Services & Accounts

The goal of this guide is provide an extensive list of digital tools, services and accounts that we recommend.
Just go through the list and try out what may be for you!

General

International Brokerage Accounts

  • Interactive Brokers*. Using this link, you receive a bonus of 1% of your account value (up to 1000 USD) worth in IBKR stocks, when you open a brokerage account with Interactive Brokers. Please read more about advantages/disadvantages of Interactive Brokers. After extensive research, I have not found a competitive product that offers a large number of advantages - in particular for people who travel between countries and need to deposit money in different currencies from different countries.

Free online services

  • Google Voice. This VoIP service from Google provides very affordable international calling. If you access Google Voice from a US IP address and you have a US mobile number, you can create a free Google Voice number in the US, which you can keep using after leaving the US. You can receive phone calls and text messages on your smartphone (Hangout Dialer) or your computer (Hangout in Gmail or as browser extension). Finally, phone calls and text messages to US or Canadian phone numbers, i.e., +1 (xxx) xxx-xxxx, are free. This is particularly useful to keep a US number, make cheap international calls and receive 2-factor-authentication messages.

  • LastPass. When using the web, you will inevitably sign up for an ever growing number of accounts and services. It can be daunting task to remember all the website you gave your personal information to and what username and password you chose. LastPass is secure cloud service that allows users to keep track of all of their website passwords, credit card numbers and other personal information.

  • Typio Form recovery. When typing long responses into webforms, it can be extremely annoying if the writing is lost, e.g., when the submission fails and you cannot recover what you wrote. For this purpose, typio form recovery saves everything that you write into web forms for easy recovery. This even works for Gmail if you accidentally deleted an unsent draft and cannot go back.
    Important note: Of course, you should be careful with sensitive information. While passwords are usually not stored (if the respective field is correctly defined as password entry), you may still want to exclude certain websites (e.g., Google Docs and Sheets) and set an expiration time, such that all stored data is deleted after a few days.

  • FireShot. While most websites provide comprehensive receipts, there are situations in which it is necessary to take a screenshot of a whole website as proof or receipt. This applies in particular if one needs to do a price comparison (e.g., for a flight booking as business trip and similar). For this purpose, FireShot is a very helpful tool as it automatically creates a picture of the whole website without you needing to scroll through it. The free app exists for Chrome and Firefox, but there is also a pro version for purchase, which is usually not required.

  • AwardWallet. This website service connects to the most common customer loyalty programs related to travel, such as airline miles, credit card points, hotel points, car rental programs and similar. Most importantly, AwardWallet keeps track of expiring points and reminds users to keep their accounts active. Tip: You can upgrade to a paid version, but for most purposes, it suffices if you use the free version. You should check what is optimal for you.

  • Faxzero. This website allows you to send up five faxes for free within the US and Canada. This is useful when some old-fashioned company does not allow you to upload documents or send them via email. Among other companies, this is regularly required when requesting a credit report, for which you need to provide documents to identify yourself.

  • TripIt. This is a cloud based travel planner that can be invaluable for frequent travelers. You can set it up that it automatically receives your hotel, flight, train and rental car reservations (and similar travel itineraries). In particular, the TripIt app allows you to keep a nice overview of all of your bookings (including the respective reservation/confirmation numbers) in an organized way, so that you do not search through various emails, while being on the road. Tip: You can upgrade to the Pro version, which includes some additional perks. If you happen to have a subscription to Concur (through your work place), you may get it for free by linking your TripIt account.

