21 Pros & Cons of the Charles Schwab Debit Card

So, you’re considering signing up for a Charles Schwab debit card. If you’re like me before my Schwab days, you’re unhappy with your current bank provider.

I’m looking at you, Bank of America, with your $5,000 account minimum.

Since time is money, here’s the main takeaway of this Schwab debit card review: If you’re a frequent traveler, getting the Schwab Visa Platinum debit card is a no-brainer for saving money on fees.

Otherwise, if globetrotting isn’t part of your foreseeable plans, Schwab may or may not be the right fit for you.

Why Should I Trust You, Laura?

Popular article: Charles Schwab Debit Card for Travel: The Low-down

I’ve been using my Schwab debit card since 2018, and Schwab has no clue I wrote this article. So, you’re receiving my uninfluenced opinion.

I began by using Schwab’s Platinum card solely as a means to avoid ATM fees when traveling. Schwab was my secondary bank during my first year using their debit card.

Fast-forward to one too many issues with Bank of America, and I now use Schwab as my primary banking provider. But I don’t recommend Schwab to everyone.

In fact, if it weren’t for my digital nomad ways, I likely wouldn’t use Schwab for banking at all.

Yeah, I said it.

When I was drafting this Schwab debit card review, I didn’t have a plan other than to share my experience. It turned out that my list of pros outweighed the cons by three items.

But I encourage you to assess your situation—the Schwab debit card benefits are outstanding for travelers, but in my opinion, it’s not the best card for everyday banking.

The bottom line is I’m not selling you anything in this article, nor am I receiving perks from Schwab for putting it on the web.

I do hope this post serves you in some way, though. And I’d love to hear your thoughts on Schwab’s debit card in the comments.

What You Get With the Schwab Debit Card

The fancy name for Schwab’s card is the Charles Schwab Visa Platinum debit card. Below are some of the perks you’ll receive by signing up for a Schwab checking account.

FeatureDescription
Who can apply?U.S. citizens and residents
Eligibility requirementsSchwab brokerage account
Fee-free ATMsYes. 1+ million in 200+ countries and territories
Frequency of ATM fee rebatesMonthly
Foreign transaction feesNo
Minimum account balance$0

If you’ve heard chatter about a new Charles Schwab debit card, it’s true. Schwab sent its customers new, sleeker-looking cards in the fall of 2022.

The new Schwab debit cards work the same as the old ones but have a classier and clutter-free appearance.

12 Charles Schwab Debit Card Pros

It might seem weird that a company primarily known for providing investment services offers a debit card. I’m right there with you.

But the silver lining is that Schwab’s 40+ years of success make them a household name that many people trust.

Below are the most notable Schwab debit card benefits you’ll receive if you decide to do your banking with them.

1. Free ATM Withdrawals

One of the biggest perks of the Schwab debit card for frequent travelers is that you can withdraw money for free at over one million ATMs throughout the world.

Furthermore, there’s no Charles Schwab ATM withdrawal limit. So, you’ll be able to take out as much money as the ATM you’re using allows.

The way Schwab operates its free ATM withdrawals is that it takes the sum of all fees that ATMs deduct from your checking account. On the last business day of each month, you’ll automatically receive a lump sum in your checking account in that amount.

Schwab dubs this their ATM fee rebate.

Their system has worked flawlessly during the 4+ years I’ve been banking with them. And having an extra payday on months when I frequently withdraw money is a nice bonus.

The caveat to Schwab’s free ATM withdrawals is that you must find Schwab-compatible machines. Luckily, that’s usually easy. I’ll share more details on this after covering these pros and cons.

2. Compatible With Most ATMs

You can use your Schwab Visa Platinum debit card at nearly any ATM you encounter, thanks to Schwab’s strong relationship with major ATM network providers.

From my experience using the Schwab ATM card on several continents is that it’s easiest to look for the “Plus” or “Visa” sticker on an ATM. Both of those mean that Schwab will give you a rebate on ATM fees at the end of the month.

Equally as important, there’s no Schwab ATM limit regarding how many times you can withdraw money each month while still qualifying for a rebate.

So, when I’m nearing the end of my stay in a country, I frequently withdraw small amounts of cash from an ATM, knowing that it doesn’t matter if I need to withdraw a little more, given that Schwab will refund me for the fees.

3. The Power of Visa

Your Charles Schwab checking card comes with the backing of Visa. So, you can use your debit card wherever Visa is accepted, from ATMs to your favorite restaurant.

