Expat bank accounts are designed specifically for people living an international lifestyle. For people travelling abroad only once or twice a year for a holiday, the expensive wire transfer fees and poor exchange rates often associated with banks may not be the biggest problem – but for expats, frequent travellers, and digital nomads, you could be losing thousands of your hard-earned dollars every year simply by accessing your own money.
Some banks offer international bank accounts that are specifically for people living away from their home country, while other non-bank institutions offer a digital approach to wiring money internationally that means fewer fees and more versatility with moving your money across borders.
In this guide, we’ve reviewed some of the best international banks for expats as well as a few major considerations to keep in mind when picking the best expat bank account.
Before diving into our top bank recommendations for expats, here are a few questions to consider when making your choice:
If this is the case for you, you will want to find a bank account that has the lowest transfer fees and most favourable exchange rates to avoid losing your money to your bank. Multi-currency accounts may also be worth considering, although this would involve opening a new bank account rather than sticking with your existing bank.
If you are receiving payments from a foreign employer, for example, if you’re a freelancer working with international clients, you’ll want to make sure your bank account will accommodate multiple currencies.
Make sure that whatever international bank account you are looking at, it supports the currencies you need to hold in your account.
Below are some of the best international banks to create bank accounts for expats living and working abroad. A few key things to bear in mind when considering the best account for you is:
The HSBC Expat Account is available in pound sterling, dollars, or euros, and includes a debit card, foreign exchange app, and 24/7 phone access to your account. This account is most suitable for people who already bank with HSBC and regularly move countries or regularly make international payments.
To have this account, you must be 18 years or over, currently live in an eligible country or region, and hold a minimum with £50,000 with HSBC, be qualified already for HSBC Premier in another country, or have a sole salary of £100,000.
If you already have an account with HSBC and want to make an international transfer, you will need to know the SWIFT / BIC code of the recipient. You can use our SWIFT code calculator to find all the details you might need. For example, if you’re sending money to the UK you will need the UK Swift Code for the bank of your recipient.
The Lloyds International Bank account is also available in pound sterling, dollars, or euros, and offers fee free international transfers (although charges from the recipient bank may apply).
To be eligible you need a gross annual income of £50,000 (or currency equivalent), or have £25,000 available to save or invest with Lloyds Bank international banking services. You will also need to make an initial deposit into your account within 30 days of opening your account. This account has fees of £7.50/€8/$10USD per month.
If you already have an account with Lloyds and want to make an international transfer, you will need to know the SWIFT / BIC code of the recipient. You can use our SWIFT code calculator to find all the details you might need. For example, if you’re sending money to Poland you will need Polish Swift Code for the bank of your recipient.
Wise has a borderless account that is specifically aimed towards frequent travellers, expats, and freelancers. Supporting 50 foreign currencies, the account comes with a debit card for making local payments and free foreign transaction fees (ATM withdrawals up to £200/month)
The major plus points of a Wise borderless account is that it has low fees and is accessible to almost everyone (there may be some country limitations), and is ideal for students studying abroad, expats that travel frequently, and freelancers sending and receiving payments in multiple currencies. The downside is that the Wise account is not an official bank account. This could be a problem if you need to receive payments in the form of direct deposit, as this account does not support this time of payment for many countries. For some people, this borderless account may be a good supplement to an existing bank account instead. You can learn more about making direct deposits in our direct deposit vs wire transfer guide.
The Capital One 360 account is ideal for expats looking to avoid foreign transaction fees and high interest rates, and who frequently make purchases online from other countries. When using your Capital One 360 card overseas, the bank charges no foreign transaction fees, which is a big draw for many people.
If you already have an account with Lloyds and want to make an international transfer, you will need to know the SWIFT / BIC code of the recipient. You can use our SWIFT code calculator to find all the details you might need. For example, if you’re sending money to Dominican Republic you will need the correct Swift Code for the Dominican Republic and the bank of your recipient.
To open your bank account with Charles Schwab, you do need to be a resident of the US. The account is popular for those looking to avoid foreign transaction fees and service fees for foreign purchases, and also pays rebates on ATM charges which is a big bonus if you’re a frequent traveller.
US expats living in the UK or Europe may want to be aware that Brexit will affect how Charles Schwab operates – find out your options if this applies to you.
Beyond using a bank account, there are also alternative methods to help you manage your money between borders. These include:
Multi-currency accounts are often offered by virtual banks, allowing you to hold multiple currencies in your account to save money when sending/receiving money, paying for foreign transactions, and moving money across borders.
These accounts can be particularly useful for freelancers who receive and send payments in foreign currencies on a regular basis, while frequent travellers may also benefit from a multi-currency account. For expats settled in one location, an expat account may offer more benefits, however.
For sending money back home, meeting regular payments in your home country, or sending funds to a person or organisation, you may find that using a money transfer provider such as WorldRemit, Wise, XE, Currencyfair, Currencies Direct, Key Currency, Instarem and TorFX is a more cost-effective way of moving your money abroad than a traditional bank.
Money transfer providers benefit from:
If you are an expat sending money back home to family on a regular basis, for example, you may choose to register a free account with a money transfer provider to send money via bank transfer or paying by debit/credit card on a regular basis for lower fees than you would get with your traditional bank. Likewise, some money transfer providers have the added benefit of cash pickups, which are often near-instant for your recipient on the other end.
Take a look at our review of the top 10 money transfer providers to find the best service for you.
Yasmin Purnell is a Content Writer and Editor for MoneyTransfers.com. Having over 5 years’ experience writing across a range of industries including finance, insurance, and travel, Yasmin joined the team with a mission to make international money transfers and everything they encompass accessible to all.