Travel Nurse Banking • The Gypsy Nurse

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By The Gypsy Nurse Staff

September 19, 2017



Travel Nurse Banking

In Step #14 of the travel nurse guide, we discussed knowing in advance what your bank allows and doesn’t when it comes to traveling.  This is an important and often overlooked step. Now let’s take a closer look at the banking aspect of Travel Nursing.

Travel nurse banking should be a non-issue, right? Wrong. There are multiple potential complications for the travel nurse when it comes to banking.

You should consult with you bank before you leave home and cover these basic questions:

  • Is there a local branch at my assignment location?
  • Does the bank offer online check deposit?
  • Will I incur ATM fees and are they refundable?
  • Are my withdraw limits something that I can live with?
  • How do I resolve Fraud Alerts/blocks on my account?
  • If my bank cards are lost or stolen, what information will I need to obtain a new card?
  • Does your bank offer free online bill pay?

It doesn’t happen often but what happens if your company didn’t get your direct deposit set up on time for your first paycheck and you are issued a paper check?
Receiving a paper check and having no local branch can be frustrating.  This issue has been resolved in most cases by the mobile apps that are now available for check deposit.  Find out if your bank offers this as an option.

There isn’t a local branch or ATM.  How do you handle the ATM fees?
ATM fees can add up quickly.  Some banks will refund these as a curtosey to customers on a monthly basis.  If your bank doesn’t refund these fees, there are other options.  Most department stores ie Wal-Mart, K-Mart, etc. will allow cash back with no ATM fee with a purchase.  This option however depends on you making a purchase in order to avoid bank fees.

I recommend talking to your bank about their ATM policies and considering if the cost is avoidable.  Your bank may have ‘partner’ banks in the area that you are unaware of.  If your bank doesn’t offer a way to avoid these fees, figure out in advance how you will deal with withdraws.  There are several options available:

– Budget and plan your weekly expenses so you only have one ATM withdraw weekly.
– Assess you need for additional cash EVERY time you make an ATM purchase and have an opportunity for a fee-free cash withdraw.
– Find a different bank option that will allow no ATM fees

Do you know what your daily withdraw and purchase limits are?  If your wallet is lost or stolen you will want to minimize the potential amounts that would be available to a thief.
If your bank has automatically set your withdraw and purchase limits, they may be well above what you even need.  Find out what the limits are and determine if they can be lowered.  If you rarely make a purchase above $500, there is no need to have your purchase limit set at $1500.  If your maximum cash withdraw is never above $200 then change this as well.

When I initially called my bank to have my limits lowered they were floored.  They couldn’t understand why I wanted my limit lower and not higher.  I live pretty frugally day to day and the limits were way over what I would ever need on a routine basis.  I explained to the bank that if my wallet was stolen I would rather the thief only be able to hit my account for $500 instead of $1500 and they began to see my logic.

What happens if I lower my ATM/Withdraw limits and need to make a purchase or withdraw that is over my pre-set limit?

If you have analyzed your spending habits thouroughly and have set an appropriate limit, this should happen only rarely.  This is very easy to adjust while on the road.  Simply phone your bank and ask for a one-time withdraw or purchase.  The bank should be able to set this up right away and you’ll be on your way to big spending.

In addition to minimizing your potential losses if your bank cards are stolen, having a lower limit will cause you to contemplate any large purchases.  It’s a great way to curb any impulse spending.

Have you ever been standing at the check-out line with a full basket of groceries only to have the teller inform you that your card was denied?
As a service to it’s customers, banks will place automatic holds on your account for any suspicious activities.  It can be frustrating if this happens but it’s important to remember that this is for your protection.  Help the bank help you by communicating with them.  How were they to know that you were going to be living in Seattle for 3 months?  If you have never had transactions from the opposite coast and suddenly you have 10 of them, this will set off a fraud alert and lock you out of your account until it’s resolved.

This has happened to me and beyond the annoyance of having to figure out why, it was the pure embarassment of the situation that stands out in my memory.   You can’t totally prevent this from ever happening but you can reduce the potential.  All it takes is  a simple call to your bank and inform them that you will be traveling.  They will need the dates of travel as well as the locations.  Don’t forget to include any surrounding states or areas that you think you might want to explore while on contract.

What do I need to know if my wallet is stolen while on contract?
I’ve had my wallet stolen only once while on contract.  I happy that it was only once but it was a near nightmare to deal with.   Along with the fear that goes with any theft, there was a myraid of things that were just difficult to deal with gettiing replaced while away from home.

  • Banks will NOT mail your new bank card to any address other than your primary address listed on your account.  This is important to know especially if you only have one bank.  My first recommendation is to always have two banks and have them linked together.  If your ATM card is lost or stolen, you can easily transfer money to the alternate bank and at least be able to buy gas and groceries until you receive the new card.
  • Have a back-up credit card or savings account in case of emergency with enough available balance to cover anything unexpected.
  • NEVER keep all of your cards in the same place.  Having two accounts will do you no good if they are both lost or stolen.
  • Depending on how you have set up your mail, it could take a week or two to receive your new bank card in the mail.  What would you do if you couldn’t access your account?
  • You should always have important banking phone numbers available.  It’s a good idea to make a paper or digital copy of the front/back of all of your credit cards and save in a secure location in case of theft/loss.

Is online bill pay an option?
The advantages of online bill pay for the traveler are tremdous.  I have utilized online bill pay for several years now and can’t imagine going back to paper bills.  As travelers, receiving mail can be timely.  By the time you have received a bill it may be just days to a due date.  If your like me and don’t read your mail quickly, you could easily be facing paying something late.

There are many options available for online bill pay.  From fully automated scheduling to single payments.  Once you have set up the online bill pay schedule that you are comfortable with, it can nearly eliminate not only the paper piles but also the monthly headaches.

Are there other questions that you have regarding banking while on contract?  Do you have tips to add to the list above?


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