I taught English in France and South Korea from November 2013 – March 2015. I earned my in-class TEFL certification in Toulouse, France and went on to teach at an after-school academy in Icheon, Gyeonggi-do, South Korea. Teaching English abroad was a great experience in so many ways, and I was fortunate to have had the chance to live abroad and support myself at the same time. However, teaching abroad is not without its hiccups. Besides the challenge of taking on another culture, life overseas can be frustrating at times when it comes to the nuances of medical care, visas and perhaps most importantly, banking.

Like many teachers, one of my goals while teaching English abroad was to save money and practice sound money management. Nobody is getting rich teaching ESL, but it is possible in places like South Korea to save money and manage it. I was able to accomplish both, and the habits I began in Korea remain with me to this day.

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In order to address the proverbial question of How can I manage my money when teaching English abroad, I turned to a very popular personal finance book that had been on my list of things to read upon returning from overseas. I read Ramit Sethi’s I Will Teach You to be Rich (highly recommended) in order to revamp my financial structure. This treatise on wealth management and strategies is written with the 20-35 age group in mind. Its principles, however, are fundamental to any personal financial infrastructure regardless of age.

The real strength in the book lies in the specific action steps provided throughout each chapter. Personally, I have never taken so much action from a book before, and I have recommended it to many of my friends and family already. One of the action steps involves opening a Charles Schwab High Yield Investor Checking Account in preparation for quitting brick and mortar banks like Chase, Bank of America etc. for good. Let’s take a look at some of the features of this account.

The Benefits of a Charles Schwab High Yield Investor Checking Account While Teaching English Abroad

  • $0 Monthly Service fees
  • $0 Account Minimum
  • A 0.06% APY variable interest rate on any balance (as of May 2015)
  • Free bill pay on Schwab.com and Schwab Mobile
  • Apply for Schwab Mobile Deposit to deposit checks from anywhere
  • Free standard checks and a Visa Platinum debit card once the account has been funded
  • FDIC insurance up to $250,000
  • A linked Schwab One brokerage account (free but requires credit inquiry)
  • Link to Apple Pay to make purchases with your iPhone 6 or iPhone 6 Plus

Those are all well and good, right? But let’s see what’s behind DOOR…NUMBER…2!

  • Unlimited fee rebates from any ATM worldwide
  • No foreign transaction fees

Were you expecting a Toyota 4Runner?

So one could use this Visa debit card to make fee-free purchases around the world and withdraw money from any ATM. You would withdraw in the foreign currency and the transaction would show up online in the equivalent dollar amount. Schwab would refund you any ATM fees you are charged at the end of the month. Visa has global acceptance and the card comes embedded with a chip for added security. Coupled with a local bank account that your school deposits your wages into, you will have flexibility and access to multiple sources of funds during your time abroad. This will come in handy when you find that you run out of cash you exchanged either in your home country or at the destination while waiting to set up a local bank account. And please, never exchange currency at the airport. You will get hosed.

Why are foreign transaction fees a big deal? Card issuers typically charge between 1-3% of the purchase price on top of what you are paying. This may seem insignificant; however, these small extra charges add up because you are paying more than necessary every time you make a purchase. And as far as the linked brokerage account is concerned, you don’t have to use it. There is no penalty or fees associated with having it linked to your checking account. It will come in handy when you decide to learn about investing though!

I think is an excellent option for those who don’t have the credit scores/history to apply for competitive no foreign transaction fee credit cards such as the Chase Sapphire Preferred, Barclaycard Arrival Plus World Elite MasterCard and the Citi ThankYou Premier. Part of being a responsible individual teaching English abroad is knowing the ins and outs of your wallet. With a Schwab Checking account, you don’t have to worry about access to cash. You don’t have to worry about ATM fees. And finally, you most certainly don’t have to worry about those mean old foreign transaction fees.

Call him the best friend you’ve never met or just that guy you read something cool from once, Miles Skalman shares his best practices that save people time and money. A former IT professional in the States and ESL teacher in South Korea, Miles takes the exploratory approach to life in order to find purposeful processes that provide value to as much people as possible. When he’s not traversing the oceans to try new career islands, you can find him reading up on personal finance and simplicity. Reach him on LinkedIn if you so dare.

2 COMMENTS

  1. Sounds good but doesn’t say much about the foreign exchange rate that Schwab is issuing. Good post but this guy should get a girl/boy friend instead of writing this pointless piece. It would be better to hear of experiences instead of banking advice that anyone can get from google.com

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