As I mentioned last week, when you live on the road, life’s ordinary routines can change with the miles. However, one routine that can and should stay consistent across all state lines is how and where you do your banking.
Banking has come a long way since the first full-time RVers hit the road with nothing but a checkbook and possibly a “bank by phone” number that allowed travelers to review simple transactions and account balances. Decades later financial transactions have evolved enough to make full-time RVing life much easier for travelers and now almost every aspect of banking can now be done online and by ATM machines.
Despite the ease in which we can bank online, when you travel off-the-beaten-path like I do, banking hurdles still exist. For example, assessing cash in areas where your bank doesn’t have a presence will result in exorbitant ATM surcharges. How do you avoid ATM surcharge fees? Choose a bank or credit union that has a presence in every state (www.bankrate.com is a great website to begin your bank research).
Whether an institution’s presence features bricks-and-mortar branches in most cities or just ATMs in grocery stores, knowing that you can access money from your account with little inconvenience and cost brings peace of mind. Another convenience of choosing a national institution is that whenever you have an issue with one of your accounts, you can easily stop by a branch office and talk to a human about the problem. Although I would prefer to bank with a smaller, regionally-based institution, I found that my larger bank was the only ones that could provide both personal and business accounts to me with lower overall fees.
Banking with nationwide institutions can be impersonal and expensive, so if you choose to bank with a regionally-based institution, you can still keep your banking fees to a minimum when you’re nowhere near a branch. For example, you can get cash-back whenever you shop at large grocery stores or conducting business at larger U.S. post offices.
Depositing money presents even bigger hurdles if you’re working and full-timing. In the past I would have made a long trip to the “big city” just to cash our workamping or business checks, but now thanks to the evolution of mobile banking, I can make deposits with one click of my iPhone’s camera. Many banks are starting to utilize smart phone check deposits: you take a photo of the check, which then gets uploaded to the bank’s system. In a day or two, the check is deposited into your bank account. Mobile banking technology is amazing, but keep in mind that some smaller banks’ apps are inferior to those found at larger institutions. In addition, most banks will only let customers deposit up to $1000 per day for each account.
Although my national bank features a strong presence online and in cities around America, I found that maintaining a bank account at Paypal.com is a handy way to keep my money accessible throughout the world. Paypal customers can get debit cards featuring the Visa and Mastercard logos, and they can also utilize PayPal’s mobile banking app, which I found to be superior to apps developed by national institutions. With PayPal, you can also send, receive and deposit money exactly like you can with nationwide banks.
Once you decide on a bank to do business with and put your account to the test while you’re on the road, you can rest easy knowing that even when life is changing with every mile traveled, some things can still stay the same.
Rene Agredano and her husband, Jim Nelson, became full-time RVers in 2007 and have been touring the country ever since. In her blog, Rene chronicles the ins and outs of the full-timing life and brings readers along to meet the fascinating people and amazing places they visit on the road. Her road trip adventures are chronicled in her blog at LiveWorkDream.com.