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Travelling and finances don’t always go well together, and never is that more true than when you become a digital nomad.
Like many things in life, banking and finance-related life admin are geared up for a ‘normal’ lifestyle. Most bank accounts assume you spend most of your time in one country, live in the same house for more than a couple of weeks at a time and rarely use your card abroad.
If you’re a digital nomad… that’s basically the opposite of how you actually live. And that’s where it can get complicated.
If you’ve ever had your credit card blocked while abroad, you’ll know how frustrating (and expensive!) it can be when banking goes wrong. It’s a stress you just don’t want to have to deal with, so getting your finances in order before you leave your home country is crucial. I know it’s not exciting but, trust me, it’ll be worth it. Just save yourself the headache. Here are my top tips for staying on top of your digital nomad banking, as well as my favourite cards and accounts for travel.
The best bank accounts for digital nomads
As a digital nomad, basically your whole life in online. Sure, it can be a pain to set up, but it’s actually way easier once you set the wheels in motion, so to speak.
The same is true for banking. Although traditional banks are still a long way away from catching up to our digital lifestyles, there are plenty of new companies seizing the opportunity. These are the digital bank accounts I use to manage my finances and make my money global AND digital.
Transferwise: the borderless bank account
When an account is described as “borderless”, you know it’s on the same wavelength.
If you’re like most digital nomad, your income comes from several territories – and that means several currencies to deal with. Transferwise is probably the easiest way to transfer money in various currencies. You can send and receive money in over 40 currencies into a single account, meaning you don’t need to manage multiple cards and passwords.
You can also spend money in multiple currencies with the Transferwise debit MasterCard. This handy piece of plastic converts money at the real exchange rate for a tiny fee, and lets you withdraw up to £200 completely free of charge every 30 days.
I don’t know many digital nomads that don’t use Transferwise because it’s so, so good.
Payoneer: more than just a Transferwise alternative
Some digital nomads use either Transferwise or Payoneer, but I use both.
They’re very similar in many ways, but Payoneer gives you different accounts for different currencies. You can also get a prepaid card in each currency, meaning you know exactly how much your spending without worrying about exchange rates.
It’s completely free to receive money into Payoneer, so I use it to collect my affiliate payments in other currencies (especially useful if you use the Amazon Associates programme!). It’s also free to pay out of, so I tend to leave money in there to cover business expenses in foreign currencies and avoid any exchange rates.
Saving money is just as important as how you store and spend it. Stay connected wherever you go with SkyRoam pocket WiFi and save on expensive tourist SIM cards. This handy little device will give you unlimited data around the world, so you’ll never be without maps, emails and a way to contact home.
Tide: an online bank account for business
I own a limited company in the UK, and that means I have to use a business bank account for the company finances.
Let me tell you this: business bank accounts in the UK are EXPENSIVE. As soon as I saw the prices, I immediately regretted my decision to incorporate a company.
Luckily, someone told me about a solution: Tide.
Tide is a digital bank with zero monthly fees. They simply charge a 20p fee for every transaction, which you pay on a monthly basis. It’s the perfect solution for digital nomads because it means you can make your business banking digital, too. There’s even a messaging centre in the app if you need any help, and they’re always super fast to respond.
I’ve been using Tide since I incorporated the company two years ago and it’s only gotten better and better. You can now open accounts in several currencies, including Euros and Australian dollars, and link them all in one place. The account comes with a business credit card and you can add additional cards for your employees or team members if you wish.
Paypal: an oldie but goodie
Banking is a pretty strange industry. Things are developing quickly with a cashless society on the horizon, but in many ways we’re still stuck in the past.
I didn’t use PayPal for business for a long time, but in the end I just needed it. Why? Because some companies insist on using it for invoicing, some contractors prefer to get paid that way and some services can only be paid for by PayPal (or charge a hefty fee for using a card). Basically, it’s just easier.
I only really use PayPal when I have to, but there’s no denying that a business account comes in handy!
The best credit cards for travel
I carry more credit cards and debit cards around than I expected to, but they all have their own benefits. These are the ones I absolutely rely on and recommend getting if you’re a fellow nomad (or soon to be!).
By far the best credit card in the world! This is my go-to card, and I put as much on my Amex as I can for the simple reason that I get air miles.
I have the British Airways credit card, which means I collect Avios on every purchase and can put that back into travel. It’s a win-win!
The British Airways Amex card is available in two tiers: paid and free. The paid option gets you other travel benefits, such as a free Priority Pass membership, as well as collecting avios. It’s not cheap, but well worth it if you’re going to buy a lounge pass anyway. If you’re not sure about the cost, the free option will still help you save on air travel.
I have a personal credit card but there’s also a business version of the British Airways American Express. It comes with the same benefits and more, so I’m thinking of getting one of those too since I need a new Priority Pass anyway…
Whichever one you choose, you can get 6,000 bonus Avios using the link below – even on the 100% free account.
This one’s only for Brits, so you might want to skip ahead if you’re not from the UK (sorry!).
Monzo is a completely digital UK bank that gives you your own UK bank account and prepaid MasterCard. The biggest selling point of Monzo is that it won’t charge you for overseas transactions – something every digital nomad will be happy to hear!
Not only will you not get charged for using your using Monzo card, but you’ll also get a fantastic exchange rate. In fact, I’ve found Monzo to have the very best exchange rate out there – even better than any bureau de change I’ve seen. It’s truly incredible.
As well as the most competitive rates, Monzo has some nice other perks. Although not entirely accurate, the app will show you a break down of how you spend your money, and you’ll get instant notifications on exactly how much you spent every time you make a transaction, which is super helpful for staying on top of spending. You can also look back and see exactly how much you spent in any country.
Revolut is another great digital banking solution that’s ideal for digital nomads.
As well as offering a multi-currency card and £600 of free withdrawals around the world, Revolut has some handy added extras. These include the ability to manage crytocurrencies, save money in a ‘vault’ (i.e. savings account) and even book airport lounges in any country. If you upgrade to the metal card, you also get access to a free concierge to help you with hotel and flight bookings – and it’s a lot cheaper than an actual PA.
Digital nomads banking options are increasing and improving rapidly, so there’s always a solution. I use all of the above and, between them, I’ve never had a problem with spending, sending and receiving money around the world.
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