Do you find yourself traveling around the world and constantly changing countries?
If so, it might be time to invest in a new account specifically designed for expatriates and nomads.
I’ve compiled this list of the best bank accounts for American expats to minimize hassle when it comes to managing your finances abroad.
This list will cover choosing the best banking service and afterward compare different services to see whether they fit these criteria.
How I Rated Each Account and Banking Option
When researching banks before moving abroad, I created criteria for what I want in a financial service or bank, which I’ll share in the next section.
However, everyone’s needs differ.
So I recommend taking bits and pieces from my criteria and forming your own, then compare them to the services that I listed in this article.
Anyway, I tried these various companies and experimented with the following:
- Some of their transfer features
- Played with their user interface (UI)
- Tested their customer support for how helpful they are
- Figured out how their savings and investment options would contribute toward my goals
- Fine-tuned settings for optimal security and privacy
Best Banks for Expats and Travelers
There aren’t too many good online or international banks.
That’s why I’ve gathered the best banks for expats and travelers that I’ve found after comparing various services to my criteria.
Not everything listed below is a bank account.
But they’re still great ways to send and receive money.
Also, they can serve as great vehicles to save your money and generate interest.
1. Novo Bank: Best Online Business Bank Account
Novo bank quick facts:
- FDIC insured up to $250,000
- No overseas ATM transaction fees
- Refunds fees from any ATM at the end of the month
- No minimum required balance
- Integrates with a lot of apps
- Offers a virtual card
Novo business banking is perfect for freelancers and entrepreneurs who want to manage their business overseas.
You can receive ACH payments and manage invoices.
You can also set aside money for particular situations like taxes or saving for a business expense.
If you have a physical card, you don’t have to worry about ATM fees. Novo will reimburse you for any fee that you incur.
Also, if you’re already overseas and want to apply, it’s simple. And now they offer virtual debit cards to use for online payments. That way, you don’t have to risk a card getting lost in the mail.
Novo bank is insured through Middlesex Federal Savings, but they’re FDIC insured, so your money’s safe with them in that sense. However, they don’t mention the type of security they use for their website or bank accounts.
Does bank Novo offer TOTP or U2F?
When logging into your account, the best login security you have is receiving a code from your email and SMS that you need to enter.
Hopefully, they’ll fix this later.
I suggested the fix, and they said they’d “consider it.”
Novo also offers a digital debit card,
but only to accounts made after November 2021. Unfortunately, I made my account before then, so I couldn’t test this feature.
Updated Jan. 2022: Novo now offers virtual debit cards for all accounts. They’re easy to set up—navigate to the “Cards” tab and create your virtual card.
Novo bank offers a lot of web application integrations like the ability to connect your bank account to Etsy, WooCommerce, or Stripe to make payments easier.
Another cool feature that you will like is that Novo will give you free trials, credit toward a particular service, and more if you have a certain balance.
Bank Novo has a mobile application with features that every other mobile bank has with a couple of differences.
For instance, you can track your invoices and manage business tools used for your account.
Novo bank doesn’t offer any interest-bearing checking or savings accounts.
You don’t have the most support options when dealing with Novo bank. They’ll only allow you to contact them VIA email.
Novo bank fees (updated 12/13/2021):
|Fee type||Fee Amount|
|Overdraft fee||$27 per transaction|
|Out-of-network ATM fee||They will refund any ATM fees|
|Wire transfer fee||$0|
|Foreign transaction fee||$0|
- The website has a great user experience
- You receive a lot of perks based on the amount in your savings
- Integrations with various popular web applications
- Invoice creation
- Create a reserve to set money aside for taxes, savings, or whatever
- Only SMS- and email-based 2FA
- Unable to perform recurring payments
2. SoFi: Best Account For Diverse Investments
SoFi quick facts:
- Not a bank
- SoFi Money is FDIC insured for up to $1.5 million
- Fee from fees at over 55000 worldwide ATMs
- 1% foreign exchange fees
- Provides various investment opportunities
SoFi isn’t a bank.
But it’s a great service for you to store finances to accumulate interest and partake in investments. Remember that since SoFi is a non-bank service, you won’t technically have a checking account.
Instead, you’ll have a SoFi Money account.
