Best Banking Solutions for Students Studying Abroad
On this page you find the best virtual banks for students searching for an easy and modern banking solution for longer stays in another country. The following banks allow instant sign ups online and they all provide IBAN bank accounts and bank cards for ATM withdrawals and cashless payments abroad.
Best App Banks for Stays Abroad – With Bank Card:
- SEPA - IBAN (DE)
- UK account (account number + sort code)
- US account (ABA
- ATM: 2% ($250 free) | Currency Conversion: Actual mid market range Transfer fees: ~0.5% Debit Card: No fees (but conversion fees of 0.24 –3.69% if payment is in other currency)
- Lowest transfer fees
- Borderless bank account
- card cannot be shipped to all countries
- No real credit card
- bunq e-wallet
- SEPA - IBAN (NL Country Codes)
- ATM: €0.99 | Card: €9.00 per card + €2 to €3 p/m per card | Deposits: 1.5% | No transfer fees from Bunq's side
- IBAN Accounts
- SEPA / SWIFT transfers
- Credit Cards
- Support competence should improve
- Monthly account fee quite high
- SEPA (DE)
- UK-account (account no. + sort code)
- US account
- ATM: £200/month for free; then 2%
- Currency conversion: up to 3.5%
- Debit Card: $29.95 / year
- Transfer fees: 0 - 0.5%
- Cheap international transfers
- Real money saver for travelers
- No credit check / Schufa-free
- Only for European residents
- Proof of residency required
- SEPA - IBAN (LT Country Codes)
- ATM: €1.00 to €1.50 + 1.80 % | Card: €3.00 to €5.00 | Card Payments: from 0 to €0.10 + 1.20% | Different bank transfer fees apply
- SEPA - IBAN Accounts
- Schufa-free / No credit check
- Cheap currency exchange
- Card only for EEA (Europe)
- Daily ATM withdrawal limit only €600
- SEPA - IBAN (GBP & LV Country Codes)
- Bank transfer local: $3 | SWIFT 0.5% | SEPA EUR: $0.60
- Cards 2.6 to 2.9%
- ATM $2.60 (+ 2.6% MasterCard fee when abroad)
- IBAN bank accounts
- MasterCard (Prepaid)
- Good App
- No crypto wallets
- No real credit card
- UK Account (GB) SEPA - IBAN (BE Country Code)
- Account Fee: From £0/month Debit Card: FREE ATM: 2% (FREE limits) Foreign currency card spending: 2% (Free limits)
- 100% customer funds protection
- SEPA - IBAN accounts
- No proof of residency
- No "real" credit card
- Sign up only for EEA (Europe)
- SEPA - IBAN (DE)
- UK account (account number + sort code)
- ATM 1.7%
- No added exchange fees
- Regular Plan: €0/mo
- N26 You: €9.90/mo
- N26 Metal: €16.90/mo
- Cheap international transfer
- Good app
- No real credit card
- Fees for cash withdrawals in foreign currency
If you're studying or doing an internship abroad, you need the right checking account, without unnecessary fees.
On this page we explain what a checking account abroad must be able to do and what possibilities you have.
Today, a semester abroad is no longer just a matter of good form, but has long since become an obligation in many courses of study. And all sorts of things need to be taken into account:
You need accommodation, insurance and vaccinations, if necessary. And you might need a student current account, which is fit for the foreign assignment, as it isn’t easy or often not even possible to open an account at a bank in the respective country, if you're not a citizen.
However, now there are modern banking solutions by FinTech companies solving those problems. You can get an account with a handy smartphone bank, or "virtual bank", that will save you a lot of money while you stay abroad. More on that further below.
Bank Account Abroad
At GoodByeBanks we are testing virtual banks as alternatives to traditional banks, especially for travelers or people who will be abroad for a while, such as students or employees sent abroad for projects for longer periods.
What A Bank Account In Foreign Country Must Be Able To Do
If you stay in a foreign country for a longer period and you expect salaries or stipends that will be paid to you weekly or monthly, then it can of course make sense to have a bank account in the other country. Or it might even be necessary.
For sure there are local banks where you could go to and get a bank account for the time being there. But you might need to ask locals at which bank this is best to get, maybe somebody can pass you the contact information of a certain bank advisor you can go to.
However, meanwhile there are interesting alternatives to local banks exactly for this case, so-called virtual banks, where you can easily get an account online. Through these internet banks you can receive national bank transfers in many countries, just as if you had a local bank account at a traditional bank.
Virtual – or FinTech – banks are just as secure or reputable as regular banks and differ from the latter only in their banking services.
It’s important that the current account abroad works largely free of charge. National bank transfers should be cheap and fast. You should be able to pay cashless with your bank card, whether Mastercard or VISA, and you can also withdraw cash at the ATM without paying unnecessary or too high fees.
It's possible to enjoy low fees for withdrawals abroad, reasonable exchange rates etc. with the right banking solution.
Also, in our modern internet era, it should be easy and fast to get such a bank account online, without the need to run to a branch.
A tip: Get the ISIC International Student Card, with which you get special student discounts in many countries.
