Use the table to sort the best international bank accounts by monthly fee, ATMs, foreign transaction fees and more. Want to view your top picks side-by-side? Click the "Compare" box next to your choices for an alternative view that dives into even more details.
How to compare accounts from international banks
Keep the following in mind as you compare accounts from international banks:
- Availability. Where will you be living overseas? Look for an international bank that’s popular in that area, so you’re more likely to have branch locations and free ATM access should you need it.
- Fees. Look for an account with little to no fees for monthly maintenance, foreign transactions, ATMs and more. Most banks list their Fee Schedules online, so take a peek before you commit to opening an account.
- Conversion rates. If you’re staying in one place, pick a bank that has a strong currency conversion rate, so you’ll maximize your dollars each time you make a purchase or withdraw cash.
- Features. Do you need an account that supports multiple currencies? What about one that has a global ATM network that supports your travels? Narrow down the features that are important to you, and find an account that checks all the boxes.
- ATM network. Choose a bank that has a large ATM network in your area, so you’re guaranteed to have free access when you need to withdraw cash.
Other types of international bank accounts
Here are four alternatives to international bank accounts you may be interested in:
- Wise Multi-currency Account. This borderless account lets you convert over 50 currencies worldwide. But you’ll need a separate checking account to use it.
- North Loop International Student Account. This online bank account for international students lets you use your debit card without worrying about foreign transaction fees.
- Revolut. Get access to global spending, international money transfers and 28 fiat currency exchanges with this digital bank.
- N26. Use your N26 debit card while traveling abroad and you won’t pay for fees or or get an added foreign exchange rate. But if you use a foreign ATM, you may pay a 2% fee based on your withdrawal amount.
What are the pros of an international bank account?
You might want to switch to an international bank account for these following reasons:
- Multiple currencies. International accounts let you use overseas currencies more easily, often with more preferable exchange rates and fewer fees. If you regularly use foreign currencies, an international account can get you more value for your money.
- Access to foreign markets. Only having a domestic bank account might inhibit you when making foreign investments, while an international bank account may let you more easily access foreign markets to trade forex or trade shares internationally.
- Overseas investments. Purchasing real estate, companies or any other investments overseas would generally involve getting a foreign currency and making a money transfer. Regular investors can save time and money by investing out of an international account.
- Privacy. Sensitive financial information may be safer overseas, in an anonymous account, than in a standard domestic bank account. If your occupation requires you to protect sensitive client information, or your own, then an international bank account may be preferable.
- International money transfers. If you keep making international money transfers through a domestic bank account, you can very quickly spend a large amount on fees and currency exchange rates. An international bank account typically lets you do it with preferable rates and at a lower cost.
- Tax advantages. Money stored in international accounts is sometimes eligible for legal loopholes that cut down on tax costs. But it’s a good idea to talk to a professional, because accidental tax evasion can land you in a considerable amount of legal trouble.
- Linked accounts. Depending on your preferences, you may link other accounts to your international bank account to earn interest on them or enjoy other benefits.
Disadvantages of international bank accounts
An international bank account has a lot of advantages, but you should also be aware of the potential risks involved:
- Legal risk. It’s your responsibility to follow all applicable laws when holding overseas accounts. It may be advisable to use an experienced tax accountant to help you.
- Financial risk. Money held in US bank accounts is generally protected by the FDIC up to $250,000. Money held in overseas bank accounts does not have this guarantee.
- Fees. There may be additional fees and costs involved with international banking, and these can vary between providers. You should make sure you are well informed about all applicable fees and conditions before opening an account.
How do I open an international bank account?
Opening an account at an international bank looks a lot like opening an account in the states. Once you find an international bank that’s right for you, you’ll generally follow these steps to open an account:
- Go to the international bank’s website and choose which account you wish to open.
- Enter your personal information, including your name, date of birth, address, citizenship and occupation.
- Verify your identity using a government-issued photo ID, such as a driver’s license or passport
- Verify your address using a bill from a service provider.
- Verify your income using a pay stub from your employer.
- Choose which currency you want to use for the account.
- Optionally, you may need to provide documentation from your current bank proving you have a positive banking history.
- Make your initial deposit.
How do I open an international bank account before arriving to the US?
Some banks will let you apply for an account online without a US address or Social Security number. Once the bank opens your account you can transfer funds into it from anywhere in the world.
You’ll have to complete an identity verification process before you can access funds from your new account account. You can do this by visiting a branch of the bank you choose, in your country, if it has one there. You may also be able to verify your identity online, through a certified notary or at a US embassy, though not all banks will allow that. For banks without counterparts in your current country of residence, it may be easiest to wait until you get to the US and can verify your identity in person.
3 things to do before opening an international bank account
Before you open an international bank account, make sure you:
1. Have a purpose in mind
By deciding which benefits are most important to you, like easier international investments, more tax options or cheap international money transfers, you can choose an account tailored to your needs.