According to LendingTree, Visa and Mastercard are neck and neck for having the highest merchant acceptance rate.

So, you can feel confident knowing that most merchants will accept your Schwab debit card. Not that it’s wise to use a debit card to pay for everyday items. But that’s a story for another day.

4. No Minimum Balance Requirements

Banks that require minimum balances in checking accounts can create financial strain. That was my experience with Bank of America (BOA) when I switched from a nine-to-five job to freelance work. Good ‘ole BOA forced me to keep a minimum of $5,000 in my account since I was no longer receiving reliable ACH deposits.

Otherwise, they’d charge me a fee.

Yikes!

Needless to say, the Charles Schwab ATM card is a refreshing change from such bank bureaucracy. It doesn’t matter if you have $10,000 or $1 in your checking account; you’ll be able to use your ATM card.

While you can keep a $0 balance in your Schwab checking account without repercussions, be sure to fund it with money before using your debit card. Otherwise, Schwab could suspend your account for trying to spend money you don’t have.

5. No Foreign Transaction Fees

The Charles Schwab Visa Platinum debit card doesn’t have foreign transaction fees. That doesn’t matter if you only plan on using your card in the United States.

But if you’re an American traveling outside the U.S., you could save loads of money in foreign transaction fees.

To be fair, it’s common for banks to offer debit and credit cards without foreign transaction fees. Nevertheless, it’s nice having the peace of mind that you won’t have to spend the 1% to 5% average fee that some banks charge their customers.

6. High(ish) APY

Banks are no longer known for offering good APY (annual percentage yield) in exchange for you storing your money with them. However, Schwab offers a 0.40% APY on the money you keep in your checking account, which is significantly higher than the average 0.06% interest rate most banks offer.

Nevertheless, I wouldn’t choose a Charles Schwab checking card solely on this relatively higher APY rate—the interest you receive will amount to pennies at most unless you keep tons of money in your account.

You can also open up a Schwab Bank Investor Savings Account. But it only offers 0.43% APY; that’s far from ideal compared to online banks, which often entice potential customers with savings account APYs over 3%.

Note: Like most banks, Schwab’s APY rates fluctuate. So, check their website for the most up-to-date number.

7. Transaction Alert Option

Do you know the feeling of glancing at your bank statement and wondering, where did that charge come from?

Hopefully, you don’t.

But to prevent unwanted surprises, Schwab offers the option for you to turn on transaction alerts. That way, you’ll know right away if a fraudster made a charge to your Charles Schwab Platinum card.

8. Great Customer Service

By signing up solely for a checking account, you won’t get a Charles Schwab advisor. Instead, Schwab has a customer service team to care for its banking clients.

Whether you want to order a Visa debit card online or you lost your card, Schwab has excellent 24/7 customer service agents who will be able to support you.

My favorite way to contact Schwab is through live chat via signing into my checking account. I’ve always received quick, thorough responses. You can also call them, although their contact page doesn’t list their call center hours.

Alternatively, if your debit card gets lost or stolen, they have a 24/7 emergency number you can contact.

Unfortunately, I had to use their emergency number. But fortunately for this article, I can say from experience that Schwab’s emergency customer service staff were efficient and supportive.

9. Check Deposits Are a Breeze

You can deposit checks into your Schwab checking account via a mobile app. Making these deposits is quick and intuitive.

But, like most traditional banks, there’s a processing time before you can use the check you deposit into your Schwab account. For large deposits, you might have access to a portion of the funds before Schwab grants you access to the full amount.

Ay, cryptocurrency, can you please hurry up and get your technology together?

While it’s easy to make check deposits on the app, Charles Schwab cash deposits aren’t possible.

The reason?

Schwab doesn’t have any in-person bank branches. So, you’ll need to convert your cash to a check before depositing it into your account. Note that Schwab doesn’t accept money orders or traveler’s checks.

10. You Can Order Checks

The millennial in me cringes at the word check. But according to a survey run by FinanceBuzz, 59% of Gen Xers and millennials have written a check in the past six months.

So if you’re among the majority, you’ll be glad to know that you can order checks with Schwab.

To set yourself up with Charles Schwab bank checks, simply log into your account and request that they mail you a box. You’ll have a few different choices, the most basic of which are free.

11. Contactless Payments

Contactless payment options are all the rage nowadays, and Schwab has kept up with the trend.

