Expat banking can definitely be a huge headache and a great hassle.
Not only you need to deal with the bureaucracy at the bank in your home country, you also have to search for a reliable bank in your destination country, and to learn a different set of rules and formalities.
And, it gets even more complicated if you are among the expats who are considering opening an offshore bank account.
So, there is absolutely no wonder if you placed ‘expat banking’ at the bottom of your moving list.
No matter how much you try to avoid the subject, or how daunting it is to deal with foreign banks, international currency exchange, etc’, there is no escape and eventually you will have to reach some decisions.
So let’s go back to our headline question – How to prepare for expats banking? And work it step by step.
Starting with your home bank account
Deciding what to do with your home bank account depends on your personal circumstances. Therefore some questions must be answered before you reach any resolutions:
- Do you have a mortgage to pay or any other regular bills in your home country?
- Will you earn any income at your home country? Like an income for renting your house, etc’?
- Are there any tax obligations for expats in your home country?
- Do any of your dependents plan to stay in your home country? Will you be providing for them?
- Is there someone (parent, brother, sibling) you trust who can manage your home bank account on your behalf?
- Does your home bank allow online account access and bill payment?
- Is there a global bank that operates in your home country and also in your destination country? Maybe it will be more economic and much convenient to use a global bank that has branches in both countries.
- Who will pay your salary? Is it your government or a company in your home country? Is it a company in your destination country or an international company based in a third country?
- Will you get paid in the currency of your destination country, your home country currency, or in another currency?
- Where will you get paid, at your home country, destination country or in a third country?
- Can your salary be split between your home country and your destination country?
- Can you manage your home country’s bank account in multiply currencies?
- What kind of saving and investing programs does your home country’s bank offer?
- Will you need a loan while you are living abroad? How easy will it be to get a loan with good conditions while you are an expat and living overseas?
- What are the foreign exchange options that your home country’s bank offers?
- When are you planning to repatriate? How important is it to keep your credit file history active? And will your bank be able to help you to get ready for your return?
Although some of the above questions do not require an urgent reply. And you might be tempted to say that you will deal with them after you are settled in your host country.
It’s worthwhile to think about them before you move abroad, and to work out some decisions about how to manage your expat banking properly.
But before you reach any decisions regarding your home country bank, do some searching about expat banking in your destination country.
With today’s technology it is extremely easy to find most of the information on the internet.
Here is how you start the expat banking search:
Enter into your internet browser “list of banks in… ” and the name of your destination country.
Then browse the search results for a comprehensive list of banks in your destination country.
Tip: Usually Wikipedia and/or an expat website about your destination country will have this list.
Some of the banks on the list might be familiar to you and others not so much. So take some time and learn about the ones that you do not know.
Find out who owns the bank, its credit worthiness and which jurisdiction it falls under. Search which banks complies with international financial regulations and have a solid capital base.
Check if any of the banks operate also in your home country.
Mark their names and examine later if they can serve both as your home country and destination country’s banks.
Afterwards go directly to the websites of the banks and search for expat banking . Usually the banks that offer services for expats have a special section, where they provide tons of information about the special arrangement they have for expatriates.
In Belgium for example, ING, HSBC and Citibank cater to the expat community, and they make sure to publish data about expat banking on their website.
First gather some information about banking services and regulations in your destination country.
- What are the requirements to open a bank account?
- Can you open a bank account at your destination country form your home country?
- Will you be eligible for a credit card as soon as you arrive to your destination country?
- What types of credit cards are available (Visa, MasterCard, American Express, etc’)?
- What are the main type accounts used for everyday banking and saving?
- Are personal checks an acceptable method of payment?
- Can bank branches and/or ATM machines be found easily all around the country?
- Are cashless payment services available?
- What are the banks opening times?
- Are online banking and telephone banking available?
- Are there any restrictions on the movement of either local or foreign currency into or out of your destination country?
Now, after you have all the details about banking and money management in your destination country comes the challenging part – The expatriate banking services comparison.
Start by drawing a table, insert the relevant banks’ names and fill the columns with comparing data.
- How much are the management fees?
- What is the banks’ credit limit and what happens if you go into overdraft?
- Can you take loans?
- What types of saving programs are available?
- Is there an option for a multi currency account?
- Are other services available, like home insurance and car insurance?
- Can the bank help you with rental guarantee?
- Is it easy to send money abroad and/or transfer money into your account? What are the charges?
- If you are searching for offshore banking then check which of the banks can offer you this option.
When you are finished, look at the list and think – Which bank meets your needs?
Still have some questions concerning expat banking? Write them down and keep them in a special file.
Then, pick the two best banks and set a meeting at their branch as soon as you arrive to your destination country.
Or even better, if you are planning an orientation trip to your destination country then, squeeze a meeting in those banks, ask their staff for expat financial advice, and get some answers to the questions you still have.
Do you have expat friends or colleagues living in your destination country?
If yes, then ask their opinion about the banks you had in mind.
However, keep in mind that people have different needs and unique circumstances, so don’t choose a bank only because your expat friend/colleague recommended it, but chose a bank that serves all your expats financial needs.