Complete Guide to Your Schwab Debit Card (2019)

with No Comments

I am continually surprised by how little documentation Schwab has on its own features as well as how widely popular our Schwab Tutorials are here on the Marotta On Money website. We are an independently owned and operated wealth management firm. We are not affiliated with Schwab or any other custodian. We use Charles Schwab as the primary custodian for all of our service levels.

Through a relationship with Charles Schwab, you gain access to Schwab Bank’s High Yield Investor Checking account. Schwab Bank is technically a separate service provider, but is overseen by its namesake. For those who are comfortable with online banking, Schwab Bank is a great choice. The list of Schwab Bank High Yield Investor Checking Account features is impressive.

As I’ve said previously, my favorite feature of Charles Schwab’s banking service is Schwab Bill Pay. It is a mechanism by which you can pay any bill you receive, including checks to friends or small businesses.

However, I think my second favorite feature of Charles Schwab’s banking service is their debit cards.

Normally, if you use an ATM that is not the same as your bank an ATM fee is charged to your account. These can range from $2 to $15 depending on the ATM. However, Charles Schwab promises to reimburse any ATM fee of any size. If you need cash, you don’t need to go out of your way to find a particular ATM. Instead, you can just stop anywhere knowing that, regardless of the size of the ATM fee you are prompted with, it will cost you nothing.

Schwab normally rebates your ATM fees near the end of the month just before account statements come out. If you are trying to check up on them to make sure that you were reimbursed, there will likely be a period of time where you have not been rebated yet as you wait for the end of the month to come. If you want to be rebated now, you can simply call Schwab or chat with them through their online portal and ask them to process the rebate now.

Another great feature is that there are no foreign transaction fees. That includes foreign purchases and also no transaction fees at ATMs.

This means that if you travel abroad, you can withdraw whatever currency is local — pounds, shekels, whatever — and you will have both the ATM fee and the currency exchange fee rebated. With this feature, withdrawing only small amounts of local currency here and there as needed makes sense, rather than hauling around piles of cash and pickpocket paranoia. Ideally, you could travel with only your Schwab debit card and get along fine.

It is important to note, as Schwab does not advertise anywhere, that if you attempt to withdraw from a blacklisted ATM, then VISA (the card sponsor) will freeze your card without telling you. According to one user, the ATMs will give you a message like “Not available at the moment” without any other explanation.

Luckily, Schwab has a phone number for an international collect call at +1-317-596-4501. (A collect call is a phone call that is charged to the person called rather than the one who is calling, meaning Schwab pays the charges.) This number is printed on the back of their debit cards, making getting help while abroad as easy as flipping over the card and calling.

In the letter Schwab includes with your debit card, they do a good job of summarizing the basic features of the debit card:

Unlimited rebates of ATM fees

ATM fee rebates do not apply to any fees other than fees assessed for using an ATM to withdraw cash from your Schwab Bank account. Schwab Bank makes its best effort to identify those ATM fees eligible for rebate based on information it receives from Visa and ATM operators. In the event that you have not received a rebate for a fee that you believe is eligible, please call a Schwab Bank Representative for assistance at 1-888-403-9000. Schwab Bank reserves the right to modify or discontinue the ATM fee rebate at any time.

No foreign transaction fees

If you use your card to withdraw foreign currency from an ATM or to pay for a purchase with foreign currency, we charge your account for the U.S. dollar equivalent of the transaction. Depending on the specific arrangements that are in place, the exchange rate and calculation of the U.S. dollar equivalent will be done by the bank at which you conduct the transaction, the net work to which the ATM belongs, or Visa. The bank or network may also charge a fee.

Travel insurance

Travel insurance terms and conditions can be found in your debit card package.

Fraud alerts and fraud protection

Enjoy peace of mind with: unauthorized transaction protection, chip technology, fraud monitoring and alerts.

Questions about your card?

Call the Schwab Bank Customer Service Center: 1-888-403-9000

International collect call: +1-317-596-4501

Other features described in the “Charles Schwab Bank Visa Debit Card Agreement” (link to the latest version as of August 2019) on pg.6:

  • Daily Cash Withdrawal Limit: $1,000
  • Daily Purchase Limit: $15,000, although you “may apply for a higher limit, up to the total of available funds on deposit in your account (including any funds available through an overdraft protection option).”

