Throughout this guide, I’ll cover the best banks for expats. To help you find the best account, I’ll cover features, bank charges, pros and cons, and other important information.
Since I’ve lived overseas for several years, I wanted the best bank possible. To help make your search easier, I’ve compiled various bank accounts for American expats.
To help you find the best account, I’ll cover these features and tidbits:
Let’s find a bank that doesn’t suck.
Nothing I’ve written in this post constitutes financial or professional advice.
7 Best Banks for Expats and Travelers
Here are the best banks for living abroad:
|Bank or Service||Best For||Foreign Transaction Fees *||Minimum Balance||Bank?|
|Capital One 360||Expats||$2.00 + 3%||$0||Yes|
|Citibank||Access To Overseas Branches||0–3%||$1,500–$1 million||Yes|
|N26||Citizens In Europe||1.7%||$0||Yes|
* These fees can change at a moment’s notice. Look at the website’s fees before opening an account.
** The financial institution won’t charge you an ATM fee if you use an automated teller machine within these networks.
The following sections will cover each bank’s fees, features, security, and other details.
1. Wise: Best for Currency Conversion and Sending Money
Advantages of using Wise
- Multi-currency accounts
- Low fees
- Supports a fair number of currencies
- Great currency exchange rate
Disadvantages of using Wise
- You must download the mobile app for a decent 2FA
- No incentive to store money or use the debit card Wise offers
- Must pay $31 to upgrade your account
- Have to pay to transfer between accounts
Wise (formerly Transferwise) works best for digital nomads, expats, freelancers, and travelers who want a multi-currency bank account.
And it has a virtual debit card. So long as you spend $31 to open a Borderless (Multi-Currency) account. I’ll cover the upgraded account’s features in a second.
Wise isn’t a bank. It’s a financial service (or financial technology).
Base Transferwise comes with include:
|* Multi-currency reserves||TOTP 2FA w/ mobile app||Third-party app integrations|
|Payment approval rules||Automatic currency conversions||Decent user experience|
|Free Digital card||No minimum balance||1-5 day international transfer speeds|
* These reserves allow you to set money aside for specific goals, occasions, or expenses. For instance, you could set up a jar where you’d put your taxes.
Pay $31 to upgrade your Wise account to the Multi-currency account. These fees will vary by country of residence.
Here’s what the multi-currency account upgrade will get you:
- Account number (e.g., IBAN)
- Hold & convert 53 currencies
- Send money to 80 countries
And here are the account numbers explained more in-depth:
I don’t recommend using Wise to store or withdraw money. You’ll learn why in a second.
Wise isn’t FSCS-protected (London’s FDIC).
They “Safeguard” your money by storing it in separate accounts that aren’t a part of their business. Find the banks they use to diversify your funds by reading this link.
Login security is disappointing.
You’ll have to download Wise’s mobile application if you want 2-factor authentication security instead of relying on SMS.
When having an account with Wise, you don’t gain any interest in storing money in your account or “jars.” Jars are Wise’s savings account.
TransferWise offers an in-depth FAQ. If that’s not enough, they don’t make it impossible to contact them. Just email or call them.
Wise account fees include :
|ATM Fees (over $100/mo.)||$1.50 + 2%|
|Foreign transaction fee||$0|
|Multi-currency Debit card||$9.00 (one-time)|
The amount you’ll pay for these fees depends on your country of residence. The fees I listed are for U.S. residents.
2. Charles Schwab Bank: Best Bank Account for International ATM Fees
Pros of Charles Schwab
- Delightful customer support
- Simple debit card management
- Commission-free ETF and stock trading
- No inactivity or other types of fees
- Reimburses all ATM fees
- Can set up a SEP IRA with them
Cons of Charles Schwab
- Must register for a trader account before being able to get a checking account
- Must download a separate app for TOTP authentication
- Can’t deposit cash directly
- Not much interest bearing
- No virtual card
Charles Schwab works best for any digital nomad or expatriate. The institution’s fee reimbursement makes it so you can use any ATM worldwide and have reimbursed fees by the end of the month.
You can also manage travel notifications and your card’s features online. No having to call within a timeframe.
Features you’ll find with Charles Schwab bank include:
|FDIC insured||No minimum balance||SEP IRA|
|TOTP 2FA||Travel notice management||No fees for major services|
|No foreign transaction fees||0.40% APY for checking acc.|
I’m not an authority when it comes to retirement or taxes. But you can create a Simplified Employee Pension Plan (SEP) through Charles Schwab. If you’re self-employed, it gives you a means to have a retirement account.