  • Originstamp. Sometimes you need to prove that a certain document already existed on a given date. For example, if you take pictures of a rental car or of a new flat you just rented or to prove that you had a certain idea before a given date (such as before a meeting with potential investors). At this time, Originstamp enables you to prove beyond doubt that a given digital file existed on a certain date. For this, a so called hashcode is generated from your file, which happens locally in your browser (or you can do it even with other software). For this, you do not need to upload or share the file, i.e., you can still keep the file itself secret. Originstamp will then take your hashcode and store it in a cryptocurrency blockchain, which is timestamped and makes it practically impossible to be manipulated. If you want to prove the existence of the file to a third party, you only need to provide them with the file and refer to the timestamped hashcode in the public blockchain. The third party can then compute the hashcode from the file on their own and compare it with the hashcode in the blockchain. For this, it is imperative that the file itself was not changed in the meantime (saving a word file without changes etc. will change the file and must be avoided) - it is best if you safely store a copy of the file without touching it.

Currency exchange and transfer

  • CurrencyFair*. You receive 30 EUR when you transfer at least 1000 EUR (or equivalent in other currencies).

  • TransferWise*. You can transfer up to 500 GBP (or equivalent in other currencies) without any fees.

  • Revolut*. Depending on the time of using this link, you may receive a small start balance of up to 15 EUR. However, sometimes there is no promotion, in which case you can use the link to sign up for the regular free Revolut account. Revolut allows to exchange small amounts of money up to 600 EUR per month for certain countries almost for free.

International SIM cards

  • Surfroam*. Surfroam offers an international prepaid data SIM card (no phone calls, but text messages can be received under a complimentary UK number), which can be used globally to access the internet for 0.01-0.02 EUR in many countries (including Europe, US, Canada, Australia and many more - see details). The SIM card and the prepaid balance is active for 12 months and any reload (starting 15 EUR) resets the timer for SIM and prepaid balance. This SIM card can be combined with a free Google Voice number, which enables you to make and receive phone calls / text messages with a US number.

Shopping

  • AliExpress*. Using this link, you receive 24 USD in coupons (usable over several purchases), when shopping on AliExpress. AliExpress is particularly useful when shopping for cheap electronics replacement parts, e.g., travel adapters, power cables to fit outlets in a new country and other parts for laptop or smartphone (including batteries, replacement keyboard etc.). You typically have a wait for 30-60 days, so this is most convenient for non-urgent issues or when you know ahead of time (such as when you are moving to a new country).

United states

Finance or credit management

  • Mint. It can be challenge to keep an overview of your bank accounts, brokerage accounts and most importantly credit cards. Mint is a free service which can access all of your accounts and generates a comprehensive overview of transactions, accounts balances and your monthly credit card bills. It will also send you alerts if certain balances drop below a threshold or if you get charged a fee. To use the service you will need to provide your login information to your respective accounts, which are (supposedly) stored securely on Mint servers. Many banks provide a specific interface to only provide the relevant information without giving Mint account access. This can be an invaluable tool to manage a large number of bank accounts and credit cards.

  • Creditkarma (Equifax/Transunion). This is an excellent website to keep track of your credit scores and credit files with the credit bureaus Transunion and Equifax. You can find more information here.

  • Freecreditreport (Experian). This website nicely complements the website Creditkarma, as it allows to check your credit score and credit file with the third credit bureau Experian. You can find more information here.

  • Other free credit score websites. We believe that the websites Creditkarma and Freecreditreport suffice to keep updated on credit scores and reports of all three bureaus. However, if you want to sign up for additional services, you can also use credit.com (Experian) and creditsesame.com (Transunion). Note, however, that both of these websites provide less detailed information the ones mentioned before.

SIM cards

  • FreedomPop. This service gives 200 MB of free data per month and additional data costs 0.025 USD per MB, i.e., it is cheap, but Surfroam is cheaper. Shipping is a bit overpriced and in order to activate the free plan, you will need to deposit 20 USD as credit. Even if this credit expires, it can be re-activated in the menu and paying 20 USD plus shipping once for 200 MB monthly is acceptable. Even if you leave the US, the SIM card stays active. If you do not login to your accounts for some time, you will be charged 0.01 USD per month, i.e., 0.12 USD per year. While all of this sounds a bit sketchy, we experienced the FreedomPop as legitimate and can recommend it for people who need a US phone number (e.g., to activate Google Voice) or who use very little data. It is also great as backup for people occasionally visiting the US and needing data to find their way from the airport to a hotel.

