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How to Set Up a Bank Account When Relocating Abroad

So you’ve landed a dream job in another country! As excited as you are about the future, you’re starting to realize that relocating abroad is a bit more complicated than moving around within your own country. One of the things you’ll want to take care of right away is a bank account. Here’s what you need to know.

Banking options

Go multinational.

The easiest way to get a bank account in another country is to choose a bank that has branches both in your home country and the country to which you’re moving. You can open the account in person at home, and fund it either by check or electronic transfer. It’s easy, you can have in-person support if you have questions, and everything will be ready and waiting for you when you arrive at your destination.

Start at home; finish later.

Many foreign banks will let you begin the application process online. The process can sometimes take a while (the bank will want to check your credit, for example), so this option gives you a good head start and makes things easier once you arrive in your new home. During the transition period, you can use a pre-funded debit card. All you’ll have left to do is show up in person with documents to prove you’re who you say you are – passport, driver’s license, birth certificate, and Social Security number – and fund the account.

Wait until you get there.

Another option is to delay opening an account until you arrive at your destination. If you go this route, you’ll want to make sure you have plenty of money available either through pre-funded debit cards (but watch out for transaction fees) or Traveler’s Cheques.

Things to consider

Many of the things to consider when opening a bank account abroad are the same as the things you’d think about at home, but there are additional concerns, as well.

Fees

Banks vary widely in their fee structures. It’s smart to do some online comparison shopping, especially if you don’t know what the “norm” is in your new country.

Currency

Even if your move is permanent, you’ll probably need to exchange currencies at some point (paying off student loans, for example). Before you settle on a bank, make sure you thoroughly understand the bank’s policies, including both fees and how they determine exchange rates.

Reputation

The Internet has made it a lot easier to find out what you need to know about a company before you do business with them. Banks are no exception. Do some research to learn about the reputation of any bank you’re considering. Look for online reviews, and see if you can find out who their biggest clients are. If major international corporations use the bank, it’s probably a safe choice.

Political and financial stability

You’ll want to give careful consideration to the political and financial stability of the country where you’ll be living. In 2013, for instance, Cyprus seized a portion of the funds in everybody’s account to help the country out of its financial crisis. What will happen to the money in your account if there’s a financial crisis, or if the government falls? It’s important to understand both your rights and your risks.

The fine print

While we’re talking about risk, you’ll also want to read the fine print when you fill out that application. Is your deposit insured? If not, and the bank fails, your money is gone. Under what circumstances can the bank seize your account? What happens to the money in your account in the event of your death? Don’t assume that banking laws are the same as (or even similar to) those in your home country.

Choosing a bank account merits careful thought, no matter where that account is. But if you’re relocating to a foreign country, there are a few more things you need to consider.Doing your due diligence on the frontend can save you a lot of heartache later.

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