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Old 31-08-2012, 09:18   #1
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International Banking

I've just trawled through everything I could find using the search function and the word "banking" but alas, didn't find what I was after...

In about 18 months I'll reach "escape velocity" (as Bernard Moitessier called it) and i don't want to be tied to my home country's banking system.

I want to have a truly international bank account, or two, or three...

I've checked with all the 'international' banks here in Australia, but every banking product they offer is their Australianised version.

The thing is, I might be about to have a little polite disagreement with our government overlords. Nothing too serious, but it just might be enough to have my affairs scrutinised just a little too closely.

Do any of you true nomads have bank accounts in interesting places? Like the BVIs, the Caymans, Hong Kong, or any other tax havens?

I've looked into the jersey Islands (on the internet) but all they had were investment accounts, minimum balance over $100k, that kind of thing.

I just want an ordinary bank account(s), ATM access, Visa Debit card, etc..

I have made arrangements for earning some moolah in other countries, and I'd like to make it nice and easy for them to pay me too.

Your thoughts? Anybody out there who has severed banking ties with the country that their passport is issued in, and truly banking internationally?
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Old 31-08-2012, 09:35   #2
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Re: International Banking

I'd be interested in any answers.

While I was in the Navy (1983-1987), I opened an account with Wells Fargo in California since they had a bank in Hong Kong. When I went to Hong Kong they told me I couldn't access my states side money through the branch in HK.

When I lived in Antigua, I looked into keeping my money there, but at the time (2001) It appeared to be a hassle accessing funds.

My experience has shown that keeping my money stateside and accessing it via ATM and the internet works best for me, even while cruising, especially since that's where I earn my money.
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Old 31-08-2012, 09:36   #3
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Re: International Banking

I'm not sure if it is the answer for you, but you may want to look at HSBC. They have a presence in many countries in the world.
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Old 31-08-2012, 10:00   #4
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Re: International Banking

Yes, been there and done that. You want HSBC in Hong Kong. You will have to travel there to open the account, and make a deposit ... however you can do it all at the HSBC in the airport. Check with them beforehand ... as there are a few "gotchas" which foreigners miss and result the account not being opened without a 2nd trip ... read the application form carefully and call them if you aren't sure.

Visa is harder to set up with HSBC HK as a foreigner ... again, read through the forms and see what is required ... It can be done (I know an Aussie who has done it) ... but I didn't bother going down that rabbit hole.

Their system works well, and if you have an issue you drop them an email and THEY WILL CALL YOU TO FIX IT! seriously.

HSBC rock!
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Old 31-08-2012, 10:16   #5
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Re: International Banking

When I opened my checking account in Antigua I needed a letter of introduction from my Stateside bank. So get one or two of those just in case.
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Old 31-08-2012, 10:21   #6
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Re: International Banking

For folks in the USA who have military service USAA is an excellent option. They are all about dealing from anywhere to anywhere.
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Old 31-08-2012, 10:29   #7
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Re: International Banking

Quote:
Originally Posted by jannw View Post
Yes, been there and done that. You want HSBC in Hong Kong. You will have to travel there to open the account, and make a deposit ... however you can do it all at the HSBC in the airport. Check with them beforehand ... as there are a few "gotchas" which foreigners miss and result the account not being opened without a 2nd trip ... read the application form carefully and call them if you aren't sure.

Visa is harder to set up with HSBC HK as a foreigner ... again, read through the forms and see what is required ... It can be done (I know an Aussie who has done it) ... but I didn't bother going down that rabbit hole.

Their system works well, and if you have an issue you drop them an email and THEY WILL CALL YOU TO FIX IT! seriously.

HSBC rock!
When I moved to HK I opened accounts at HSBC, Standard Chartered and China Banks. Just needed a valid Passport/ID and couple of bills to show that I had an address in HK so probably need to do a short term rental for an electricity bill, rental note or something - nothing that yu could not do in a couple of weeks visit. Do not have to be HK permanent resident. I found it useful to have a PO Box at Central PO for mail. No problem transferring funds from HK to Oz or Oz to HK. I know amounts over 10K or something are monitored but so who cares - my documented earnings.
HK is very pro-business and would love to have your efforts (and money).
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Old 31-08-2012, 10:35   #8
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Re: International Banking

Scotia Bank is also expanding their international presence. Don't know if the "common wealth" relationship would be a good thing or a bad thing for your purposes. Not sure how "international" their services really are, but they have recently started moving into the market here in Guatemala. I have an account with them in Belize, but Belize is not an option you want to consider.

I've got accounts in several countries, and they all of course have their requirements (letters of "introduction" from existing banker, physical presence, proof of address (maybe in-country), passport copies, proof of where the money comes from -- something they pay attention to here in Central America...).

For cruising purposes of course ATM networks are quite well interconnected these days, but banking is getting a lot less "confidential" world wide. And, ATM fees are getting crazy -- I got hit for US$3.50 the other day plus fees on my account!

