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Personal Finance Tools For Digital Nomads

While the freedom of a location-independent lifestyle can be satisfying for most digital nomads, there are a few challenges to overcome, such as accessing money while overseas. The bank accounts I originally set up in the US charge ATM and foreign transaction fees. Also it’s a challenge for non-residents to open an account in Thailand, where I’m currently staying.

The best online banking solution I found for digital nomads in general is Charles Schwab Bank. You can open a personal checking account when you sign up for a free trading account. If you have the required documents, you can sign up for an account on their website in a matter of minutes.

The Charles Schwab checking account refunds all ATM fees and has no account minimums, service/foreign transaction fees or currency exchange markup. You can sign up online as long as you provide a US address and SSN. But they do perform a credit check since an investment is included.

But often times the issue for digital nomads isn’t banking – but bank transfers. Transfer and ATM fees are obvious ways banks pocket your money, but poor currency exchange rates are even more costly. Most Electronic Money Institutions like Transferwise offer better rates than banks or Paypal.

I use Transferwise because they offer some of the best online rates in over 40 currencies. They charge a flat fee but after the more favorable rates are factored in, I usually come out ahead compared to banks. They also provide business accounts and a borderless account which offers bank routing for the US, UK, EU and Australia. Transferwise also offers debit cards for select customers.

I also take advantage of free financial apps and resources. I use Personal Capital for budgeting, spending and saving tracking and also branches into wealth management by tracking your investments. All of the data is compiled into the well-designed dashboard. They also provide paid wealth management advisors and services, if you need investment assistance.

TurboTax is the tool I use for filing my tax returns. It supplies users with an easy-to-use online interface for submitting their tax information and a user community which can help answer any questions. The free version is meant for filling out a 1040. State returns are free as well. Information from previous years is only incorporated if you go the paid route.

In the current post-FATCA environment, countries are adding more financial restrictions every year. Fortunately the continuing emergence of online banking fintech startups and are making it easier for digital nomads to open a bank account, transfer money overseas or process payments over the Internet.


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