chase charges 3% for that and has a crap rate on top of that. My credit union debit/ATM card also works well overseas though I do have to notify them when and where I’m going when I leave the country.

  • John Galt

    Try Astoria Federal Savings if you are in NYC, especially Brooklyn. No minimums, free if you have one withdrawal or transaction every three months or so (easy for a normal person), on-line banking, unlimited checks per cycle and the cutest Eastern European girls at many branches. Just going into the neighborhoods where they are I have scored lays. There are many other banks that cater to immigrant communities with great, free customer service and serve in little or sometimes not so little enclaves where it is like traveling to Eastern Europe.

    I worry when aspiring gamers do too much over the telephone and internet as it is a cycle that limits meeting targets. Sometimes you can get convenience and opportunity at the same time. Honestly, I had a good bank for my business that was closer but left it because of how ugly the females working there are, bad attitude too. It makes a difference when you walk in as a business man and a cute female services you. It used to be that to work in a bank you had to at least have the proper waist to hip ratio, no more for non-immigrant areas.