The reason why virtual banks can easily grant their services to anybody just through an online registration is the fact that they don't work with loans. They can never make a loss with a new client since they don't borrow any money. That's also the reason why virtual banks don't need to perform any credit checks.
Credit Card For Students Abroad
What You Have To Pay Attention To
Attention if you intent to use the credit card of your home bank abroad:
At home you might be used to use the credit card which is linked to your normal bank account for everyday spendings. Nevertheless, you should take another look at it when it comes to traveling: Check how much fees your credit card charges when withdrawing and paying abroad.
Important: In many cases a distinction is made between European and non-European countries! Therefore, if you are considering a change of account/credit card, you should also make your choice according to where your trip is going.
So even if you don't expect salary payments or anything abroad and you don't think you need a current account in the other country, it can still make sense to get an extra account for cheaper card usage in the other country. It's possible that using your normal credit card in your foreign destination would be more expensive that using a FinTech bank account with bank card for payments and withdrawals. But this depends on the conditions of your home bank, so you should check those out first.
Beware Of Fees From AMT Operators And Foreign Exchange Rates
In case you should consider using a traditional bank account due to the recommendation of somebody, you should still compare that bank's condition with virtual banks. Even if the tradtional local bank account is initially cheap and there is a credit card on top of it, you have to stay alert and take a close look at the details of the offers. The decisive factor is how the banks withdraw the money or calculate the payment abroad.
The individual fees banks charge on top of the real exchange rate at withdrawals abroad fluctuates greatly between different banks and can, for example, also differ between EU foreign countries and non-European foreign countries.
Virtual banks usually have the best exchange rates when it comes to foreign exchange.
Another cost factor that needs to be considered is the fee model used by various ATM operators. Because not only banks want to collect fees, also the operators of certain ATMs sometimes want money for withdrawing money from them. The banking institutions do not necessarily have much influence on this. In order to avoid these charges as far as possible, there are different approaches.
- 1. check the conditions of your own credit card before you start your journey, when do charges apply?
- 2. In non-Euro countries, you should definitely do without the conversion into Euros at the local machine, as fees are added here.
- 3. An account which generally allows free withdrawals abroad, also makes sense.
- 4. Check whether there are banks abroad where you can withdraw money free of charge with your own EC card.
Global ATM Alliance allows for withdrawals abroad without international ATM access fees. So if you have a bank account with one of the following banks, you can make credit card withdrawals fee-free at all of the partners wherever you are:
- Bank of America
- Deutsche Bank
- BNP Paribas
- Banca Nazionale del Lavoro
With FinTech banks, however, it's the same – with them you also get a VISA or MasterCard for cashless payments abroad and for ATM withdrawals in foreign countries, wherever you find the VISA or Mastercard sign.
Know The Actual Exchange Rates!
Of course you can only know if you’re getting a good deal when exchanging currencies when knowing the actual exchange rate which can be checked on Oanda.com, for instance. Make sure to check the rate on the day you want to make a money exchange, since rates can change.
Forex is not as volatile as cryptocurrencies, of course, but there is still movement in price on a daily base. Just think of the Argentinian Peso, that happened to crash 80% against the US dollar only within 2 years (2015 to 2017). Within this time there were enormous price drops, which happened only within a day.
Avoid Cash Exchange Counters
With money exchange counters you usually get a rather bad exchange rate. The exchange rates they offer are usually up to several percent away from the real exchange rate. So it's better not to use these locations, because there are always better digital deals if you have the right setup before you start your journey. Just compare the rates with Oanda when you pass such a cash exchange counter, then you’ll see what I mean.
Virtual Banks For Students Studying Abroad
Virtual banking solutions try to fix the problems we face with traditional banks, especially in our modern world of globalization when traveling is not something special anymore. As mentioned, there are banks that don’t charge fees on withdrawals, however they often offer poor conversion fees in the form of a 3 to 4 % spread on foreign exchange (e.g. HSBC or Citybank). And that is a lot.
This is different with virtual banks. Travelers and people spending more time abroad than usual are exactly target group. But also freelancers or companies who get paid internationally and who therefore need good exchange rates and low or no fees when it comes to international money transfers.
ATM fees with traditional banks are typically around 3%, or a minimum of $3, depending on the amount you cash out. The bank automatically charge the higher amount. So if you withdraw $20, they will charge you $3, because 3% of $20 would only be $0.6. If you take $200 they will charge 3%, which is $6, which obviously more than $3. Good to be a bank, right?
However, the virtual banks now compete with them, which might make the traditional bank’s life harder. They not only offer better fees but also have great apps helping their customers to bank smarter. The virtual banking apps are really cool, easy to use, give an overview of all your spendings at a glance and they come with a debit card you can use for cash withdrawals abroad.
Here are the services you should know about:
Suitable for Students from Europe studying worldwide
Revolut is a London-based virtual bank specialising in the needs of travellers. It also allows cheap cross-border payments. At the heart of Revolut is its debit card (MasterCard), which can be used to make digital payments anywhere, but its core benefits also include low-cost withdrawals abroad.
