Expat Resources

Live abroad, work online. Here is what you need

I get asked a lot of questions about different aspects of living abroad. So here is a high level overview of all the tools and services I personally use and pay for as a self employed expat and what I find invaluable.

Credit cards

You’ll need a credit card with no foreign transaction fee first and foremost. When I first went abroad in 2011 I had a Chase "Freedom" credit card and they charged me a whopping 3.5% fee just to use my card in Thailand. Eating up any points or benefits in the first place.

In short, have a travel-focused card that gives you points for free flights, a cashback card, and a backup credit card. Y

Here is what I suggest:

Travel card

Chase Sapphire Preferred – My go-to card for everything travel related like flights, hotels, dinners and ride share apps. 5X the point value when used through Chase’s portal. Costs 95$ a year but I typically earn about $1000-$2000 a year in value.

Functionally, I get a free round trip flight once a year and a whole host of benefits like purchase protection, rental car insurance coverage and travel assistance.

There is the Sapphire Reserve card as well. Higher yearly fee, lounge access at numerous airports and more ideal for the constant traveler.

Cashback card

Gemini Credit Card – My current "everything else" card. Gemini is a crypto exchange that has a 1-3% cash back card. You get 3% on dining, 2% on groceries and convenience stores and 1% on everything else.

Rewards are paid out in Bitcoin in real time. You spend, BTC gets bought and added to your balance. Then you can withdraw it to your wallet.

I personally like this card simply because it’s a cashback card that allows me to earn $20-30 of BTC  a month on my most common purchases for things like my morning coffee, drinks with friends and grocery shopping.

Last, it has no foreign transaction fee and no annual fee. The 3% on dining is capped at $6000 USD per year, then it drops to 1%. It’s the perfect compliment as an expat to the Sapphire Preferred/Reserve card line.

To get started simply create a Gemini account, verify yourself, buy some BTC and apply.


My crypto exchange of choice. Signup and get free Bitcoin, access to an "earn" program for your digital assets and a credit card.

Sign up Today

Backup credit card

If you're abroad always make sure to have a backup credit card. You never know. A day before I left for France to do the wine marathon my travel card got a fraud alert and my Gemini card was at my sisters house waiting for pickup. I would have been screwed if I did not have a backup card for such instances.

Phone Number for Americans

Having a US based phone number is very important when living abroad. You'll need a number for 2FA for sensitive accounts (banks, credit cards, brokerage accounts etc) and you’ll want a data plan when you return home to America.

The problem is most plans cost $100+ and are designed for Americans living in America taking the odd trip abroad, not long-term expats.

Here is what I use:

Google FI

Google Fi - Pay as you go monthly plan starting at $20 a month. Can turn it off  and not pay for it when abroad and easily turn it on again when you need it. With Google FI you now have a dedicated US number, data in any country you visit and can receive SMS messages while abroad.

Important: You must be in the United States to activate your Google Fi number. So sign up now, get your sim card and activate it because once you’re abroad it’s simply impossible to do so.

Google FI

Signup and get a free $20 credit today! Pay as you go, turn on and off as you need. Works abroad and is low cost.

Sign Up Today

Pro tip: Google FI allows you to use data when roaming but if you use it too much abroad they will suspend this feature until you return to the United States. However your SMS messages and calls always remain active which is what is the most important.

Local sim

If you're going to be living abroad get a local SIM and use that for data in country. Prices are typically affordable and are usually required to do things like open a bank account.

Skype credits

Skype credits allow you to call any phone number in the world for cheap. Need to call your bank, credit card company or something else? Use Skype's pay-as-you-go option. For just 10$ you get 434 minutes of call time.

It's what I use when I'm abroad and I need to call support for my credit card.


You'll want to use a checking account that pays for your ATM fees, a high yield savings account to earn interest, a way to transfer yourself money abroad and a business bank account if your self employed (for tax purposes to keep personal and business separate).