2. Know your must-haves
Know what the account absolutely must have. For example, if you know with certainty that you will be investing in the Chinese property market then you’ll probably want an account that delivers advantageous US-Chinese currency conversion rates and lets you quickly transfer and convert funds to take advantage of great deals or compete at auctions.
3. Know the law
International accounts can be more legally complicated because they might mean obeying the laws of two different countries at once. You need to operate within both US law and the laws of whichever nation your account is being held in.
How to open an international bank account in 6 countries
If you’re planning on living abroad, here’s a list of six countries and how you can open a bank account in each one.
What to consider before you move abroad
Before you make your trek out of the US, keep these five tips in mind.
- Your bank could freeze your debit card if you don’t give a heads up. If you don’t tell your bank you’re traveling abroad, it could freeze your debit card the first time you use it overseas. Avoid an afternoon of panic by notifying your bank beforehand. You can do this by calling the number on the back of your card, filling out a form online or sending a notification through its app.
- You might not be able to manage your account from an international branch. If your bank has locations overseas, don’t automatically assume they’re connected. For example, HSBC has branches in the US and Lebanon, but their systems don’t communicate with each other. If you pop by an overseas branch, the teller may not be able to help you.
- You might have to pay foreign transaction fees at an international branch of your bank. Just because your bank has branches overseas doesn’t mean you won’t pay foreign transaction fees. Read through your fee schedule or call up your bank to see if you’ll be charged a fee for using your card overseas.
- Having a student visa might limit your bank account options. In some countries — such as Lebanon — you need at least $1,500 in monthly income to open most basic checking accounts. But a student visa forbids you from working. If you end up in a country with similar account requirements, it may be difficult to find an account you qualify for.
- It’s easier to get paid in US dollars if it’s an option. Some countries accept US dollars, in addition to the local currency. If you have this option, getting paid in US dollars could make it easier to deposit money back home or file your taxes.
How do I compare expat savings accounts?
When you’re comparing expat savings accounts, pay attention to these aspects:
- Sending money back home. If you plan to occasionally send money back home, look for an account that lets you make international electronic fund transfers easily and find out what fees you’ll have to pay.
- Foreign exchange services. While many US financial institutions provide foreign exchange services, they vary in terms of the exchange rates they offer as well as turnaround times.
- Ability to open instantly. The time taken to open a savings account can vary from one financial institution to the next. Some that let you apply online before you arrive open your account on the day you submit your application.
- Online banking. While most US banks offer online banking, what you can use these platforms for requires your attention. For example, in some cases you can pay bills online — even when paying a company that requires a check by mail.
- Fees and charges. Find out if the account you want to open attracts any monthly fees or debit card fees. Also check for any overdraft fees or penalties if your balance dips below the account’s stated minimum.
5 best international banks for expats
Best for featuresRevolut is the best expat account for features because it aims to be an all-in-one app for your financial life. It supports 28 currencies and lets you spend any of them at the market exchange rate. You can link other banking, credit and investment accounts to gain a bird’s-eye view of your financial picture.
The app also includes analysis and budgeting tools and the ability to invest funds. You must upgrade to a paid account to access some features, but any membership level lets you send money to other Revolut users for $0. And if you need to transfer funds internationally, you can do so at a competitive rate.
- No monthly fee. There’s no charge for a Standard Revolut account, but you can upgrade to the Premium or Metal tiers for additional features. The monthly cost for these plans is $9.99 and $16.99, respectively.
- Supports 28 fiat currencies. Revolut supports nearly 30 fiat currencies and lets you spend any of them at the market exchange rate.
- No fee for currency exchanges. Exchange nearly 30 fiat currencies for no additional fee. The Standard plan has a $1,000 limit on exchanges and there’s no limit with the Premium or Metal tiers, but Revolut only converts funds on weekdays.
- Debit card delivery fee. Depending on where you are when you apply for the Standard account, you may have to pay a delivery fee for your physical debit card. But you can start using the virtual card right away.
- Wire transfers aren’t supported. Revolut doesn’t currently support domestic or international wire transfers for US account holders.
Best for in-person bankingHSBC is the best expat bank for in-person banking because it has branches in 64 countries. The account also supports 19 currencies and has no foreign transaction fees. Depending on the account, there may be monthly fees, but you can avoid the fee if you maintain a balance equal to or more than £50,000, which is equivalent to about $68,795.
Plus, HSBC offers wealth management and foreign exchange services if you need them. And the account’s complimentary travel security service can help you access up to $10,000 in case your wallet gets stolen.
- Large footprint. HSBC has a physical presence in 64 countries. And if you’re moving to a country where HSBC operates, you can open an account over the phone before you arrive.
- Emergency encashment. If your wallet gets lost or stolen, HSBC can send you up to $10,000.
- Travel security services. HSBC‘s Expat account includes security services from Crisis24, a risk management company that aims to keep you and your identity safe while traveling.
- Most transfers have fees. Transfers to other HSBC accounts are free, but if you transfer funds to a different bank, you’ll likely have to pay for it.