Your Charles Schwab debit card will come with a contactless chip. If for whatever reason the chip isn’t working, you can also insert or swipe your card.

If you love using mobile wallets, you can add your Schwab Bank Visa Platinum debit card to your wallet instead for contactless payments.

12. Schwab Credit Card

This last item may or may not seem like a pro, depending on whether you want to pair your debit card with a credit card from the same company. But if so, you can sign up for a Charles Schwab AmEx card in addition to your debit card.

I don’t have personal experience with the Schwab American Express card, so I can’t comment on what it’s like using it.

But I can tell you that merchants accepting American Express are becoming more widely available. In fact, 99% of merchants in the U.S. now accept AmEx cards.

9 Charles Schwab Debit Card Cons

Nothing is ever perfect. So, let’s pivot this Schwab debit card review and explore the downsides of being a platinum card customer.

1. Annoying App

Related article: Charles Schwab Mobile App for Banking: 8 Things to Know

My biggest issue with having a Schwab checking account and debit card is dealing with the app. While the app is straightforward to use, it has a brokerage account layout.

What does that mean?

Whenever you log onto the app, you’ll see a rollercoaster line on a graph representing the ebb and flow of money through your checking account. It also shows the day’s gains or losses.

Even after years of having a Schwab Visa Platinum debit card, I still cringe when I log into the app and see a negative sign in my checking account after I withdrew money.

Unlike a savings account, where a graph showcasing gains over time would be encouraging, or a brokerage account, where it’s helpful to track gains and losses, such details are unnecessary for a debit card account.

Since Schwab’s debit card service is a small part of its company, it’s hard to picture them developing a separate app for checking accounts. But I’ll continue to keep my fingers crossed.

2. Must Have a Brokerage Account

Before you sign up for a checking account to get your debit card, you first need to sign up for a Schwab brokerage account.

Creating a brokerage account is free with Schwab, and you don’t have to fund it with money. You also don’t have to speak with Charles Schwab advisors, though it’s certainly an option if you want to simplify your banking and investments with the same company.

Setting up a Schwab brokerage account involves giving them basic personal details, similar to what they’ll need to set up your checking account.

Schwab is usually quick with approving new brokerage accounts. But it’s not always immediate, so you’ll likely be able to get a checking account faster with other banks.

3. Slow Money Transfers

Unfortunately, Schwab embodies the bad rep traditional banks get for slow money transfers. You can expect it to take several business days for money to move into and out of your account.

That means I have to plan ahead with my banking, and I’m grateful to have credit cards to fall back on if I miscalculate (so far, so good).

The issue with money transfers works two ways. First, deposits take days to clear. Since you can only use your Charles Schwab Visa Platinum debit card when there’s cold hard cash in your checking account, such a time delay can create financial issues.

Paying credit card bills and making other money transfers also takes several business days for the money to withdraw from your account.

In the meantime, it takes careful planning to know how much spending money you have in your account. You’ll need to have enough cash there when Schwab is ready to process your withdrawal.

4. Bank Red Tape

Schwab is a massive business that handles over $7 trillion in client assets. Any amount of money you keep in your checking account will look like peanuts to them.

Given the rise of online banks, which have lower costs due to being free of brick-and-mortar expenses, Schwab’s checking account services feel outdated and red tape-like.

Schwab also hasn’t managed to stay out of the limelight from the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). The SEC charged three Schwab advisors with fraud for misleading clients.

In Schwab’s defense, it wasn’t a company-wide issue.

5. Low Interest Rates (Compared to Online Banks)

We’ve established that Schwab offers higher-than-average APYs for clients that keep money in their checking account while using their Charles Schwab ATM card.

But how good is a 0.40% interest rate?

Not great, if you’re comparing it to certain online banks.

For example, Quontic and Axos offer APYs starting at over 1% for the money you keep in their checking accounts.

That said, for better or worse, APYs are subject to change. And since most people don’t expect to make money from the cash they have sitting in their checking account, this might not seem like a big deal to you.

6. You Must Be American

At this time, the Schwab Visa Platinum debit card is only available to American citizens and residents.

If you don’t fall under either of those categories, all hope isn’t lost. It’s worth checking with banks from your home country to see if any are part of the Global ATM Alliance.

The alliance is an agreement between banks to let people withdraw money from ATMs using their debit cards. While it sounds great in theory, there are often caveats, such as only being able to withdraw money from certain ATMs in specific countries.

