Setting up a bank account as an expat

October 23, 2019
There are a few factors that will impact this, namely the length of your assignment and the cost of transacting abroad using your existing bank account.  One of the reasons many expats set up an international or local bank account is to avoid foreign transaction fees that may be applied to ATM transactions, credit cards or transfers. Although it may seem easier to maintain the status quo when it comes to your banking, this may not be the best option for you financially as these fees can quickly mount up. 
An expat bank account is a specialised product designed for professionals living internationally. Not all banks will have a product specifically for expatriates, but many do. Most expat bank accounts will have eligibility criteria for those opening these accounts such as minimum deposits, salary levels or countries of residence. 
A local bank account is a standard current/checking account opened with a local bank in the country you move to. Local accounts are unlikely to have the same criteria as expat bank accounts, however ,you will have to prove you are resident locally. This can be challenging if you have just begun an expat assignment. 

What you need will vary by country and the type of account you are opening. However, some standard requirements include:


• Photo ID

• Proof of address

• Social security number, national identity card or similar

• Initial deposit to lodge into your account


You may also be asked for a phone number and possibly your email address.

To avail of an expat specific account, in addition to the items listed above, you may also need:


• Deposit: some accounts have a minimum deposit requirement

• Salary: you may only be eligible to open some expat bank accounts if your annual salary is in excess of a certain amount

1. Do your research:

Research the banks in your local market. Even those operating in the same country can vary in terms of:


• monthly fees

• ATM fees

• minimum balances

• interest rates 

• availability of online banking


Research options using comparison tools, if they are available. It is also worth asking other expats in your company for advice on which bank account might be most suitable. 


2. Know the criteria:

If you want to open an expat bank account, ensure you meet the criteria. If you don’t, it might be worth asking the bank if there is anything that might work as an alternative for you. 


3. Know which countries the bank operates in:

If you want an offshore or expat account because you are likely to be moving to several countries over a period of time, it is worth checking that the bank provides services in each country. If you open a local account, ensure you can access your accounts if you return home on holiday. 

Your financials are not the only things that are easy to forget when you are moving abroad as an expat. If you are healthy and well, it can be easy to forget about your healthcare needs. Protect yourself from the high costs associated with medical treatment abroad with international health insurance