With SoFi Money, you’ll have access to perks like overdraft protection—up to $50—0.25% APY in interest and no account fees. Also, SoFi gives you a routing and account number.
An account number will make it so you can receive direct deposits.
With their debit cards, you can also manage travel notifications to prevent them from locking your card while you’re overseas.
As mentioned in SoFi’s quick facts, they’re FDIC insured for up to $1.5 million. While that’s odd, they’ve partnered with multiple banks, so technically, they’re insured up to $250000 per partnered account.
SoFi’s partner banks are as follows:
- Bank United
- TriState Bank Capital Bank
- East West Bank
- Wells Fargo Bank, N.A.
- HSBC Bank USA
Unfortunately, SoFi is the same as most banks and non-banks on this list. They only offer 2FA via text, email, and calling.
As stated, I recommend using SoFi as a savings and beginner investment vehicle. That’s because they offer a lot of products.
Here are some SoFi products you may like:
- Automated investing
- Exchange-traded funds (ETFs)
- Financial planning
If you need loans for traveling, SoFi will also give you loans. In comparison to travel credit cards, SoFi loans don’t charge an annual fee and have APR rates between 4.99% APR–19.53% APR—if you’re applicable for all their discounts.
Also, you can score loans between $5000–100000.
You’ll notice they offer cryptocurrency options if you’re browsing the site. Based on my experience using cryptocurrency, I only recommend using SoFi for tokens if you’re experienced and need broader investments.
For beginner crypto investors, I recommend using Coinbase.
With SoFi’s mobile application, you can manage all features from your SoFi Invest and SoFi Money accounts. So use the app whether you need to send money, make investments, or whatever else.
They have a chatbot that’s available 24/7.
However, you can request to talk to a person if needed. Also, you can contact them during their business hours over the phone.
- Direct deposit
- Plenty of investment options
- Easy to set up
- Cryptocurrency options
- Foreign exchange fees
- Out-of-network ATM fees
3. Wise: Best Account for Currency Conversion and Sending Money
Transferwise quick facts:
- Wise is a non-bank provider
- Hold and convert 54 currencies
- Best currency exchange rate among competitors
- Able to use the Wise debit card in 200 countries at 2.3 million ATMs
- No monthly maintenance fees
Wise bank, formerly known as TransferWise, is a non-bank service that allows you to transfer other currencies at a tremendous rate.
You can also create a multi-currency account that allows you to manage currencies from over 50 countries.
Americans get routing numbers, and their British counterparts benefit from UK sort codes and IBAN. Because of this feature, it makes it a lot easier to receive paychecks or payments from clients.
You’ll want this account if you’re constantly receiving foreign currency while you’re overseas.
However, I don’t recommend using this to store or withdraw money. You’ll learn why in a second.
Since Wise is London-based, they use the Financial Services Compensation Scheme (FSCS) instead of FDIC.
However, they do not provide FSCS protection.
Instead, they “Safeguard” your money by storing it in separate accounts that aren’t a part of their business. You can find the banks they use to diversify your funds by reading this link.
Login security is disappointing.
If you want 2-factor authentication security instead of relying on SMS, you’ll have to download Wise’s mobile application.
Not everyone prefers mobile banking, so this area is undesirable.
However, if you download their mobile app, you’ll have access to features like debit card control, among other tools, to make transferring money easier on the go.
Even though Wise isn’t a bank, you can still use a Wise card with their accounts instead of having to transfer your money outside the platform.
The fees for using their card for withdrawals are pretty high.
2% fee for withdrawing amounts over $100 and $1.50 per withdrawal under $100 after two initial free withdrawals.
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.
You don’t have to pay any maintenance expenses for keeping an account or holding currencies in your Wise account. However, you will have to pay around a 0.35% fee for converting currencies.
Also, you’ll have to pay a 0.2% fee for adding a direct debit card to your account.
And of course, you’ll need to pay fees during transfers—they’re not much, though. 0.37% variable fee and a fixed .26 GDP fee.
If you opt for a faster transfer, you will have to pay more.
TransferWise offers an in-depth FAQ. If that’s not enough, they fortunately don’t make it impossible to contact them. You can do so VIA email or call them.