Unfortunately, only students (or resident citizens) from Europe can currently register with Revolut. Learn more on our Revolut Review.
Suitable for European students studying abroad worldwide
Monese is the only virtual bank we know of that doesn't claim a proof of residency from users. At sign up you are directly asked for a shipping address for your new Monese bank card, but this address doesn't have to be your permanent residency. It could also be a fiend's place where you let your card get sent to, which makes the virtual bank suitable for digital nomads without permanents residency. With a Monese subscription you get a Brittish IBAN bank account for SEPA transfers and you will be able to sent to or receive money from more than 30 countries. The internet bank supports currency transfers or withdrawals in a lot of major world currencies such as EUR, USD, AUD, BGN and a whole range of others.
Check out our Monese review for more details.
Suitable for Students worldwide studying abroad
Transferwise is a FinTech company offering an online account especially for transferring and receiving money internationally and for making payments across borders. This also includes a debit card with which you can withdraw money abroad. Actually Transferwise is the transfer service behind the other services mentioned above, when it comes to cross border bank transfers.
With Transferwise, students studying abroad for one year can pay their rent and other regular costs, but also receive salary payments or scholarship payments. The Transferwise Borderless Account works on the basis of real bank accounts. So you can give others real bank account information to which they can transfer.
Learn more on our Transferwise Review.
Suitable for Students from Europe studying worldwide
PaySera is a comprehensive virtual bank allowing people from Europe (the European Economic Erea) to open an internet bank account within minutes. What you get is an IBAN bank from Lithuania (with country code LT in front) account with a VISA debit card. The card is pepaid, so users can only spend what they actually have on their account.
With PaySera you can make and receive transfers from all around the world, 184 countries are on their list. PaySera supports a range of major world currencies, so you can handle payments and foreign currency exchange from many places around the world. Getting the card costs a one time payment of a few Euros and card payments within Europe are free of charge. However, outside Europe you have to pay fees of €0.10 + 0.7% to 1.20% when using the card for cashless payments. ATM withdrawals again come with a fee, but a comparatively small one.
When PaySera exchanges currencies in the background (when you receive, send or withdraw another currency than you hold) then they charge one of the lowest possible fees on the market for the foreign exchange – other than any traditional bank would do.
Learn more about PaySera in our Review.
Suitable for Student from around the world studying abroad
ePayments is an serious alternative to normal banks for people with international connections or who travel a lot. They are even cryptocurrency-friendly, which today is a big plus and shows that the company is moving with the times.
In general ePayments offers a comprehensive online payments solution which is also targeting online businesses and shops, but their service includes IBAN bank accounts for cheap SEPA transfers. You can also make SWIFT bank transfers with ePayments. The virtual bank account comes with a prepaid MasterCard.
Using the card abroad costs $2.60 + 2.6% MasterCard fee. Beware that MasterCard (and VISA) are independent companies that always charge extra fees, so it is impossible to get a card that will be entirely free of charge at ATMs etc.
As an eastern Europen country ePayments also supports the Russian RUB, besides EUR, USD and GBP.
Other than competitors, ePayments ship their cards worldwide, not limited to European customers.
ePayments accounts are subject to certain limitations, however, for what students consume on average these limits shouldn't matter.
Learn more about ePayments in our Review.
Virtual Bank with bank cards (ATM + cashless payments) for use within Europe
This virtual bank from the Netherlands attracts young people from Europe who search for an easy yet comprehensive banking online banking solution within Europe. So no matter from which European country you are - if you travel within Europe or plan a longer stay in another European country, then this bank might be a great solution for you.
Bunq accounts offer an IBAN bank account for cheap SEPA transfers and users can get several bank cards for very organized spendings. As Bunq is for banking within Europe the only supported currency is the Euro. Besides a MasterCard (prepaid) card users can also have a Maestro Card.
Bunq partners with Transferwise when it comes to bank transfers, that's why they have very low transfer fees. Actually, bunk doesn't charge transfer fees at all, the only fee that applies is the one they pass on from Transferwise.
Cash withdrawals cost a flatrate of €0.99. Find out more details in our Bunq review.
Suitable for Students from Europe and the US studying anywhere in Europe
Monzo is another FinTech company in this category which calls itself the bank of the future. The UK based virtual bank, which also specializes in long-term travel, does not charge any credit card fees and doesn't put an additional charge on top of the foreign exchange rate.
Monzo serves customers from EU countries and has recently expanded to the USA. So student from the US can also signup for Monzo to use the service in Europe, for instance. Of course, cross-border payments are among the virtual bank’s key services.
Monzo even offers overdraft and loans and their app allows for money management including tracking your spendings at a glance and more. Students from Europe and the USA can get a Monzo account.
Suitable for Students from Europe and USA studying worldwide
N26 is a direct bank from Germany offering its services throughout Europe and now even in the USA. The company offers a great practical mobile banking solution that can also be used for stays abroad. Because the card use is very favorable, there are no extra fees and a good exchange rate.
In addition, N26 offers integrated health insurance and other extra services (see table). As a European or US American student, you can simply get an account with N26 online and use it to receive, send and withdraw money abroad. Read more in our N26 review.