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Avoiding banking fees while traveling overseas

A couple weeks ago, I announced I was heading off to Southeast Asia.

Step one accomplished: Booked tickets.

The next question to cross my mind was:

How to manage my money while traveling overseas?

There are many options available, therefore there is no “single” answer. However, most people seek out the best banking options with the least or no banking fees when withdrawing cash or charging purchases on credit cards.

I currently use Bank of America since they are the only U.S. bank to be part of the Global ATM Alliance. Essentially, the Global ATM Alliance is a group of banks worldwide, that let card users of those member banks to use ATM machines worldwide without paying for international ATM fees or surcharges. For complete list of participating banks, click on this PDF link.

When I stayed in Cabarete, Dominican Republic last summer, I simply went to a Scotiabank ABM to withdraw money using my Bank of America debit card and payed no ATM fees. While there was no foreign transaction fee listed on my receipt, foreign ATM machines may still charge foreign transaction fee. It’s best to check up on your respective bank on what they specifically charge and/or reimburse in transaction fees.

But what about countries that don’t have any of the participating banks listed within the Global ATM Alliance? Or what if I don’t use one of the Global ATM Alliance banks?

Good question. I asked that myself when I was researching options to get money in Nicaragua, Costa Rica, & Panama. For Nicaragua, I found that there was no participating Global ATM Alliance bank. For Costa Rica & Panama, I discovered Scotiabank had ABMs there. But here is the catch … the ABMs in Costa Rica & Panama don’t count! (As of Feb 23, 2012: Costa Rica, Panama, El Salvador, & Belize Scotiabank ABM branches “do not” have Free Access).

What’s the best option?

Charles Schwab. Specifically, with Charles Schwab High Yield Investor Checking.

I don’t know why I hadn’t found out about them, but I wish I had. Charles Schwab debit cards allow for unlimited reimbursements of ATM fees, worldwide! Pretty sweet deal!

Along with that, no account minimum and no monthly maintenance fee, that many other major banks love, love to charge you on. I didn’t believe this at first so the very friendly Charles Schwab representatives simply convinced me (awesome customer service as well!).

What’s the process like to open an account?

Simple & smooth. Charles Schwab did a great job getting my account set up and ready … in a very short amount of time. I opened my account 2 weeks before I had to leave, which left very little time to get the debit card.

Getting your account approved takes around 2-4 days depending on verification process through the bank & Patriot Act (the longer part). Then you have to fund your checking account in order for the debit card to be created and mailed out. From that point, the debit card can take 7-10 days to get to your mailbox. I opted for expedited mail ($15 charge … well worth it compared to $120 in ATM fees with other option), to be sure it got to me before I left.

Tips to keep in mind

  • When you create your PIN number, don’t start it with zero. It may not work in most ATM machines worldwide. I’m not entirely sure why, but I was simply told not to being with zero.
  • Make sure to link your checking account to some other transferable source of fund.
  • Reduce the daily withdrawal & point of sale amount to something you feel more comfortable. This helps me stay within my budget, but also reduces the amount of loss should the card be stolen.
  • Call your bank to inform them of your travel plans. Don’t want them to flag your card while you travel.
  • Have backup options such as another debit card or credit card should one of them not work or be stolen.
  • Keep photo copies of your cards, one at home, and another with you should you lose your card information. Also make note of the international phone number of your bank should you need to contact them.

This post mostly goes over debit card option, particularly for US readers. If you want more comprehensive information for other worldwide options, check out Nomadic Matt’s post on avoiding bank fees!

I’m not to familiar with traveler’s check, but I’ve heard from many travelers that it’s not convenient and that it’s not accepted in most countries around the world. As for credit cards, some will charge either a flat or percentage fee to use on purchases overseas. Chase Sapphire Preferred & many of Capital One’s credit cards are examples that have no foreign transaction fee.

Now that you’ve finished reading through this post, looking for reliable banking option while traveling? Go with Charles Schwab.

Harrison Tsai, Chief Information Officer at Lawrence Blake Group International. Learn more about Harrison.