Visa also has their own features, which are described in a document called “Your Visa Card Guide to Benefits” (this is a link to the current version as of August 2019). Here are the features described there:

  • Warranty Manager Services (extends the warranties of a limited number of items by one year if you register your purchase with Visa),
  • Purchase Security (if you lose a limited number of items to disaster or theft within 90 days of purchase, then Visa will reimburse),
  • Price Protection (if a print ad features a lower price for a limited number of items within 60 days of purchase, then they will reimburse the difference),
  • Travel Accident Insurance (death or dismemberment insurance while traveling on a covered trip), and
  • Travel & Emergency Assistant Services (assistance in finding English speaking emergency personal while abroad).

Because of how the language is written, most of these benefits are rarely going to be useful. However, it can be good to know that they exist.

On pg. 14-15 of “Charles Schwab Bank Visa Debit Card Agreement,” they have compiled some helpful suggestions on how to manage your debit card safely.

Electronic Banking Safety Tips

Your Card and PIN:

  • Always protect your Card by keeping it in a safe place. If you lose your Card or if it is stolen, promptly notify us.
  • Do not lend your Card to anyone, and protect the secrecy of your PIN. Protect your Card as though it were cash. Memorize your PIN and do not tell it to anyone. Do not write your PIN where it can be discovered. For example, do not keep a note of your PIN in your wallet or purse and do not write it on your Card.
  • Never give information about your Card or PIN over the telephone unless you initiate the call. If someone is asking for this information, refuse and immediately notify us.
  • No employee of ours will ever contact you via email or phone requesting your PIN. If you are contacted by anyone requesting this information, please contact Customer Service immediately.

Using an ATM:

  • Prepare for your transactions in advance to minimize your time at the ATM. Mark each transaction in your account record, but not while at the ATM.
  • When you make a transaction, be aware of your surroundings. Look out for suspicious activity near the ATM, particularly if it is after sunset. At night, be sure that the facility (including the parking area and walkways) is well lighted. Consider having someone accompany you when you use the facility, especially after sunset. If you observe any problem, go to another ATM. Don’t accept assistance from anyone you do not know when using an ATM.
  • Prevent others from seeing you enter your PIN by using your body to shield their view. If you notice anything suspicious of if any other problem arises after you have begun an ATM transaction, you may want to cancel the transaction, pocket your Card and leave. You might consider using another ATM or coming back later.
  • Do not leave your transaction record at the ATM. keep it in a safe place so you can compare it against your statement. Remember to remove your Card from the ATM.
  • Don’t display your cash; pocket it as soon as the ATM transaction is completed and count the cash later when you are in the safety of your own car, home or other secure surroundings.
  • We want the ATM to be safe and convenient for you. Please report any suspicious activity or crimes to both the operator of the facility and the local law enforcement officials immediately.

I would also add to the list that you should always run your Debit card as Credit (read “The Only Right Answer To ‘Debit or Credit?’” for more on this).

Unlike Schwab checks and deposit slips, which can be easily ordered online, debit cards can only be ordered through a Schwab agent. The easiest way is to either call or chat with them and ask for a debit card. They will confirm your mailing address and then put one in the mail to you. When it arrives, you will go through standard card activation procedures of calling an automated phone number to set your PIN.

Important to note: your Card or PIN can be revoked due to inactivity or Schwab’s discretion. If you don’t use your debit card for years, you might find that the one you have expires and Schwab doesn’t send you a new one. This is easily solved by calling or chatting with an agent again. There is no fee for either original or replacement debit cards delivered by regular U.S. mail.

Happy Banking!

Featured photo crafted from Charles Schwab’s press release images.

Follow Megan Russell:

Chief Operating Officer, CFP®, APMA®

Megan Russell has worked with Marotta Wealth Management most of her life. She loves to find ways to make the complexities of financial planning accessible to everyone. She is the author of over 800 financial articles and is known for her expertise on tax planning.