Now that you’re hitting the road full time, banking becomes a challenge. The absence of a permanent street address poses a problem as banks normally verify your records under its legal mandate. Handling your bank account while traveling can be complicated at best. Therefore, making purchases, paying bills, and dealing with transfers and deposits have to be done in a simple and secure way. Convenience and safety are both essential for full-time RVers like us.
How to make bank accounts work for full-timers? Freedom of location is the deciding factor of what service to go with. Some options are to go online exclusively with services such as Transferwise and Ally Bank or embrace the traditional banks who have many locations available such as Wells Fargo and TD.
You need not become an expert in money and related matters to be free from financial hassle while living in your motorhome full-time. Knowing your banking alternatives such as borderless accounts and online transfer companies helps you in making informed decisions. Setting up your mail is another tool for a convenient RV journey. Let’s go over these topics one by one!
Bank Types to Choose From
While there are a number of financial institutions around us, not all of them can work well with full-timers. Depending on the platform you prefer, there are available options that are certified to be RVer-friendly. Here are some we can explore together.
Traditional, Old School Banks
These are the banks we used to grow up with and are present in various commercial spots. They offer a large network of branches and ATMs across the country and the widest range of services possible, such as savings, investments and retirement. Because this is the traditional way of banking, you can be confident in the different transactions you’re dealing given their global reach.
An innovation that traditional banks have adopted is the expanded customer access via online and mobile applications. Living on the road can be trouble-free given their online and smartphone access. You can also visit the nearest branch if face-to-face transactions are necessary. You need not worry about taking your RV with you since many of them have spaces for your parking.
A good choice to begin with, Wells Fargo has traveler-friendly services that you can enjoy anywhere you go. Its Consumer Credit Card has a list of benefits any RVer will love. The card comes with an insurance for travel accident, assistance for travel and emergency, roadside dispatch and damage waiver for auto rental collision.
You can create a travel plan with them online or via phone call using the number at the back of your Wells Fargo card. Digital wallets, mobile alerts and online transfers make banking life convenient. Misplaced cards can also be turned off using the Control Tower of the mobile app and then turned on when recovered later.
Chase is known for its vast, international banking network. Aside from the usual bank services, it provides an option for military banking. Those who have served the armed forces can be warmly accommodated through this initiative.
Among its recent developments is the cardless ATM access. If you’re in a hurry to withdraw and you suddenly remembered you forgot to bring your card with you, you can securely get your cash as long as your smartphone’s with you. The cardless option is possible through its mobile wallet. Two of Chase’s cards come with zero annual and foreign transaction fees. These are the Amazon Rewards Visa Signature Card and United Travel Bank Card.
Another bank recognized for its wide network among countries, HSBC is an approved old-school choice among travelers. It boasts of its $0 liability, online guarantee for all unauthorized bills payment and fund transfers done online. You just have to see to it that fraudulent actions are reported the soonest time possible.
With HSBC’s online platform, you can go paperless and be environment-friendly. The use of eStatements, for instance, replaces the usual paper reports and statements customers normally receive. Debit and credit card options are also available.
Originally based in Canada, TD or Toronto-Dominion now crosses the US borders to be hailed as “America’s Most Convenient Bank”. TD caters mobile deposits, with services like Bill Pay to facilitate transfers and E-bill receipts. Personalized email alerts and paperless statements are also possible with its online banking system.
With its top-notch banking platform, it’s easy to sync your account with Quickbooks or Quicken for integrated finance and accounting processes. TD also assists in planning for international trips, allowing online orders of foreign currencies and charging no foreign transaction fees through TD cards.
Bank of America
Travel notifications are required by most traditional banks, but Bank of America does the opposite. It no longer requests customers for travel notifications but utilizes personal email and contact information instead for monitoring.Its locator allows search for international ATM partners when traveling abroad.
Like other banks, its Travel Rewards card comes with a bunch of fab features. No annual and foreign transaction fees are charged while providing for a flat rewards rate on all purchases. Points earned don’t expire so you can accumulate them as long as you want.
Charles Schwab Bank
A checking account made with Charles Schwab is popular among travelers who rely on its services. There are no monthly fees unlike other old-school banks. Using ATMs of other banks is made handy because Charles Schwab practically charges nothing for that. In fact, fees charged by other banks’ ATMS are reimbursed to your account. This is indeed a money-saver!
