How Do You Open an Overseas Bank Account (And Should You)?
Americans put millions of dollars in foreign accounts each year for a number of reasons. If you have friends or family abroad, do business overseas, have dual citizenship or plan to move, you might need a bank account outside of the country in which you currently live. Find out everything you need to know about overseas banking, plus how to open a overseas bank account yourself, so you can receive and send money internationally with ease.
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What Is an Overseas Bank Account?
An overseas bank account is any account held in a country other than your country of primary residence. Overseas bank accounts might be useful for the following reasons:
- You routinely travel to various countries for work.
- You are planning to move overseas for work or retirement.
- You have investments or property overseas.
- You regularly receive payments in a foreign currency.
- You pay for a family member’s expenses who lives overseas.
How To Open an Overseas Bank Account
If you are considering opening a bank account abroad, you have two options. You can either open an account by visiting a bank branch or you can open an account online. There are multiple providers who can offer these accounts, but each option has its individual requirements and limitations. Here’s information on how to open an overseas bank account in general and also how to open one with HSBC.
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In general, these are the steps for opening an overseas bank account:
- Choose a bank that offers overseas account options.
- Find out what documentation you need to provide to open the account. You can expect to have to provide proof of your identity and residence. Other forms of documentation include up to one year of bank statements from your current U.S. bank, paystubs from your employer and documentation related to your investments or business transactions.
- You might also have to have your documentation notarized or send it to the local consulate in the country where you want to open the account before you can open the account.
How To Open an Overseas Bank Account With HSBC
You can begin the process of opening an overseas bank account on the HSBC website. Opening an overseas bank account is free if you are an HSBC One, Jade, Global Private Banking, Premier or Premier Elite customer. Additionally, if you meet these customer qualifications, you won’t have to pay any monthly or yearly account maintenance fees.
To open the account, you will need to provide a passport, driver’s license or national ID card as proof of identity. You’ll also need to provide proof of address, employment information and tax details. Additional documentation might also be required depending on where you’re applying for the overseas bank account. HSBC can assist you with opening an account in more than 30 destinations.
How Can Someone Transfer Money Into an Overseas Bank Account?
There are several ways to transfer money from the U.S. to an overseas bank account, including:
- Bank transfer
- Wire transfer services
- Online money transfer services
- Peer-to-peer currency exchanges
Keep in mind that the different options have different fees associated, even if these are not explicitly stated. A bank might not charge an outright fee that you’d see on your bank statement, but they usually offer you a poor currency exchange rate, which is how they make a profit from your transfer. The real exchange rate, or the mid-market rate, is the midpoint between the buying and selling price of a currency and is available from independent sources such as Reuters and Google. If you’re given a different exchange rate than the one you see from these sources, you’re being charged a hidden fee.
Wire transfer services might mark up the exchange rate. An online money exchange tool like PayPal charges a transaction fee, and also profits by offering you a lower exchange rate than the mid-market rate.
What Are the Tax Implications of Having a Foreign Bank Account?
Depositing money into foreign accounts could save you on taxes, depending on the tax laws in the country. Some countries are known as being tax havens because of their low or nonexistent tax rates.
However, you must disclose income you receive from abroad and information about your foreign bank accounts when filing taxes in the U.S. if you are an American citizen. If you do not, you could face substantial penalties, interest, fines or even imprisonment.
Should You Open an Overseas Bank Account?
If you have reasons to open an overseas bank account, such as you’re planning to move abroad, you regularly travel between countries for business or you’re supporting a family member in a foreign country, then opening an overseas bank account can make sense.
However, keep in mind that you need to comply with the requirements and regulations related to your U.S. bank and also the foreign bank where you are opening the account. Additionally, you’ll need to disclose your foreign bank accounts and any income you received come tax time.
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Gabrielle Olya contributed to the reporting for this article.