The low tech approach, in the form of a good sturdy sea chest, is starting to have some appeal.
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Old 31-08-2012, 10:43   #9
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Re: International Banking

Banks are tied to the regulations of the country they are in and which their clients reside, this is the reason a foreigner has problems opening bank accounts. The same Bank has different rules for different countries. They also have an initiative called KYC know your customer, and the intent is to avoid money laundering. It would be nice if there was a borderless international bank, but who would be accountable? It would certainly be used for illicit stuff, just like some Banks were used in the past.
Your best bet is to open an account with a major bank in your actual country of residency and as mentioned elsewhere, just use the ATM and Internet when you need it. Even though I was not a client, HSBC has helped me all over.
The drawback of having an account on a tax-haven bank that no one knows is that it is hard to make or get transactions approved (been there done that). It is pretty hopeless when you are pressed for cash out there where no one knows you and you have no other resources such as a card with a good backing of a known name on it.
Just my 2 pennies worth.
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Old 31-08-2012, 15:10   #10
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Re: International Banking

We use Bank of America for our checking account and VISA card(s).

With the checking account tied to the VISAs, there are no monthly fees as long as I use the VISA card once/month. BofA is affiliated with other banks in most countries that we travel to and we can use their ATMs with no fees (and withdraw money in local currency without having to pay conversion fees). We just look up the country on BofA's website and they list the affilited banks by country and link to their websites.

We also have BofA's Signature Travel VISA which we use for most purchases while traveling outside the US. The biggest plus for this card for us is the fact that they don't charge foreign currency trasaction fees on foreign purchases (most other cards charge 3%).



We do almost all of our banking online using their website and/or mobile apps.
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Old 01-09-2012, 05:49   #11
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Hmmm.
Thanks for the BOA data, but I've looked into them before and it's not possible to open an account without visiting a branch. Without another compelling reason to visit the USA that's not going to happen.
Might just have to go to HK to open an HSBC account. I tried their local branch but they wouldn't let me open an HK account from Australia.
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Old 01-09-2012, 06:14   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Normanby
Hmmm.
Thanks for the BOA data, but I've looked into them before and it's not possible to open an account without visiting a branch. Without another compelling reason to visit the USA that's not going to happen.
Might just have to go to HK to open an HSBC account. I tried their local branch but they wouldn't let me open an HK account from Australia.
Just another thought. For about USD 1K you can create an offshore company in HK and have personal introduction to your bank and fully working account in about 1 week. Can be BVI, Jersey or anywhere of yourchoice. About the same in annual fees. There are many companies specialising in just this sort of offshore company creation and could be largely pre-arranged from your home with a week in HK for signatures and bank intro. Really quite legit and easy cos HK is a free port which facilitates international trade. As opposed to money laundering. I have done just this and found it very simple.
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Old 01-09-2012, 08:00   #13
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That is indeed interesting. Any interesting links you can suggest, to get the research started?
The work I'll be doing for people as I potter about the globe, will be paid for by credit card. What I'm getting at is the need to be able to accept credit card payment.
Currently I use a merchant facility on my PayPal account, but even that is anchored to my home country, it's not nearly as international as they make out.
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Old 01-09-2012, 08:30   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Normanby
That is indeed interesting. Any interesting links you can suggest, to get the research started?
The work I'll be doing for people as I potter about the globe, will be paid for by credit card. What I'm getting at is the need to be able to accept credit card payment.
Currently I use a merchant facility on my PayPal account, but even that is anchored to my home country, it's not nearly as international as they make out.
An offshore company with bank accounts wherever you want will work fine for you. I use it for this purpose. I recently bought equipment from a US citizen and paid into a BVI company - no problem and could even specify various intermediary banks for the transaction. Visa transactions and international deposits no prob.
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Old 01-09-2012, 09:10   #15
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Re: International Banking

Be leary of the HSBC in HK. I opened an account there in 2006 when we were having our boat built in mainland China for use in transferring funds to the builder. I continued the account with the intention of it being a cruising account.
When we reached the Philippines, my ATM card started to fail from wear in my billfold. It was poorly made and the information strip started to come off. I took a three hour ride to the HSBC bank in Manila to sort it out and was told they could not help me, I had to deal with the bank where I had the account. The only service they could offer was the use of their ATM in the lobby. There system does not allow a HSBC bank in one country to help a customer of one in another country.
Eventually I downloaded an application to get a new card, filled it out and mailed it to the HSBC in HK with instructions not to mail the card to the US but to my Philippine address. Three weeks later I received an email from the US saying my address there had received a letter saying my request had been denied because I failed to sign my middle name.
I sent an email to the HK office saying I wanted to stop the account and left $125.00 in the account. One year later I got a bill saying I owed them money for maintenance since I was not maintaining a minimum balance.
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