Americans who have a Schwab debit card don’t have to worry about such rules.

7. It’s Easy to Use the Wrong Routing Number

If you need to look up your Schwab checking account routing number on your desktop or via the app, take great care.

Because Schwab makes all customers sign up for a brokerage account, they assign you two different routing numbers—one for your checking account and the other for your brokerage account.

In the past, they showed the checking account number first. But after a design change on their app, Schwab moved the brokerage information to be at the forefront.

Due to oversight on my part, I paid my taxes using my brokerage routing number. There wasn’t money there for the U.S. government to take, and I got slapped with a late fee.

The bottom line is that if you decide to sign up for a Charles Schwab checking card and need to access your routing number, be sure you use your checking account routing number, not the brokerage one.

8. No Brick & Mortar Bank

Schwab doesn’t have brick-and-mortar banks. You won’t even find Schwab ATMs.

Instead, they operate their banking services exclusively online. Many people don’t mind this, especially with online-only banks becoming increasingly common.

However, if you enjoy visiting a bank in person, the Charles Schwab ATM card may not be the best fit for you.

9. Cash Deposits Aren’t Possible

Schwab offers a unique opportunity for its customers to access over one million ATMs around the world. But not a single ATM provides the option to make Charles Schwab cash deposits.

Instead, if you have cash that you want to deposit into your checking account, you’ll need to give someone the money and have them write you a check.

It’s definitely an inconvenience, making Schwab unfit for some people.

Understanding the Schwab One Account

Up until now, you’ve heard me refer to the Schwab Visa Platinum debit card. So what’s this One account business all about?

Schwab One is the umbrella name for the following services:

  • Brokerage account
  • Checking account
  • Visa debit card

So, there’s no difference between the Schwab One Visa debit card and the Platinum card—these are terms people use to convey the same thing.

Similarly, some people call the Platinum card the Charles Schwab brokerage debit card. That’s downright misleading, given that your debit card won’t be connected to any money you may choose to keep in your brokerage account.

That said, you can move money between your Schwab checking and brokerage accounts for free.

The bottom line is that if you see people talking about a Schwab One brokerage debit card online, you don’t have to set aside time for more research. Schwab only offers one debit card, and that’s its Visa Platinum card.

How to Apply For a Schwab Debit Card

Applying for a Schwab debit card involves two main steps:

  1. Filling out a brokerage application.
  2. Filling out a checking account application.

Admittedly, that’s simplifying the process. So, below is a more in-depth guide showing how to get a Charles Schwab debit card.

Step 1: Sign Up for a Brokerage Account

Head to Schwab’s website and click “Open a Brokerage Account.” Remember, you’ll need to complete this step even if you don’t want to invest with Schwab.

Step 2: Wait for Approval

It takes about 10 minutes to fill out the Schwab brokerage application. If there aren’t any discrepancies with the information you give them, you can expect fast approval. Otherwise, Schwab might notify you that they require supporting documents to set up your account.

Step 3: Sign Up for a Checking Account

You aren’t automatically eligible for a Charles Schwab checking card and account by having a brokerage account. Instead, you’ll need to head back to Schwab’s website and fill out their checking account application.

You’ll need to undergo a Charles Schwab credit check, so don’t be surprised if you see a temporary decline in your credit score after you apply for your debit card.

Step 4: Request a Charles Schwab Visa Platinum Debit Card

Schwab won’t send you a debit card unless you request it. So, you’ll need to order your Visa debit card online by logging into your account and clicking “Request card” under the “Upgrade to contactless” section.

You don’t have to pay for the card, nor is there a Schwab debit card review to see if you’re eligible. Having a Charles Schwab checking account is enough for you to qualify.

Step 5: Activate Your Charles Schwab Debit Card

You’ll receive your Schwab card in the mail within 3 – 5 business days. In order to use it and start enjoying the Schwab debit card benefits, you’ll need to activate your card online or call the number they give you.

How You Can Use Your Charles Schwab ATM Card

Related reading: 7 Best Debit Cards to Use Abroad

You can use your Schwab Visa Platinum debit card in the same way you would any other card.

Examples include:

  • Make Venmo transfers
  • Pay merchants
  • Pay bills
  • Wire money
  • Pay with ApplePay and other mobile wallets
  • Transfer money between your Schwab checking and brokerage accounts

The bottom line is that as long as a merchant accepts Visa, you’re good to go.