And to reduce tax liability [2, 3].
You first must open a Schwab One brokerage checking account with Schwab before you can get a normal account. It’s annoying, but free.
Unlike many online banking options, Charles Schwab does have branch offices. But they’re all in the U.S.
Charles Schwab offers Time-based One-time Password (TOTP) 2FA protection for your account. Usually, you can download an app like Authy or Aegis and store your TOTP accounts there.
With Charles Schwab, you must download the mobile app, VIP Access. I don’t like managing additional apps, but it’s worth the extra security.
If you’re not familiar with the TOTP algorithm, it’s when you use an app to randomly generate a password to provide an extra barrier to your account.
Charles Schwab’s checking account is FDIC insured, but not their brokerage products.
Charles Schwab personal checking account fees :
|Overdraft fee||$25 per transaction up to $100 per day|
|Out-of-network ATM fee||$0|
|Wire transfer fee||$15 (online) $25 (in-person)|
|Foreign transaction fee||$0|
3. Capital One 360: Best Secondary Checking Account Option
Pros of Capital One
- Best for digital nomads within the U.S.
- Fantastic fee structure
- Decent mobile application
- Robust website security
Cons of Capital One
- Not the best features for expats
- Foreign transaction fees
Capital One 360 works best for expats as a savings vehicle. But as a secondary account. Otherwise, you’ll want Capital One 360 if you’re a digital nomad roaming the U.S.
Features you’ll find with Capital One 360 include:
|High-Yield Savings Account (HYSA)||1, 2, Or 5 Year Certificate Of Deposit (CD)||70,000 Fee-Free ATMs (In The U.S.)|
|Kids Savings Account||Overdraft Protection|
Since they charge for ATMs out of their network, I can’t recommend Capital One 360 as a primary bank account for expatriates. But it’s an excellent way to have a backup bank account. If you can’t get with Ally.
Can you guess how Capital One 360 secures your account?
They require you to download an app and then use fingerprint biometric authentication.
Of course you need to download an app for authentication…
I suppose it’s better than SMS-based authentication.
Capital One’s mobile app isn’t anything special. You can access card controls, account statements and overviews, notifications, and manage account rewards.
A feature that I loved and would have put above Charles Schwab if not for this bank’s cons is Eno. It’s a handy monitoring tool that’ll remind you when free trials are close to ending, acts as a chatbot, and gives you summaries of charitable donations.
Also, with Eno, you can create free virtual credit cards to disguise your card number and protect your information. This feature only works with credit cards.
And there’s overdraft protection. You have 3 options:
- Automatically decline transactions that’d cause an overdraft
- Automatically transfer funds from your money market or savings account to your checking
- Don’t charge overdraft fees on APPROVED transactions that would bring your balance below “$0.00”
For the savings account, you’ll have a 0.40% APY. For Capital One’s 360 checking account, you’ll receive 0.10% in interest if you have a balance of under $49,999.
Maintaining balances between $50,000–$99,999.99 will get you 0.10% APY on your account’s entire balance.
Capital One’s customer service is accessible 24/7 by phone on certain issues like reporting card issues. Or reach them by email and snail-mail.
Capital One 360 checking account fees :
|Out-Of-Network Atm Fee||$0|
|Wire Transfer Fee||$0 (incoming)$30 (outgoing)|
|Foreign Transaction Fees||$2.00 + 3%|
4. Citibank: Best Bank Account for Overseas Branches
- Can waive maintenance fees by maintaining a certain balance
- Reimbursed fees from non-Citibank ATMs (based on account)
- 2,649 branches throughout 19 countries
- The app has nice features
- Not the best fee structure
- Requires a high monthly balance to access decent features
Pros of Citibank
Cons of Citibank
A Citibank checking account is best for an expat or digital nomad who can maintain a balance of over $5,000 in your checking account. And want to visit branch locations overseas. So long as your destination country has a Citibank branch.
You’ll need the Citibank checking account minimum balance as mentioned above to avoid maintenance fees.