Checking account

Investor checking – The best account for expats. They don’t charge you a fee to withdraw from ATM’s abroad with their card and they reimburse you for any fees other banks charge. Even banks in foreign countries. I easily save over $100+ a year in fees when traveling and withdrawing money.

Don’t abuse it though. They will close your account if you end up withdrawing a lot and racking up fees.

Savings account

Marcus by Goldman Sachs - They offer a high yeild savings account. This is for US citizens only. When you're abroad you'll also need to use a VPN in order to access your account as they redirct you to a "thank you for your interest in Marcus" page.

If you're looking for a place to stash cash you don't intend on touching and don't need to log in regularly then open up an account.

Send yourself money abroad

Wise - Connect your bank accounts and transfer money easily. It's how I send money abroad to my accounts in Vietnam and Thailand. They also offer a helpful debit card that allows you to withdraw money in the local currency.

Debit card

Wise debt card - I use this as an alternative to my Schwab checking account. The Wise card allows me to convert USD to any currency and have it sit in my Wise account ready to use.

So if I'm in Mongolia for some reason, I can convert USD to the Mongolian Tugrik then go to any ATM and withdraw Tugrik from my Wise account. This is helpful because I don't have to use my primary card.

Brokerage account

M1 Finance - While you can use Schwab's investor checking to fund a brokerage account (Schwab is excellent), I still prefer M1 Finance. Within your account you setup a "pie" that is made up of different stocks and ETF's. It's designed for the long term investor looking to automate their investing and dollar cost monthly into their account.

Hotels and accommodation

Chase portal - I get 5x points when I book hotels and flights through Chase. These points add up quickly for a free flight!

Air BNB – The way I normally operate when I go to a new country is to get an Air BNB for two weeks up to a month and to then spend that time looking for an apartment. Be careful of the fees though. Air BNB is not what it used to be and now has a lot of added costs for cleaning, tax and host requirements. Sometimes you may get a better deal with a hotel.

Google hotel search – Alternatively, I ‘ll just use Google and book a hotel. Particularly if it’s a country I’m already familiar with like Thailand or Vietnam. But it depends on the city and country.

Taxes and book keeping

When you do what you love you’ll never work a day in your life they say. Well, not exactly true. You’ll work one day which is filing your taxes. What I suggest is you do your own book keeping and have a good understanding of what your income and expenses are. Then consider hiring a book keeper (typically $25 an hour for about 2 hours once a month).

I don’t recommend Turbo Tax. Turbo Tax is fine if you have a simple return and you’re an employee. But once you start having multiple streams of income and investments it’s well worth hiring an accountant to take care of everything for you.


Greenback Expat Tax Service – This is the firm I’m currently using. You sign up, get your own account, complete some questions and simply upload all your documents. Then your accountant will prepare your return and ask you any questions.


Quickbooks – Book keeping for small business and freelancers. I love Quickbooks. I make it a monthly habit to update and manage my accounting every month. It does take a bit over an hour each month. But I like knowing how much I made and spent.


Away Travel – Sure you can get some basic junk off Amazon or in the isles of Walmart or you can get a quality suitcase with a lifetime warranty that’s both stylish and functional.

I personally use their “the large” polycarbonate suitcase. I love it as a minimalist. All my clothes fit in as well as two pairs of shoes and my tripod. This things locks too so you can feel secure that no one except the TSA is getting in.

Ogio Backpack – I got their “metro” backpack as a company gift during my time at PWC back in 2007. It lasted 10 years and was the best backpack I had owned for travel.

I got a replacement because I found it so useful. It's like a big bag with a ton of pockets for your laptop, chargers, mose, microphone and really anything you need to segment.

Canon camera bag - This is my camera bag. I use it when I travel and need to carry my expensive camera gear. It's medium sized but allows you to store a lot inside it like bigger camera bags.

It fits my Canon 90D, Sigma 18-35 lens, my Tokina 11-16 lens, Rhode microphone and in the front pocket on the bag (yes there is one front pocket), I can slip my iPad mini in for easy access when chilling at an airport or on a place.

Any questions? Let me know.