ATM Networks Compatible With the Charles Shwab Debit Card

One of the biggest Schwab debit card benefits is that it’s compatible with over one million ATMs across the globe.

Schwab guarantees fee rebates if you use ATMs that work with one or more of the four networks:

If you’re like me, you’ve never paid attention to these names on ATMs.

But since I signed up with Schwab, looking for these four networks has become second nature.

I’ve only encountered a couple of situations where I haven’t found a nearby ATM that wasn’t compatible with at least one of these networks. In those cases, I opted to pay the ATM fee to avoid losing time hunting down a compatible ATM machine.

A Real-Life Story: How Schwab Handles Stolen Debit Cards

I was robbed at gunpoint in Costa Rica, and my Schwab Visa Platinum debit card was among the items stolen.

My hostel was nearby. Within 20 minutes, I was on the phone with Schwab’s emergency line reporting the robbery. They immediately cut off my card and mailed me another one.

A new debit card sitting in the U.S. was no help to me and no fault of Schwab’s. But I found a workaround by wiring myself money through Western Union for the rest of my stay.

I was immensely impressed by the efficiency, professionalism, and compassion Schwab’s customer service staff offered me during the incident. It was thankfully a one-off situation, but based on my experience, they get an A+ for handling emergencies.

Who Are Charles Schwab’s Competitors?

Charles Schwab’s primary competitors are companies like Fidelity and TD Ameritrade—businesses that have nothing to do with debit cards.

But in the checking account space, Schwab’s competitors are online banking companies that provide higher APYs. They’re also experiencing competition with other global businesses breaking traditions, offering banking options for digital nomads.

Using the Schwab Debit Card Abroad

Although the Schwab debit card benefits people in many situations, digital nomads and people who travel frequently—domestically or internationally—typically benefit the most from it.

I discovered the Charles Schwab checking card thanks to a “Charles Schwab expat” I met during my trip. I’ve since proudly become a Schwab expat.

If you’re interested in learning more about why Schwab is so great for travelers, check out my guide on the Charles Schwab debit card for travel.

Tip: Whether you use your Schwab card at home or abroad, check out my guide on eight things to know about using the Charles Schwab mobile app.

FAQs About the Charles Schwab Debit Card

As we near the end of this Schwab debit card review, I’d imagine you still have questions. I’ve answered some below. But if you don’t see your question here, leave it in the comments section and I’ll be happy to help.

How does the Schwab debit card work?

The Schwab debit card works like any other ATM card. You fund a checking account with money and can either withdraw cash at ATMs or use the cash to make online transfers.

Is the Charles Schwab debit card metal?

Schwab’s new debit card has a metal appearance. It’s possible that it’s brushed with stainless steel or another material commonly used in metal credit cards, but I can’t say with certainty as I can’t find anywhere that states this.

Does the Schwab debit card charge foreign transaction fees?

No, the Schwab debit card doesn’t charge foreign transaction fees.

How long does it take to get the Schwab debit card?

It takes approximately 3 – 5 business days for a Schwab debit card to arrive by mail.

Where can you use the Charles Schwab debit card?

You can use the Charles Schwab debit card anywhere Visa is accepted. Furthermore, Schwab has partnered with four ATM networks, offering you the opportunity to use 1+ million ATMs worldwide without fees.

My Schwab debit card got declined. What do I do?

If your Schwab debit card isn’t working, contact them immediately. Many reasons exist for this, ranging from a faulty ATM to insufficient funds in your account. Schwab’s customer service will help you get to the bottom of the problem.

When does Schwab reimburse ATM fees?

Schwab reimburses ATM fees on the last business day of each month. Enjoy that nice little bump to your paycheck!

Is there a Schwab debit card limit?

No, there’s no Schwab debit card limit. You can take out as much money at a time that any given ATM allows. Furthermore, there’s no limit on how many rebates you’re eligible for.

So, Is the Charles Schwab Debit Card Good?

That’s a loaded question, as it depends on the situation. But I’m comfortable saying this: The Charles Schwab Visa Platinum debit card is good for frequent travelers.

If you’re not on the road often, you might find more attractive offerings at another bank. Either way, the Schwab debit card benefits outweigh the negatives for many people, myself included.

Laura has been wandering the globe for over a decade. She's an early bird and backpacker at heart and can often be spotted with a dog or ten that she's befriended along the way. Much of the content Laura writes on A Piece of Travel includes details on solo female travel and wheelchair accessibility, with the support of her brother-in-law and sister.

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