Government services

  • Global entry. This is an extremely useful service of the U.S. Customs and Border Protection which allows US citizens, US permanent residents (green card holders) and certain citizens from other countries (such as Germans) to expedite the immigration checks when entering the United States. Typically, the lines are shorter and you will not need to fill in a blue customs card, but rather provide your information digitally.

  • USPS Informed Delivery. This little known service from the United States Postal Service will send you pictures of mailpieces that are scheduled to arrive at your address (in your name and others residing at the same address/apartment). The pictures show the front (outside) of the mailpiece and typically allow you to identify who sent it. This is particularly useful when you are travelling and you have a house mate or family member take care of your mail, but it also helps to know when a mailpiece is missing.

  • IRS account. If you need to pay taxes in the US, it is useful to set up an IRS account, so that you can check your recent tax statements and payments. You will need to verify your identity based on your social security number, a credit card and a US mobile number with plane. If you do not have a standard phone plan (only prepaid or some smaller provider), you will not be able to verify your identity based on your phone number, but you can request a verification letter sent to your US address.

Cashback programs

  • Rakuten*. This is one of the largest cashback websites in the US. You will get a starting bonus of 10 USD when you sign up and use the website for the first time (typically requiring to complete a purchase of 30-50 USD at a partner, such as eBay, Amazon etc.). You will earn 0.5-5% as cashback of any purchase you complete at a partner website. This cashback adds to the cashback you receive through your credit card rewards program (read more here). You need to make sure that you access the partner website through the link of Rakuten and do not use an Cookie blocker (or certain Ad blocker) that prevents Rakuten to verify that you completed a purchase.

Credit Cards

  • American Express Everyday Cash Preferred*. You receive a 250 USD statement credit after spending 1000 USD within 3 months of being approved. There is an annual fee of 95 USD per year. At the same time, you receive 6% cashback on all grocery purchases (super markets etc.), but not at Walmart or Target. This card has a foreign transaction fee, so it should only be used within the United States.

  • Discover It*. You receive a 50 USD statement credit after you make your first purchase within 3 months of being approved.

  • Discover It Miles*. You receive a 100 USD statement credit after you make your first purchase within 3 months of being approved.

  • Capital One Quicksilver*. You receive a 100 USD statement credit after spending 500 USD within 3 months of being approved. The credit card does not have an annual fee, no foreign transaction fee (i.e. can be used for purchases abroad) and gives 1.5% cashback on all purchases. A no brainer travel credit card that one can always use as a backup.

  • Capital One Venture*. You receive 50,000 points (usable as 500 USD statement credit to offset travel purchases or even more valuable when transferred as airline miles) after spending 3000 USD within 3 months of being approved. After the first year, there is an annual fee of 95 USD, which is sometimes/often waived when one calls customer service. Apart from this, the card gives 2% cashback (i.e. 2 points per 1 USD spent) on everything and does not have a foreign transaction fee (i.e. can be used for purchases abroad). It is an excellent travel credit card, as long as one gets the annual fee waived. Otherwise, one can just cancel the card to get the annual fee reimbursed.

  • Chase Freedom and Freedom Unlimited*. You receive 20,000 Chase Ultimate points (convertible to a 200 USD statement credit or even more valuable when used as Chase Ultimate Rewards Points with the credit card Chase Sapphire Reserve, where it can easily be worth 300 USD and more) after spending at least 500 USD within the 3 months of being approved.

Bank Accounts

  • Chime*. You receive between 25 to 100 USD (depending on currently active promotion) for signing up and receiving a payroll direct deposit of $200 or more within the first 45 days of opening your Chime Spending Account.