If you’re still interested, here are some features:
- Low minimum deposit for CD
- 65,000 fee-free ATMs
- Different bank packages
Citibank has a combined total of 7 Everyday and Premium bank accounts that have varying fees and features.
|Bank Tier||Service Fee||Required Min. Balance||Key Features|
|Access Account||$10/mo. or maintain min. balance||$1,500+||Online Bank Access|
|Basic Banking||$12/mo. or maintain min. balance||$1,500+||Unlimited Check Writing|
|Citibank Account Package||$25/mo. or maintain min. balance||$10,000+||Waived Non-Citi Atm Fees|
|Citi Priority||$30/mo. or maintain min. balance||$30,000+||Travel & Global Benefits And Investment Guidance|
|Citigold Private Client||NA||$1 million+||Dedicated Wealth Team|
|Citi International Personal Account Package||NA||$500,000+||Atm Fee Reimbursements, Investment Insights, & Investment Insights|
The benefits you’ll get depend on your account. And I don’t recommend getting these accounts unless you want to use Citibank as an emergency account.
Their login security isn’t the best. They offer SMS- and call-based 2FA.
What are Citibank’s travel and global benefits?
Some perks you’ll get include the lowest hotel rate guarantees, complimentary “elite” status with National Car Rental, and city guides 
The Citibank app is nice. Instead of just managing your banking features and debit card, you can also set up fingerprint authentication for your account.
And check your credit score when needed.
For the standard Citi Elevate package, you’ll receive an APY of 0.05%–0.25% Citibank checking account interest rate. And 0.50% for your savings account.
Likely the reason you’d choose Citibank is to have accessibility to branches. So, your best option is to walk into a branch and talk to someone.
|Overdraft Fee||$34 per transaction|
|Out-Of-Network Atm Fee||$2.50 within the U.S. and an additional 3% on transactions outside the states and Puerto Rico|
|Wire Transfer Fee||$15–$45|
|Foreign Transaction Fee||3%|
5. N26: Best Online Banking Service for Europeans
- Virtual debit card
- Discounts on some stores
- Free wire transfer fees
- Only supports Euro
- Must pay for physical debit cards
- No credit card
Pros of N26
Cons of N26
N26 is a neobank (fintech) that works best for expats and travelers from some European countries. I’ll cover these in a second.
Features you’ll get with the N26 banking service include:
- Overdraft protection up to €10,000
- Spending tracking
- Insurance for devices (€4.00+/mo.)
- Sub-accounts to divide expenses
- Perks: discounts from various services
- Multilingual customer service
All N26 accounts are protected up to €100,000 by the German Deposit Protection Scheme.
The N26 app will add 2-factor authentication to your account through biometric authentication. Whether it’s through fingerprints or FaceID. FaceID is for Apple device users.
They offer 1 account that doesn’t have a monthly fee (N26 Standard). All their other accounts cost €4.90–€16.90 monthly.
These paid accounts give you a physical card, more free domestic ATM withdrawals, free international ATM withdrawals, and more.
Before finishing up, let’s explore countries whose citizens can open an N26 account :
You must provide an ID to prove you reside in one of these countries.
Here are the fees for N26 :
|Overdraft Fee||8.9% of overdrawn amount each day|
|* Out-Of-Network Atm Fee||1.7% of withdrawal amount€2.00 for all Flex accounts|
|Wire Transfer Fee||Free|
|Foreign Transaction Fee||1.7%|
* N26 will waive this fee if you have a N26 You, Business, Metal, or Business Metal account.
If you’re looking for an online bank, you’ll want to understand why I don’t recommend certain banks.
Everyone’s experience will vary by bank. You may have a better experience than I.
1. Novo Bank
- Receive perks based on the amount in your savings
- Integrations with third-party web applications
- Decent invoice creation software
- Create a reserve to set money aside for taxes, savings, or whatever
- Only SMS- and email-based 2FA
- Unable to perform recurring payments
- They force you to use their mobile app for the virtual card
Pros of Novo
Cons of Novo
I shouted recommendations to this bank from the rooftops until recently.
Because of their horrendous 2FA login system (via email), I tried logging in when I needed to, and they never sent me the code. I clicked the ‘resend security code’ button multiple times.
Days later, I received an email that said Novo had reset my password. And I can only use my virtual debit card on the mobile app.
I don’t want to download a bank app on my phone. Especially since someone could steal my phone.
Back to the 2FA login code. The customer support agent I grilled about the issue told me there were “outages with their email 2FA system.”
Then he told me that if I didn’t receive the code, wait an hour or 2 to log in. To avoid triggering another account security ‘penalty.’ What if the login code doesn’t send then?
Do I have to wait another hour to log in?
Why not just implement TOTP codes or U2F keys? They’re much more secure and don’t require you to wait an hour to log into your bank account.
I wish I could continue to recommend Novo bank. Every other feature is excellent. And it simplified online banking.
