Your banking needs get a whole lot trickier if you’re an international student, spend a lot of time working overseas, have family scattered across multiple places, have dual citizenship or otherwise need a financial presence in more than one country. The good news is that it’s easier than ever to manage bank accounts beyond borders.
Keep an Open Account Active in Your Home Country
If you’re an ex-pat looking to simplify your financial life and reduce potential security risks, you might be tempted to close your bank accounts back home altogether and open new ones if you ever decide to move back.
According to Dunhill Financial, that’s probably a bad idea in most cases. Keeping an active bank account in your home country, if the U.S. is your home country, can allow you to:
Maintain your credit score
Access products and services that are available only in the United States or that become available in America first
Pay any taxes you might owe
Pay bills back home
Receive money from U.S. residents without currency conversion fees
Receive Social Security distributions or other benefit payments
Manage U.S.-based investments
Consider an International Credit Union
Some stateside banks don’t let you maintain a U.S.-based account with a foreign address. In that case, you might qualify for membership in a financial nonprofit like the State Department Federal Credit Union (SDFCU).
You don’t have to work in an embassy to become a member. Your membership in an organization like American Citizens Abroad (ACA) can be enough for you to qualify.
Members enjoy perks specifically designed for customers living abroad, including:
Low wire transfer fees
No foreign transaction fees on any credit card options
Checking accounts that reimburse ATM and foreign transaction fees
Access to services like auto financing and mortgage loans while living overseas
For Others, an Online Fintech Might Be Best
If you’re comfortable with an online-only experience beyond the traditional bank or credit union, the right fintech can offer all the standard banking services and more with plenty of perks for travelers.
Revolut, for example, is built for day-to-day spending and general money management across borders. It lets you send and request payments and even split bills with people across 200 countries. Users can open interest-yielding savings accounts and checking accounts with cards that support Apple Pay and Google Pay. When you make purchases with your card, you spend at the real exchange rate — and cardholders get special travel perks like reduced lounge rates.
You can make unlimited withdrawals from in-network ATMs and Revolut even offers advanced services like no-commission stock trading and subscription managers. Despite the fact that it’s not a bank or credit union, your money is FDIC insured up to $250,000 as if it were.
Make Transfers and Manage Currencies With an App Like Wise
Monito is a tool that lets you shop around for the best price for international money transfers between competitors like Barclay’s, MoneyGram, WesternUnion, Remitly, WorldRemit and PayPal. But the cheapest option of all is usually Wise — formerly TransferWire — which Monito rates a 9.5 out of 10, better than any competing service on the market.
More than just a money-transfer app, Wise can manage more than 50 currencies in 170 countries, which is no easy feat. According to Forbes, different countries identify their bank accounts differently — routing and account numbers in the U.S., for example, vs. country-coded IBANs in Europe and BSBs in Australia. Wise uses so-called borderless banking to help its users find the right codes to establish accounts in different countries while managing multiple currencies all in the same place.
Wise can also be paired with a Mastercard billed as “the most international debit card in the world.” If you don’t have local currency, the card will auto-convert it at the real exchange rate for you at the point of purchasing for a small fee.
Understand Your Reporting Requirements
The IRS and other U.S. agencies have strict rules and requirements designed to prevent international tax evasion, money laundering and other global financial crimes.
The Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA) requires foreign financial institutions to report assets their U.S. account holders own. Even if you don’t have to pay taxes on overseas bank accounts and other assets, you might have to report their existence through FinCEN Form 114, known as the Report of Foreign Bank and Financial Accounts (FBAR), and Form 8938.
Requirements are based on reporting thresholds, account types and many other variables. Visit IRS.gov for more information and consult a specialist before you move if you’re unsure of your reporting requirements.
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