Best for expats with US addressesCharles Schwab’s checking account is best for American expats or individuals with US addresses because there are no one-time or ongoing service charges, and all ATM fees are reimbursed globally. The account also supports eight currencies, and there are no fees for foreign transactions.
Plus, Schwab doesn’t charge a currency exchange markup fee, ensuring you always pay the lowest rate for currency conversions. Schwab can also help you invest in American markets or access USD accounts while you’re abroad, and you can get tax-filing support if needed. And although you must open a Schwab One brokerage account to bank with Charles Schwab, there aren’t any fees or minimums.
- No minimums or fees. There are no one-time or ongoing service fees associated with this account.
- No ATM fees anywhere. All ATM fees are reimbursed anywhere in the world.
- Check writing. This account includes check-writing capabilities and comes with unlimited free checks.
- Must open a brokerage account. You’re required to open a Schwab One brokerage account to bank with Schwab. But there are no minimum balance requirements or charges, and you don’t even need to fund the brokerage account.
- Obstacles to open from overseas. If you want to open this account from outside of the US, you may need to use a virtual private network (VPN) to appear as though you’re in the country.
Best for high balancesFidelity Investments is the best bank for high balances because accounts are FDIC insured for up to $1.25 million, which is more than what most banks cover. This account also includes a debit card and unlimited ATM fee rebates anywhere in the world, and reimburses ATM fees daily.
There’s also no fee for wire transfers, which is rare among banking providers. But there is a 1% foreign transaction fee if you use the debit card outside of the US.
- No fees. There’s no monthly fee for this account and no minimum balance requirement. Also, you’ll get global ATM fee refunds and free wire transfers.
- FDIC insurance. Most banks only offer $250,000 in FDIC insurance, but Fidelity offers $1.25 million in federal protection.
- Foreign transaction fee. While it’s lower than the average 3% fee you’ll find at other banks, you’ll pay a 1% foreign transaction fee for purchases in currencies other than USD.
- Can’t deposit cash. There’s no way to deposit cash into this account directly.
- Negative reviews. Fidelity is plagued by negative reviews on Trustpilot and the Better Business Bureau’s website. Many of the complaints pertain to Fidelity’s customer support and difficulty closing accounts.
First Republic Bank
Best for no feesFirst Republic Bank is the best expat bank for no fees because its ATM Rebate checking account includes free global ATM refunds and has no foreign transaction fees. There is a monthly service fee for the ATM Rebate account, but you can avoid it by maintaining a minimum monthly balance of $3,500.
The account also pays interest on balances above $3,500, but the APY is a dismal 0.001%, which is practically nothing. You’ll need to deposit at least $500 to open the account.
- No ATM fees. First Republic Bank doesn’t charge ATM fees with its ATM Rebate checking account. The bank also refunds all ATM fees, but refunds are only paid once a month.
- Overdraft protection. You can link a First Republic Bank money market account as a backup funding source if you use your debit card to make a purchase that exceeds your balance.
- Opening deposit. You must deposit at least $500 to open an ATM Rebate account, which is more than many other banks require.
- Monthly fee. There’s a $25 monthly fee for First Republic Bank‘s ATM Rebate checking account, but you can avoid it by maintaining a minimum monthly balance of $3,500.
- Doesn’t cover conversion fees. You won’t pay ATM fees or foreign transaction fees, but you will pay fees for converting USD to other currencies.
International bank accounts can help make international transactions easier and cheaper, but you’ll need to make sure you’re not accidentally breaking any tax laws. Compare checking accounts both abroad and in the US to find one that’s the right fit.
Frequently asked questions
What bank accounts let me hold multiple currencies?
There are some international bank accounts that will let you simultaneously hold multiple currencies. For example, the Wise Multi-currency account allows customers to hold over 50 currencies.
Is an international bank account the same thing as an offshore account?
Not necessarily. An international bank account aims to help you with international transactions, and often has special features and benefits to do so.
An offshore account is any account that you hold in another country. While some offshore accounts are also international accounts, that isn’t always the case.
When can I avoid paying taxes by keeping my money overseas?
While you may be eligible for certain tax loopholes when keeping money overseas, you still need to report it to the IRS and you may still need to pay taxes on any interest you earn. If you use an overseas account to evade taxes, you could end up in serious legal trouble. If you’re opening up an overseas or international account, it’s a good idea to consult a tax professional to make sure you’re complying with all US and foreign laws.
Can I keep my bank account if I move abroad?
Yes. Many people choose to keep their US bank account when they move abroad for several reasons:
- It could be difficult to reopen these accounts if you return to the US.
- If you still have bills to pay in the US, it’s easier to make these payments from a US bank account.
- You’ll save money on foreign transaction fees if you visit relatives or friends in the US.
That said, many people choose to open up a local account in their new country, so they pay fewer fees on transactions and cash withdrawals.
Image source: Getty Images
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