Military Banks such as USAA
If you’re a former armed forces personnel, military banks such as USAA, work best for you. Military banks are reputable institutions when it comes to financial services. Because they’re more used to dealing with families who live and travel abroad, international trips can be convenient for you.
This type is the exact opposite of traditional banks. Online-only banks have no physical existence, maintaining no building and keeping no branch staff in any location.They are becoming popular because all transactions are done online, they have higher savings rate and low to zero charges compared to the conventional way of banking.
An advantage with online-only banks is they provide better experiences online. Speed, simplicity and quality of online transactions are evident because of their exclusive online-platform use.There is no personal relationships with customers though. These banks own no ATMs, so if you’re thinking of having actual cash, you might as well maintain an ATM-enabled account.
As literal as its name suggests, Ally is on a mission to become every RVer’s trusted financial ally. It caters various financial services – from deposit accounts, credit card and auto loans to brokerage and home financing needs. Ally is one of the top favorites because of its one-stop banking experience which accommodates both personal and business accounts.
Ally was recognized by Money Magazine as the “Best Online Bank of 2019”. There are no monthly fees for savings accounts so you get much from your online funds with Ally.
Capital One 360
Capital One’s 360 checking accounts are named as such because they’ve got everything that you need. No minimum deposit is required for opening an account and with no maintaining balance as you move forward. There are no charges for international purchases and foreign transactions so you spend more on your offshore trips.
Like Ally, there are no monthly fees too! Savings have higher interest rates compared to the national average, that is 1% to 0.12%.
Commended by GoBankingRates as the “Best Checking Account in 2019”, Axos is another online alternative for you. Axos offers a higher savings rate compared to the national average, that is 1.10% to 0.12%. With no minimum balance and no monthly fees, you’d definitely have a good return for your savings.
Apps for Borderless Banking
If you’re looking for an easier way to manage multiple currencies, including crypto, borderless banking is ideal for you.
Branch-less, mobile-only options are available under this type. Apps offer low charges and are known for efficient and speedy customer service. Advanced security measures and easy opening of accounts are in place for added comfort and safety.
Featuring its Borderless Account, Transferwise makes possible international bank details in the UK, US, Europe and Australia. You can hold over 40 currencies for use any time, with real-time exchange rates and low charges.
Online transfer becomes borderless as you send and receive money from more than 30 countries any time. Receiving money has zero fees while sending comes with low cost. This is applicable for both personal and business purposes.
Transferwise Debit Mastercard is also available in Europe but it can be used wherever Mastercard is accepted. Spending the currencies you hold is free under this card.
Commonly used by online merchants or online companies such as Amazon, Upwork and AirBnb for mass payout around the world, Payoneer caters online money transfer and digital payments. It comes with an e-wallet that makes sending and receiving of funds easy.
Payoneer’s reloadable MasterCard or a bank account can also be used for money transfers. Considered cheaper and faster than Paypal, Payoneer continues to make payouts manageable around the globe.
World Remit is essentially an online money transfer company that goes beyond borders. You are confident your funds reach their receivers around the world because of its international scope. It employs follow-up emails or SMS to keep you updated regarding your transactions so you are able to monitor despite the distance.
Money transfers can be done via bank transfer, cash pick up, use of a WorldRemit wallet, air-time top-up or simply mobile money, depending on the location of the receiver and on the preference of the sender. World Remit is a great choice because of its low charges for app and online transfers.
When you sign up with LeuPay, you instantly get an international bank account number (IBAN) with no monthly charges and ready for multi-currency transfers to domestic and international banks. While Leupay is used more in Europe, this service works for both residents and non-residents of the EU.
These IBANs come in 10 major currencies, including the US dollar, so that you are able to send to major countries. LeuPay gives you a bank account in Europe that’s non-residential upon signing up. A free VISA card that functions well for global payments is also included in your LeuPay package.
Financial Institutions to Avoid
Firsthand experiences in banking and money management can either leave positive or negative impressions worth sharing. Two of the financial institutions RVers usually turn to for convenience and security, unfortunately, are not worth the risk and efforts and must be avoided. Let’s discover what these are and why you’re better off without them.