- Multi-currency accounts
- Low fees
- Supports a fair number of currencies
- Great currency exchange rate
- You must download the mobile app for a decent 2FA
- No incentive to store money or use the debit card Wise offers
4. Ally: Best Online Savings Accounts
Ally bank quick facts:
- Offers CDs, Money Market, Checking accounts, and other investment options
- Best rates on CD and savings accounts
- 1% transaction fees on foreign ATMs
- FDIC insured up to $250,000
- No balance requirements
In my opinion, the best online bank for an expat also serves as a backup savings vehicle.
In the beginning, I mentioned having multiple bank accounts. In this case, I recommend Ally checking account as your emergency fund manager.
You can either opt for Ally’s CD or Money Market accounts to create your safety net.
Ally is a part of the Allpoint group of ATMs throughout the US that allows you to engage in ATM transactions fee-free. Also, they’ll reimburse up to $10 in fees for out-of-network ATMs.
However, I can’t say the same for international ATMs. They’ll charge you 1% when you use an overseas ATM.
Ally bank is Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) insured, Ally Invest—self-directed trading and managed portfolio—is not insured.
However, they also offer plenty of resources to help secure your accounts. For starters, they give you free Malware and virus scanning software.
Also, they use Transport Layer Security (TLS) Encryption, which is an improved version of SSL.
This form of security ensures that transferred data isn’t forged, verifies your identity, and hides your information from third parties.
Ally doesn’t use TOTP or U2F—only SMS verification, which is disappointing coming from an online bank.
Features are where Ally bank shines.
First, with your Ally bank account, you can divide your money easily. For instance, you can do so with Ally’s buckets if you’re the type to divide a paycheck into various categories.
With storing your money, Ally financial offers a savings account interest of 0.50% APY and a 0.10% APY interest checking account. You can also take advantage of Ally’s Certificate of Deposit (CD) or Money market accounts.
Ally money market accounts offer 0.50% APY while their CDs offer up to 0.80% APY. Another part I like is that you don’t need a minimum balance to open these options, nor do they charge maintenance fees.
I like Ally’s app.
It has facial and fingerprint account authentication options. Also, you can perform functions like managing your portfolios (VIA Ally Invest) or expat bank accounts.
Do you want to buy Gamestop stocks?
You can also do so with their app.
Compared to other banks and non-bank services, Ally’s support is great. They offer 24-hour support that you can contact through live chat, email, or calling. If you go for the live chat option, they always list the average wait time for a customer service agent to reply on their website.
Due to the Ally bank debit card overseas ATM fees, I recommend using Ally for storing money, and when withdrawings funds, go with Charles Schwab or Capital One 360.
Ally bank fees (updated 12/13/2021):
|Fee type||Fee amount|
|Overdraft fee||$33 per transaction|
|Out-of-network ATM fee||Reimbursed up to $10|
|Wire transfer fee||$20|
|Foreign transaction fee||1% on overseas ATMs|
- 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
5. Charles Schwab: Best Bank Account for International ATM Fees
Schwab quick facts:
- Reimburses all ATM fees
- Unlimited out-of-network ATM support
- FDIC insured up to $250,000
- No minimum balance required
If you’re an American traveling overseas, Charles Schwab is my number one recommendation. It has every feature you could need, which I’ll cover in a second. Also, they’ll reimburse all ATM fees.
Unlike many online banking options, Charles Schwab does have branch offices, but they’re all in the U.S. Moreover, if you’re someone who primarily does online banking, you have nothing to worry about.
To set up a Charles Schwab checking account, first, you’ll need to open a brokerage account. Afterward, you can open a checking account. But, they don’t require you to perform any trades on the brokerage account.
Charles Schwab offers Time-based One-time Password (TOTP) 2FA protection for your account.
If you’re not familiar with the algorithm, it’s when you use an app to randomly generate a password to provide an extra barrier to your account.
Usually, you can download an app like Authy or Aegis and store your TOTP accounts there.
However, 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.
Charles Schwab’s checking account is FDIC insured, but not their brokerage products.
Their settings are one of my favorite parts of this bank.
You can set up whatever alerts you need without making a phone call. Also, you can set up and manage travel notices by accessing your debit card settings.
Moreover, you can request debit card replacements and report your card as stolen from those settings.
