For U.S. citizens living abroad, referred to as expats, maintaining checking and other financial accounts in the United States provides several advantages, including 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 and problematic if transaction costs are high, online access is limited or ATM fees are excessive. The following are 10 of the best checking accounts for expats.
Expats can use the Capital One 360 interest-bearing checking solution offered by Capital One Financial Corp. (NYSE: COF) without paying maintenance, foreign transaction or ATM fees. Account owners can set up direct deposits and link 360 checking to investment accounts at Capital One to manage their portfolios 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. (NYSE: 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 a Schwab One brokerage account, as well as Apple Pay.
With 4,000 locations in over 40 countries, Citibank, a subsidiary of Citigroup Inc. (NYSE: C), 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 checking account, both of which require a minimum balance of $50,000 between deposits and other linked balances within the bank, there is no monthly maintenance fee, and international ATM and transaction fees are waived.
The international footprint of HSBC Holdings PLC (NYSE: HSBC) provides expats an unparalleled physical presence with approximately 6,000 offices in over 70 countries in Europe, Asia, the Middle East and North Africa. HSBC Premier checking offers a variety of features, including no ATM or transaction fees, no annual fees, and emergency cash up to $10,000 if customers' cash or cards are stolen. To qualify for the Premier account, customers must maintain a minimum balance of $100,000 in linked accounts with the bank.
Alliant Credit Union
The high interest rate checking account at Alliant Credit Union pays an annual percentage yield (APY) of 0.65% with no minimum balance requirement and no monthly 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.
First Republic Bank
The ATM Rebate checking account offered by First Republic Bank (NYSE: FRB) 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.
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. ATM withdrawals and debit card transactions are charged 1% of the amount of each transaction.
Connexus Credit Union
The Xtraordinary Checking account offered by Connexus Credit Union charges $2 plus 1% on international ATM fees and 1% on debit card transactions. However, the 1.75% APY paid on funds in the account up to $25,000 can compensate for those expenses. Connexus offers direct deposits, no maintenance fees and no minimums to earn interest.
Navy Federal Credit Union
For active and retired members of the military who banked with the Navy Federal Credit Union while living stateside, the credit union also adds value for members living abroad. International debit card transactions are charged 0.8%, and ATM withdrawals are charged $1 plus 0.8%. The credit union pays a rebate of up to $10 per month 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.
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. Fidelity reimburses all ATM fees and charges 1% on transaction fees. The account also offers travel and emergency assistance, accident insurance and damage waivers for car rentals.