Brokerage accounts

  • Robinhood*. You receive a free stock when opening a free account. There is no further requirement and your identity is typically verified online through your credit report. Most stocks are typically worth 5-10 USD, but there is a chance to get a stock like Microsoft or Facebook which is significantly more valuable.

  • WeBull*. Using this link, you receive up to four stocks for free which are valued up 8-1600 USD and get a free trading account with WeBull. The deal is very similar to Robinhood and it is worth it to try out, but I personally recommend Interactive Brokers Lite as long term trading account, but it can be fun to have a second (or third account) to trade with smaller amounts.

  • Interactive Brokers*. Using this link, you receive a bonus of 1% of your account value (up to 1000 USD) worth in IBKR stocks, when you open a brokerage account with Interactive Brokers. Please read more about advantages/disadvantages of Interactive Brokers. After extensive research, I have not found a competitive product that offers a large number of advantages - in particular for people who travel between countries and need to deposit money in different currencies from different countries.

Germany

Government services

  • Elster. This is the German portal to declare your taxes digitally. It is completely free and every resident of Germany can sign up for it. If you have a German ID with activated digital function, you can use it authenticate yourself. Otherwise, you will need to provide your address and they will send you a activation letter with special password to activate your account.

  • Briefankündigung. This service was recently introduced by the German postal service and it allows you to get pictures via email of mail pieces that will arrive at your address the next day. For now, you are required to have or open a free email account with GMX.de or Web.de. Luckily, you can just forward your emails from there to your regular email. This is extremely useful if you are traveling or studying abroad and your friends/housemates/family takes care of your mail. Using the Briefankündigung you can always keep an overview of mail that is supposed to arrive for you and you even get pictures, so you often know the sender and may even be able to deduce what the respective may entail. In the future, there may even be an option to receive scans of the letter content if you give permission, but this is still up in the air for now.

  • AusweisApp2. This smartphone app lets you use your smartphone as card reader to use the electronic authentication function of your German ID (elektronische Funktionen des Personalausweises). This enables you to identify yourself online to use various German government services, such as requesting a certified criminal history for yourself or the history of your driving tickets.

  • Sign-me. This little known service of the German Bundesdruckerei allows you to sign digital documents (PDFs) using your German ID. In particular, you can sign with a qualified electronic signature which is legally equivalent to an ink signature. While this is still not commonly used for typical contracts (such as rent contracts), electronic signature are already important in the business world and may also become increasingly relevant for consumers. Tip: Currently, each qualified electronic signature costs 5 sign-me coins, which usually cost 1.18 EUR, but you get a free starting balance for your first few qualified signatures.

  • Elektronische Erfassung von Deutschen im Ausland. If you are German citizen abroad (in principle, everybody could register), you can use this website to provide your contact information to the German embassy in the respective country and the German foreign ministry. This enables Germany to keep you updated with crucial information in case of an emergency.

Cashback programs

  • Payback. This is a German cashback program, where you receive 1-5% cashback in the form of bonus points that you can convert to cash or transfer to partners (such as Lufthansa Miles and More). You will receive a membership number and a card with a barcode. You can scan the card at participating stores to get points credited or you can order items online from partner shops by accessing the partner website through a link from the Payback website (or sometimes by providing your membership number during the purchase). Tip: If you use Google Pay, you can add the barcode and membership number to your app, so that you do not need to carry the physical membership card with you (it is all on your phone).

Bank accounts

  • DKB*. Deutsche Kreditbank offers one of the best EUR bank accounts in Germany. It comes with free credit card and there are not maintenance fees. You can use the credit card to withdraw cash abroad without additional fees (some ATMs may charge an independent fee) and with an excellent exchange rate. If you use the credit card to make purchases outside of Europe, you will be charged a fee of 1.75% unless you have the status "Aktivkunde". In order to reach this status, you must have had at least 700 EUR transferred into your account in each of the previous three months (you can see your status when logging in). Tip: The rules allow you to transfer 700 EUR between two of your accounts, as it does not need to be salary or come from a separate account.