These settings prevent you from having to deal with customer service. However, if you need to contact their support, they make it easy. Schwab has staff available 24/7 via email, live chat, and calling.
When I had to contact them, they were friendly and didn’t give me boilerplate responses.
If you’re using checks abroad, then you’ll find Schwab Mobile useful. Otherwise, it’s a typical banking app. You can manage your money on the go, check your accounts, and other features.
They pay a reasonable rate for interest—0.03% annual percentage yield (APY) for their checking and 0.05% for their savings account.
Charles Schwab minimum balance: $0
Charles Schwab fees (updated 12/13/2021):
|Fee type||Fee amount|
|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|
- Fantastic customer support
- Simple debit card management
- Commission-free ETF and stock trading
- No inactivity or other types of fees
- Ideal for using international ATMs
- Must register for a trader account before being able to get a checking account
- Must download a separate app for TOTP authentication
Before reading more, bookmark my post on tips to protect your financial information overseas. They’re all tips that I have implemented.
Related: Best jobs for digital nomads
6. Citibank: Best Bank Account for Overseas Branches
Citi quick facts:
- FDIC insured up to $250,000
- No international ATM fees
- Plenty of physical locations overseas
- Maintenance fees based on account type and balance
- Reimburses ATM fees depending on your account type
Citibank is one of many US banks that are international.
Moreover, a Citibank checking account is best for an expat or digital nomad who can maintain a balance of over $5000 in your checking account and want to visit branch locations overseas.
You’ll need the Citibank checking account minimum balance as mentioned above to avoid maintenance fees.
However, you’ll want to ensure that the country/s you’re landing in have Citibank locations. Otherwise, having these accounts won’t do you much good.
If you can maintain the $5000 balance, you can take advantage of Citibank’s Elevate account, giving you access to many perks.
One of the features you’ll find most useful is not having to pay any Citi fees at non-Citi ATMs.
Also, you’ll be able to have access to high-yield interest on your balances.
Their login security isn’t the best. You can only choose SMS- and call-based 2FA to log into your account.
Citi provides various features for seven different account types. Whether you fall into each account depends on how much you have in your checking account.
For instance, if you have an average monthly balance of over $1000000, you can become a Citigold Private Client. That tier gives you perks like travel benefits and concierge services.
Otherwise, if you have one of the lesser accounts, you can only perform basic banking functions while paying a maintenance fee if you don’t maintain their required balance.
The Citibank app is nice. Instead of just managing your banking features and your debit card, you can also set up fingerprint authentication for your account.
And you can check your credit score when needed.
For the standard Citi Elevate package, you’ll receive a APY of 0.05%–0.25% Citibank checking account interest rate and 0.50% for your savings account.
Likely the reason why you’d choose Citibank is to have accessibility to branches. So, your best option is to walk into a branch and talk to someone.
Otherwise, you can use the Citi mobile app, your account on a computer, or by snail mail to talk to someone.
Citibank fees (updated 12/13/2021):
|Fee type||Fee amount|
|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%|
- Can waive maintenance fees by maintaining a certain balance
- Reimbursed fees from non-Citibank ATMs (based on account)
- 2649 branches throughout 19 countries
- The app has nice features
- Not the best fee structure
- Requires a high monthly balance to access decent features
7. Capital One 360: Best Secondary Checking Account Option
- FDIC insured
- No maintenance fees
- Able to create multiple disposable virtual cards
- Overdraft protection
Regarding checking accounts for withdrawing cash overseas, Capital One 360 checking account is my second choice. However, I found Charles Schwab checking accounts as the superior option.
While you can dodge fees from over 70000 ATMs, I can’t say the same for out-of-network ATMs.
Capital One doesn’t give you TOTP, but they at least allow you to download a separate app for fingerprint verification. Better than just receiving a text message, however, this is one of several areas where Charles Schwab won me over.
Many features found in the Capital One checking account will benefit you who are in the U.S. For instance, you can add cash to your account at CVS locations and visit branches in cafes.
However, if you’re overseas, having access to fee-free ATMs at CVS isn’t helpful.
They offer standard options like card controls and the ability to send money.
By the way, you can use Zelle to send money to others.
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. However, as I’ve mentioned, this feature only works with credit cards.