Membership is a big deal for credit unions, so you must be a member first before you can join their bandwagon. Alliant, First Tech, Connexus and PenFed are among their popular names. With a reputation for unsatisfactory customer service, managing your finances via credit unions won’t bring your desired benefits.
Foremost, it’s a one-town show. If you plan to relocate frequently, be prepared to find a new bank everytime. It’s basically annoying if you’re traveling full-time so it’s better to find a more convenient alternative.
Unlike banks, credit unions do not offer a full range of financial services. They can’t really afford to approve many loans due to their limited capacity and small sizes. While credit unions are not as tech savvy as banks, they have online platforms for your banking needs.
Paypal is an American company supporting worldwide online payments and transfers that is usually compared to Payoneer. One of my biggest disappointments in their services is the two-to-four-day turnaround for online transactions. If you desire a fast track in your transactions, you need to pay a premium for the extra service.
Another issue with Paypal is that it requires constant verification of personal details such as address, when logging in from a different device or location. AI raises security flags every time you log in from a new location, which eventually, can get you permanently locked out. The Paypal system has been hacked countless times already and if you’re one of their clients, you’re vulnerable to a lot of security issues.
Paypal is also known for holding accounts without warning and for locking people out of their accounts.It’s run by an AI that customer service has no control over, so be ready for major mishaps.Paypal does not also work well with borderless banks. This can also get you locked out if you’re unlucky not to notice it.
You must also expect higher charges with Paypal. There are other fees that add up to the usual charges, depending on the location. Exchange rates are undeniably the worst, next to that of Western Union. Transfers using foreign currencies are not advisable under Paypal, unless you’re ready for another disaster.
Preparations for Your Bank
There are few items to consider when opening your first bank account, or even when maintaining a single account. Here’s a quick list for you to remember.
Compliance to The Patriot Act
America’s Patriot Act highlights financial transparency as a tool to intercept terrorist financing and money laundering activities. This was enacted right after the September 11 attack as an immediate government response.
Title III, Section 326 of the Patriot Act provides for a system of customer identity verification to be done by US financial institutions. Proof of physical address is required when you open a bank account. Banks are also required to have their customers’ residential addresses on file. Having a physical address is necessary, though many full-time RVers do not have one.
If you do not have a street address, using another person’s address is allowed under this Act. If you have a friend or a family member living in your domicile, you can have theirs for banking records. If you’re not certain where your domicile is, this where you have the intention to return permanently after a period of absence.
Financial institutions normally verify addresses on file. Accounts may be restricted while waiting for your residential address. Financial transactions are no longer possible, or worse, your bank may terminate your account for good. The key here is having a physical address that you can provide proof any time they conduct verification.
Setting Up Your Mail
Now that you have a physical address, you may use this for mailing purposes. Banks may have detailed correspondence with you, such as for your credit card or monthly statements, so make sure someone is receiving them for you.
Because you’re on the road full-time, the problem now is how these bank stuff can get to you quickly and securely. You can request a friend or a family member to open and scan mails for you. More confidential documents, such as credit card statements, can just be forwarded as soon as they are received. Just remember to maintain clear communication with whoever you’ve placed in charge for this concern.
You can also opt for the US Postal Service and professional mail forwarding service providers. Mail scanning and online viewing is possible with professional service providers in exchange for a premium. Escapees Mail Forwarding Service, My RV Mail and Traveling Mailbox are a few popular names in this business.
Management of Travel Plans
Banking systems allow customers to inform the bank about their trips so they’re managed with greater flexibility. You can either notify them regarding your schedule or make travel plans with them instead. Some banks have savings options so you can be sure your travel goals are achieved. For instance, Wells Fargo allows you to select the state where you’ll go and schedule when you’ll get there. In this way, online and card purchases are made convenient as you go across locations.
Living in your motorhome full-time is both a challenging and a life-changing decision. While you can leave everything behind except for your money and banks, it pays to make your bank accounts work for full-time RVing. There are numerous ways of doing it, you just have to choose which suits you and your location. Take time then, to ponder about these options and begin a new RV adventure with your new bank or app. You’ll never know where your RV will take you given the right bank and platform.