  • Revolut*. Depending on the time of using this link, you may receive a small start balance of up to 15 EUR. However, sometimes there is no promotion, in which case you can use the link to sign up for the regular free Revolut account.

  • N26*. Depending on the time of using this link, you may receive a small start balance of up to 15 EUR. This is a German Fintech that tries to simplify for banking. It is an app-based German bank account (with German IBAN), which can be opened by almost anybody living in Europe (you do not need to be European).

Brokerage accounts

  • Trade Republic*. You receive up to 15 EUR when you sign up for Trade Republic using the link. This is a low fee trading app, where you can trade stocks and ETFs. You often only pay 0 EUR if you trade over-the-counter (essentially executing the trade with directly a bank, such as Lang & Schwarz) or 1 EUR if you trade on public exchanges. Usually, it is cheapest to trade over-the-counter, but make sure that the respective exchange (Xetra, NYSE, NASDAQ etc.) is open, as this ensures that you get a fair current price (otherwise, the bank may take a risk premium).

  • Interactive Brokers*. Using this link, you receive a bonus of 1% of your account value (up to 1000 USD) worth in IBKR stocks, when you open a brokerage account with Interactive Brokers. Please read more about advantages/disadvantages of Interactive Brokers. After extensive research, I have not found a competitive product that offers a large number of advantages - in particular for people who travel between countries and need to deposit money in different currencies from different countries.

Europe

Bank accounts

The following accounts are available to most European residents, i.e., residents

  • Revolut*. Depending on the time of using this link, you may receive a small start balance of up to 15 EUR. However, sometimes there is no promotion, in which case you can use the link to sign up for the regular free Revolut account.

  • N26*. Depending on the time of using this link, you may receive a small start balance of up to 15 EUR. This is a German Fintech that tries to simplify for banking. It is an app-based German bank account (with German IBAN), which can be opened by almost anybody living in Europe (you do not need to be European).

  • Curve*. You receive a 5 GBP start balance. Credit card service that allows to use a single card, whose charges are then forwarded to chosen credit accounts (based on the settings in your account. Important advantages lie in the fact that Curve can sometimes offer better exchange rates and more importantly that one can avoid charges for non-European credit cards by charging this card through Curve. It can also be very valuable when keeping your US accounts, after leaving the US.

Canada

Bank accounts

  • Simplii Bank Account*. You receive 25-70 CAD if you open a Simplii bank account and perform an international transfer of at least 100 CAD. Simplii is a completely fee-free bank account. Global transfers allows you transfer money internationally with extremely low feeds at a fair exchange rate.

Credit rating

  • CreditKarma (Transunion). This is the Canadian brother of the well-known US service, which allows you check your credit based on the Canadian Transunion Credit Rating Agency. As there are only two major agencies (Transunion and Equifax) in Canada, CreditKarma and Borrowell is an excellent combination.

  • Borrowell Free Credit Score (Equifax). Borrowell provides free credit scores based on the Canadian Equifax Credit Rating Agency. You do not need a Social Insurance Number (SIN) to sign up for the service. As there are only two major agencies (Transunion and Equifax) in Canada, CreditKarma and Borrowell is an excellent combination.

Australia

Credit rating

  • Canstar (Equifax). Canstar offers a free credit score and report based on the data of Equifax Australia. You require an Australian driving licence or medicare card.

  • Illion (Illion). Illon offers a free credit score and report based on its own data. Apart from using an Australian driving licence or medicare card, you may also be able to identify yourself based on a foreign passport.

  • Creditsavvy (Experian). Creditsavvy offers a free credit score and report based on the data of Experian Australia. You require an Australian driving licence or medicare card.

Crypto Currency Trading

  • Coinspot*. You receive 10 AUD when signing up for a Coinspot account. It is reasonable and safe platform for Australian customers. For larger trades, it might be better to use one of the larger exchanges (Binance, Kraken, Coinbase).