Prioritizing and Staying Focused: Advice from Lawrence Blake Group Int’l. Chief Information Officer

We’ve all felt it at one point and time. Stressed out of our mind, and wishing whatever we needed to get done, would either go away or complete itself on it’s own. Wouldn’t that be great? You will encounter all kinds of roadblocks that test your resolve to achieve your goals. Here are four tips to help you maneuver around those barriers.

Create lists

Sounds like a waste of time, but trust me … it’s crucial to have all of what you need done written out. First, it’ll help prevent you from forgetting what you need to do. Second, you can visually see what tasks might be easier to complete first. And lastly, you’ll be able to quickly see which ones are top priority over the ones that are low.

So in creating your lists, write out the first 3 important tasks you need to complete for the day. These are your top priority tasks. After that, have a list that outlines what you’ll want to complete within a week and then month. Any longer time-scale is generally saved for the large projects (like writing e-books, or launching a new website).

Take a Break

I’m serious. Walk away from your project. Even if its for a minute. No sense in trying to continue to work on something when your mind is literally twisted up.

Go run. Lift weights. Eat something. Just about anything that isn’t your work, do it. It really helps increase your productivity when you do take some time off.

Accountability Buddies

As much as it’s our own responsibilities to hold ourselves accountable for the work we do, it always helps to have someone else be there to ask you how you’ve progressed with your projects.

I’ve grown to love having accountability buddies, especially after I learned of this term from attending online huddle sessions with fellow Puttytribe friends. There we’d each recap and discuss any goals we accomplished and set action steps for the next week.

Just seeing other people progress with projects, gives more motivation to finish your own.

Use Online Tools

There are many helpful and useful tools to keep you focused and increase your productivity.

I encourage you to use Google Calendar to keep track of your daily tasks. Put up email alerts and reminders of weekly action steps that you want completed.

As well, I stick with Chrome and Firefox browsers, as they have productivity apps such as StayFocusd and LeechBlock to restrict your usage of certain time-wasting websites.

If you are a big on using social media to promote your business, consider using Bufferapp. You can schedule your posts to release in future dates for popular social media sites including Facebook page and Twitter. Keeps your social media properties active while you are away.

The above are the main major tools I used to stay productive. There are so many online tools out there, so beware of using more than what you can chew. Otherwise, you’ll be overwhelmed by all the productivity tools you can use.

Also check out these two great resources that have also helped me with productivity:

Harrison Tsai, Chief Information Officer at Lawrence Blake Group International. Learn more about Harrison.

The Evolving Front of the Start-Up World

"More and more start-ups are able to thrive in a space that is ideal for their mission and vision rather than striving for perennial growth and a hope to go public on a prestigious stock exchange. The start-up world is far more inviting to success at various levels than it once was." Shiva Devarinti, Lawrence Blake Group Int’l Chief Finance Officer.

Lawrence Blake Group International Announces Appointment of Chief Operating Officer

New York, NY, September 10, 2014 (BUSINESS WIRE) — Lawrence Blake Group International (the “firm”) is pleased to announce the appointment of Ms. Tuso Z. Boothe to the position of Chief Operating Officer of the firm effective September 09, 2014. Ms. Boothe will report directly to the CEO of the firm, Ms. Camille-Marie Gourdet.

Ms. Boothe holds a Masters in Magazine, Newspaper, and Online Journalism and a Bachelors of Science in Public Relations from Syracuse University. Graduating with honors and with the coveted “Deans List” recognition for every year of her attendance, Ms. Boothe supported Syracuse University to the best of her capacity, achieving a record in fundraising for a fashion event she piloted from scratch, sourcing over $100,000.00 in fund development. Since graduating, Ms. Boothe has assisted multiple organizations in fund development and operations management, including Twenty What Magazine, the Multiple Sclerosis Society, the March of Dimes, Toni Morrison & The Circuits of Imagination Conference, and the Milton J. Rubenstein Museum of Science and Technology. Following graduation, Ms. Boothe opted to continue her real-world learning experience in Rome, Italy, gathering incomparable knowledge of European culture, communications, and business. In her free time, Ms. Boothe is committed to supporting organizations who provide arts education programs to youth in public schools, as well as raising awareness on the benefits of entrepreneurship among teens.