Until it didn’t.
This section serves as a warning to anyone considering the bank.
I’m not going to give into the bank’s features or say who it’s best for. But I’ll present their fees if you’re considering this institution for some reason.
Novo bank fees :
|Overdraft Fee||$27 per transaction|
|Out-Of-Network Atm Fee||They will refund ATM fees|
|Wire Transfer Fee||$0|
|Foreign Transaction Fee||$0|
2. Ally Bank
- Fantastic for use as a savings vehicle
- No fees to maintain your account
- No minimum required balance
- No brick-and-mortar locations
- Must pay fees on overseas ATMs
- Not the best customer service
Pros of Ally
Cons of Ally
I can’t recommend Ally based on personal experience. I tried applying for them, and they declined me.
I spent about a week going back and forth with their customer service without answers.
They were as vague as the declined letter I received.
I have a friend who uses Ally. And he said that the bank’s services have declined over the years.
If you can get an Ally account, I recommend using it as an emergency backup account. Obtaining a certificate of deposit (CD) can give you rates up to 3.15% (on a 5-year term).
And if you want to withdraw money from Ally, don’t do it through an ATM. They’ll charge you a 1% ATM fee. Consider transferring money to an account that reimburses the ATM fee.
I’m not going to cover features. These are dishonorable mentions, and I don’t want to try to sell you on their services.
Ally bank fees :
|Out-of-network ATM fee||Reimbursed up to $10|
|Domestic Wire Transfer Fee||$20|
|Foreign Transaction Fee||1% on overseas ATMs|
How To Choose the Best Online Banks
Use this list as a reference to figure out what you need in a bank account.
Bank Account Security
Every bank should use encryption to protect your data, specifically Advanced Encryption Standard 256 (AES-256). This is one of the most robust forms of encryption that any entity can use to protect your data from prying eyes.
If a hacker were to brute force attack a server with AES-256, it would take billions of years with current technology .
The Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) or Financial Services Compensation Scheme (FSCS) insures most banks and financial services. These will protect your account if a bank fails.
Another area you’ll want to keep an eye on when searching for an account is whether it supports Time-Based One-Time Password (TOTP) two-factor authentication (2FA).
Most online banks I’ve seen don’t support TOTP. And they use horrendous email and SMS 2FA. Both methods are the least secure means to protect account logins .
Yet, institutions will use them as selling points to say, “we have secure account logins.”
Why? Shouldn’t a service that stores people’s wealth have top-notch account security?
Especially with so many social engineering schemes around.
I’ve seen online forums that have more robust online security than most bank services and banks I’ve recommended.
You have a winning account if you can find a bank supporting Universal Second Factor (U2F) hardware keys for logging in.
Some features for mobile banking that you may find helpful include:
- Check scanning
- Account balance inquiry
- Mobile deposits
- Card control services
- Facial recognition and fingerprint authentication
When using your phone for banking, you’re putting yourself at risk.
Anyone can call your SIM card provider, impersonate you, steal your number and link it to their phone.
Exercise caution when using mobile banking.
Since you’re likely abroad, a bank emphasizing online banking is a must. Without it, you can’t do too much. You’ll want to access most features to avoid waiting for customer service email replies.
Travel notices, debit card controls, and digital wallets are a few features you’ll want in an account.
Try to find a bank or service that offers virtual debit cards. You won’t have to wait to receive a new debit card while overseas.
Ensure customer service is available and responsive. You’ll want to also make sure that the bank has customer service available while you’re awake in your time zones.
Here are some common banking fees for online banks and their international counterparts:
- Wire transfer fee: you would pay when transferring funds to another account
- Out-of-network ATM fee: when you use ATMs not supported by the bank
- Maintenance fee: pay to keep an account with the institution
- Overdraft fee: if you have a negative balance from a transaction
All fees will vary by bank.
Read these commonly asked questions I’ve aggregated to clear any confusion you may have about using banks abroad.
Can You Open a Bank Account as a Tourist?
You cannot open a bank account as a tourist in most countries. You will likely need a local mailing address in most countries, not a hotel or Airbnb.
From my experience, Charles Schwab is the best bank account for U.S. expats and travelers. They have TOTP account security, every feature you need to manage your account, and some investment options.
I recommend pairing this bank with at least one secondary account as a backup. Also, you may want a non-bank account for additional interest and investment options.
Whether you’re an expatriate or a digital nomad, you should check out my other guides to find more tools to help you abroad.