Capital One’s mobile app isn’t anything special.
You have access to card controls, account statements and overviews, notifications, and the ability to manage account rewards.
The one special area is CreditWise. It presents your credit score and suggests ways to improve your numbers.
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 $49999.
Balances between $50000–99999.99, you’ll get 0.10% APY on your account’s entire balance.
You can contact Capital One 24/7 by phone on certain issues like reporting card issues. Also, you can reach them by email and snail-mail.
Capital One 360 checking account fees:
|Fee type||Fee amount|
|Out-of-network ATM fee||$0|
|Wire transfer fee||$0 (incoming) $30 (outgoing)|
|Foreign transaction fees||$2 + 3%|
- Best for digital nomads within the U.S.
- Fantastic fee structure
- Decent mobile application
- Robust website security
- Not the best features for expats
- Foreign transaction fees
How To Choose the Best Online Banks #
Everyone has different scenarios where you’ll need an international or online bank account. That’s why your criteria may differ from mine. However, you can still use this list as a reference to figure out what you need in a bank account.
Bank Account Security
Every bank should be using encryption to protect your data, specifically Advanced Encryption Standard 256 (AES-256). That’s because this is one of the most robust forms of encryption that any entity can use to protect your data from prying eyes.
FDIC or 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).
That way, you have more security that stands between a hacker and your account.
While you can log in via codes and send VIA SMS, I have found that’s one of the worst ways to secure your account and unfortunately, most banks use SMS 2FA.
If you can find a bank that supports Universal Second Factor (U2F) hardware keys for logging in, then you have a winning account.
Everyone has different needs.
Managing your finances on your phone is one of those.
So, when searching through banks, explore each service’s mobile application.
Afterward, you can determine whether its features offer enough usability that’ll make mobile banking more convenient.
Some features for mobile banking that you may find useful include:
- Check scanning
- Account balance inquiry
- Mobile deposits
- Card control services
- Facial recognition and fingerprint authentication
When using your phone for banking, keep in mind that you’re putting yourself at risk.
Anyone can call your SIM card provider, impersonate you, steal your number and link it to their phone.
So exercise caution when using mobile banking.
Related: Guide to unlocked phones
Since you’re likely abroad, a bank with an emphasis on online banking is a must. Without it, you can’t do too much. To avoid waiting for customer service email replies, you’ll want to access most features by yourself.
Travel notices, debit card controls, and digital wallets are a few features you’ll want in an account.
If you can find a bank or service that offers virtual debit cards, then that can save you from having to wait to receive a new debit card while you’re overseas.
Savings and Checking Account Interest Rates
From my research so far, checking and online savings account rates from banks don’t usually offer that much interest.
So, I recommend having a separate non-bank service that offers features like money market accounts or the best high yield savings account.
Accounts that offer higher yields with interest are best for when you’re investing money or creating an emergency funds account.
Customer Support Helpfulness
You’ll need access to customer service 24/7 if anything happens to your finances.
Also, if you’re overseas, you’ll need to consider the time differences between where you’re staying and where the bank or service is based.
Fees Associated With Your Account
Fees are one of the biggest turn-offs for selecting a bank account.
However, no bank or financial service is perfect.
No matter who you go with, you’ll need to pay a fee of some sort. In this case, you need to pick your battles.
Here are some common banking fees for online banks and their international counterparts:
- Wire transfer fee: a 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: when you have to pay to keep an account with the entity
- Overdraft fee: no matter whether overdrafts happen by accident or on purpose, if you have a negative balance from a transaction, you’ll need to pay
Frequently Asked Questions About Banks for Travelers
Read these commonly asked questions that 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. You will likely need a local mailing address in most countries, not a hotel or Airbnb.
Furthermore, some countries require you to have identification numbers and various other requirements. If you insist on opening a bank account in a different country, try going for a private bank.
Unless you need payment from an employer abroad, which at that point, you should receive a work or resident visa, opt for opening an expat-friendly account in your home country.
Choose a Bank To Fit Your Living Situation
While there are plenty of banks and non-bank accounts to choose from, the ones I’ve listed are the ones that I have found the most helpful. They offer plenty of features and will suit most situations you’ll encounter when moving or traveling abroad.
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.
However, 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.