For U.S. citizens living abroad, referred to as expatriates or expats, maintaining checking and other bank accounts in the United States provides several advantages. These include the convenience of paying bills or making payments in the country and the ease of direct deposits for employment or Social Security payments.
However, using these accounts while living in a foreign country can be expensive due to bank fees. For example, ATM transaction fees can be high—anywhere from $1 to $5 per transaction, if you choose the wrong bank. And without a strong mobile platform and 24-hour help centers, it may be difficult to access funds when overseas.
Below are the 10 top checking accounts for expats—with proven track records. Some of the banks listed have a hefty physical presence abroad, think HSBC and Citi, and others, like Ally Bank or Capital One, operate, for the most part, as online entities. All the banks listed have been vetted with expats and travelers in mind. All information has been updated as of Oct. 9, 2020.
- U.S. expatriates looking for the best checking account will need to consider whether they prefer a bank with a physical location, an online-only bank, or one that offers the best of both.
- Other things to consider are foreign transaction fees, which can eat away at your balance each time you make an ATM withdrawal or debit card purchase.
- Some banks and credit unions will offer reimbursement of foreign transaction fees.
- In order to receive reimbursement of fees and other benefits on your checking account, you may need to meet a minimum monthly balance or other requirements.
Expats can use the Capital One 360 interest-bearing checking solution offered by Capital One Financial Corp. (COF) without paying maintenance, foreign transaction, or ATM fees. Account owners can set up direct deposits for work or Social Security payments. In addition, Capital One allows you to use other forms of currency, not just the U.S. dollar when you purchase something abroad or online.
Charles Schwab Bank
For expats seeking a low-cost checking account for international use, the Schwab Bank High Yield Investor Checking Account offered by the Charles Schwab Corp. (SCHW) pays rebates on all ATM charges, processes transactions in foreign currencies at no charge, and does not charge service fees. The account pays interest and can be linked to Apple Pay. When you open a checking account with Schwab Bank, you will need to open and be linked to a Schwab One brokerage account, as well.
The Citibank ATM Network is available in over 40 countries, so accessing an ATM may not be a problem. A subsidiary of Citigroup Inc. (C), Citibank offers expats the convenience of handling their financial affairs in offices around the world, as well as online. With the Citi International Personal Account Package and the Citigold interest checking account, customers receive wealth management and financial planning services in addition to banking services.
Customers must maintain a minimum combined average monthly balance of $200,000 in eligible linked banking, investment, and retirement accounts. There is no monthly service fee for accounts that meet the minimum average monthly balance. The account offers fee waivers on most bank services and reimbursement of fees charged by other banks for using non-Citi ATM machines. Depending on the type of Citigold account you hold, wire transfer fees are either waived or reduced.
The international footprint of HSBC Holdings PLC (HSBC) provides expats an unparalleled physical presence with operations in 64 countries and territories. HSBC Premier checking offers a variety of features, including no ATM or transaction fees, no annual fees, and emergency cash up to $10,000 should a customer's wallet be lost or stolen.
To qualify for the Premier account, customers must maintain a minimum balance of $75,000 in linked accounts with the bank or have monthly recurring third-party direct deposits of at least $5,000 or an HSBC U.S. residential mortgage loan with an original loan amount of at least $500,000.
If you can't afford a Premier account, try an HSBC Choice or Advance checking account, both of which allow you to bypass ATM fees in specific countries.
HSBC Bank is known for its customer service and will help you open an account overseas, even before you move. In addition, you can move your funds via its mobile app between any of your HSBC accounts, which can come in handy if you have multiple accounts across multiple countries.
Alliant Credit Union
The high-interest rate checking account at Alliant Credit Union pays an annual percentage yield (APY) of 0.25% with no minimum balance requirement and no monthly service fees. Unlike many banks, credit unions often pass processing charges on transactions through to customers without markups.
As a result, fees charged to expats on foreign ATM withdrawals and debit card purchases are 1% of the total transaction. However, Alliant does offer an ATM fee rebate of up to $20 per month.
Some financial institutions charge foreign transaction fees to customers who make withdrawals from foreign ATMs or make purchases in a foreign currency using an electronic payment card. These fees are typically 1% to 3% of the transaction's value.
First Republic Bank
The ATM Rebate checking account offered by First Republic Bank (NYSE: FRC) offers free withdrawals at 800,000 ATMs around the world, refunds on charges for withdrawals from non-network ATMs, and waived transaction fees on debit card use. The account pays interest when a minimum of $3,500 is maintained throughout each monthly statement cycle. There is a $500 minimum to open an ATM Rebate checking account.
While it only offers online banking, Ally Bank has a robust online interface for expats with free bill paying, no maintenance fees, and no monthly maintenance minimums. Ally Bank charges a standard foreign transaction fee of up to 1% of the transaction amount for ATM withdrawals and debit card transactions. There may be an additional charge if you use a non-Allpoint ATM overseas.
For expats holding investment accounts with Fidelity Investments, the debit card included with the Cash Management Account can be used to withdraw cash from over 1 million ATMs worldwide. For each foreign transaction, there is a 1% foreign transaction fee for non-U.S. dollar transactions, which may apply whether or not there is a currency conversion. The account also offers travel and emergency assistance, accident insurance, and damage waivers for car rentals.
Navy Federal Credit Union
For active and retired members of the military who banked with the Navy Federal Credit Union (NFCU) while living stateside, the credit union also adds value for members living abroad. You won't be charged ATM access fees when using International Navy Federal and CO-OP ATMs located on military bases.
However, some CO-OP ATMs and non-NFCU ATMs may charge an International Assessment Service Fee (ISA) of 1% of the amount withdrawn. The credit union pays a rebate of up to $10 per statement period to cover ATM charges for direct deposit accounts. The Flagship Checking account pays tiered dividend rates with a maximum APY of 0.45% for balances over $25,000.
State Department Federal Credit Union
If you or an immediate family member is employed by the U.S. Department of State, this federal credit union has a lot to offer its members. You can open a Basic checking account (no minimum required), an Advantage account with a $2,000 balance, or a Privilege account with a $25,000 balance. All accounts give members access to nearly 30,000 free ATMs. Members can utilize the credit union's robust online banking system, plus its 24-hour call center.
The credit union offers Advantage account holders a monthly reimbursement of up to $15 for ATM foreign transaction fees. Privilege account holders receive a monthly reimbursement of up to $25. The Advantage checking account pays dividend rates with an APY of 0.45% and the Privilege checking account pays an APY of 0.50%.