“We are very pleased to add Ms. Boothe to our executive management team. She brings extensive experience as a public relations executive and selfless entrepreneur in the art industry, having demonstrated skill in operations, strategic planning and acquisition activity,” said Camille-Marie Gourdet, CEO of the firm.


Unemployment, Your Friend In Disguise

Unemployment pretty much conjures up negative thoughts.

No job. No stability. No income. Nothing.

It’s the word that many people simply try to avoid.

But that’s it. Unemployment forces you to reevaluate yourself. It causes you to stop in life and think about what is most important to you.

Imagine always being employed forever with the same job. What does that do? It only gives you a false sense of stability. Your mind and creativity may also lack any ability to develop further.

When you lose that stability, you think of what is most important to you in your life.

On the dark side, you may go through a time where you hate others. You may start to blame others for your joblessness. And then you may begin to complain and blame the government or that bad interviewer for screwing up your chances on landing a job.

It doesn’t matter what your background story is leading up to your unemployed self, I’ll tell you straight up. Just STOP.

If you need to vent, let it all out on a punching bag, or scream at the top of your lungs in an empty room. Venting and letting out the emotions is good.

But don’t point fingers at anyone else. Because no one else is responsible for your career and self-development, but yourself!

When you understand the above point, then you’re well on your way towards moving yourself out of unemployment.

What’s next? Now that you are taking control of your own interests and career, you’ll start exploring other options.

Your mind wants more, and you’ll get more. You’ll find new ways to network. Or you’ll find new places to travel. Or you’ll find new passions that you only had dreamed about doing, but now have the open time to do.

Now what about money?

I understand the need to pay your various bills, student loans, car payments, or monthly rent. But during the unemployment period, you will have to make some sacrifices, as painful as it sounds.

For saving on rent, my tip, suck-it up, and ask your parents nicely to move back in if there is no other place where you can stay for free. Yes, some may look down upon this, but honestly, its a great way to save money, and start planning your next big move. I did it right after I graduated from college, and stayed there for over a year, while traveling, building upon my interests, and networking with creative & business professionals, before I ended up finding a job.

If you can’t stay at your parent’s place (or you absolutely don’t get along with them), stay with friends for sometime, and be extra nice to them ;).

As for your other daily expenses, I’d recommend becoming a minimalist.

You’ll just have to eat out and shop for clothing less often. Unemployment teaches you to value your money, when before, you might have not thought twice to buy that expensive leather jacket at some department store.

The points above, touched upon having money, by saving & cutting costs … but what are some “actual” ways to earn income?

Whatever you decide, do it! Don’t worry about failing, or wasting your time.

While I was unemployed, I took crazy chances, buying an unlimited flight pass for $499 with JetBlue to travel across the United States, and connect with like-minded travel enthusiasts. That’s when I discovered I loved traveling, and immersed myself with the travel community … and discovered Couchsurfing, and even won a free flight to Europe. Unemployment, was truly my friend and blessing in disguise. It woke me up.

And I hope, it wakes you up too!

Overall, during unemployment, you know the feeling of being mentally and emotionally tested. I won’t need to dwell on that more.

Many break-down. Crumble under the pressure of failing many times. And give up.

But you just have to pick yourself up and move on towards the next opportunity. Be strong. The faster you learn to pick yourself up and not dwell on the failure, the better you will get at finding that right opportunity.

Harrison Tsai, Chief Information Officer at Lawrence Blake Group International. Learn more about Harrison at

Thumb: Our Social Network of the Week

Thumb is a crowdsourcing platform where users can gather dozens to thousands of opinions from other users on everything from what shirt to wear with those boots to whether they’d buy a new tech gadget that’s currently in the design phase, has huge potential for small businesses. From gauging interest in a new product or service to getting feedback on marketing collateral, is a platform with a multitude of uses.

 ”Thumb is so hot, it’s twice as addictive as Pinterest” Says  Venture Beat 


Good morning from Barcelona, Spain! Our team is excited to work with some of the city’s strongest biotech start-ups in launching an innovative start-up incubator and accelerator program. We’re excited to share details as they become available.


Good morning from Barcelona, Spain! Our team is excited to work with some of the city’s strongest biotech start-ups in launching an innovative start-up incubator and accelerator program. We’re excited to share details as they become available.