The allure of lower costs abroad often turns unsuspecting tourists into expats. But among the laundry list of items that come with moving, expats often overlook changing their bank until they move abroad and are slapped with massive transaction and ATM fees.
I’ve been an expat for over a decade, alternating between settling down for a couple of years at a time and country-hopping digital nomad style. Along the way, I’ve used a handful of different banks.
But I’ve since found my go-to bank (Hint: it’s the first one on this list) and learned about banking options from people across the globe as I’ve traveled.
So, read on to discover the best banks for expats. I’ll keep this list updated as new competitors emerge on the market, and I’d love to hear from you in the comments section about your experience.
An Expat Bank Overview
Let me start with a confession: Most of the banks here won’t be right for you.
In reality, many of the “best” banks for expats are suitable for people from specific countries or regions. To save you time, I’ve labeled each bank according to the customer they’re best suited for. Even if you’re not American, Canadian, or European, you’ll still find options on this list.
So, click on any of the links below that interest you to learn about them.
- Charles Schwab (Best for Americans)
- STACK (Best for Canadians)
- N26 (Best for Europeans)
- Monzo (Best for U.K. citizens)
- Payoneer (Best for inclusivity)
- Wise (Best for cheap money transfers)
- Citibank (Best for countries with Citibank)
- Revolut (Best for high earners)
- Starling (Best for British business owners)
- Monese (Best for a European alternative)
- PayPal (Best for digital nomads with few choices)
- Cryptocurrency (Best for techies)
The Best Banks for Expats
Without further ado, below are must-know details on why the banks listed above offer the best expat bank accounts.
1. Charles Schwab (Best for Americans)
I’m 100% confident in saying that Charles Schwab is currently the best bank for US expats.
Schwab is the bank I’ve been using for the past couple of years, and I regret not becoming a customer sooner. The reason I love Schwab so much is that they refund all ATM fees as long as you withdraw money through one of their ATM partners.
And they have a lot of partners, including:
- Money Pass
If these names sound foreign to you, keep an eye out for them the next time you visit an ATM. You’ll likely see at least one option on each machine.
I’ve never had an issue finding an ATM compatible with my Schwab card in the Latin American, European, and Middle Eastern countries I’ve visited. And it’s no wonder, given that there are Schwab-approved ATMs in over 200 countries.
Of course, refundable ATM fees aren’t the only thing to consider when picking a company for your expat banking; Schwab also offers zero foreign transaction fees whenever you use your debit card, regardless of where you are in the world.
One of my biggest issues with Schwab is that they have the slow wire transfer times of traditional brick-and-mortar banks. But I’ve saved hundreds of dollars in ATM fees during my travels, so it’s worth the trade-off for my banking needs.
Because I believe so strongly that Charles Schwab is the best bank for expats, I’ve written an article on my experience and tips for using the Charles Schwab debit card for travel.
|No account minimums||Only available to American citizens|
|Free travel accident insurance||Not possible to directly deposit cash (only checks)|
|Free travel and emergency assistance insurance||You'll need to apply in the U.S. if using a VPN doesn't work|
|Unlimited monthly ATM fee rebates on eligible transactions|
|High yeild investor checking account of 0.03% (relatively speaking—this is a bank we're talking about, after all)|
You can visit Charles Schwab’s website here.
2. STACK (Best for Canadians)
I’ll admit it—STACK isn’t a bank per se. But their reloadable Mastercard can save Canadians big money, making STACK an excellent choice for pairing with your current bank account.
Using a STACK card abroad comes with no ATM withdrawal fees and zero foreign transaction fees. They also offer outstanding exchange rates on over 150 currencies.
Try getting that from a regular bank!
Since STACK works with Mastercard, you can use your prepaid card at any ATM and retailer in the world that accepts Mastercard. So, basically everywhere you go.
If you purchase from a qualified retailer, you’ll even have instant cash-back deals, with the money rolling right back to your card.
STACK is also a great choice for Canadians with small businesses, as your clients can pay you without you or them incurring fees. You can also get paid as much as two days earlier if you get your regular paycheck from an employer sent to your card.
So, while saying that STACK is one of the best bank accounts for expats is a stretch since they’re not a traditional bank, they offer a fee-free way for Canadians to travel.
|Zero foreign transaction fees||Canadian currency is the only currency you can deposit|
|Financial IQ spending tracker||You need to find a STACK-approved ATM so you don't get charged a fee|
|Free STACK-to-STACK money transfers||You must have a Canadian bank account or visit a Canadian post office to deposit money|
|Round up savings option for your purchases|
|You can take your money out from any ATM worldwide|
|No ATM withdrawal fees if you choose a compatible machine|
You can visit STACK’s website here.
3. N26 (Best for Europeans)
The German-based N26 is easily the best bank for expats who are European. That said, they also offer services in certain other regions of the world.
What expat Europeans love about using N26 is that it’s a 100% online bank. Furthermore, you can set up an N26 account as long as you use an address in a country they operate in (hello, parents!).
It only takes eight minutes (straight from N26’s mouth) to set up an account. From there, you can opt to use their virtual Mastercard, paying for your expenses abroad directly from your phone.
But if you love the comfort of having plastic in your wallet, N26 can mail you a debit card. Just be prepared to pay a delivery fee.
While N26 is a great bank for expats, they require users to have less than €50,000 in a standard account. But if you’ll be keeping more than €50,000 in your bank account you can upgrade to a premium membership.
|24/7 customer support||Hefty ATM withdrawal fees in non-E.U. countries|
|Zero foreign transaction fees||You must order a debit card if you want a physical one|
|No annual fees or account minimums|
|Tracks expenses and spending habits|
|Fee-free deposits if you keep your balance under €50,000|
|Ability to make Mastercard purchases with a virtual card|
You can visit N26’s website here. Their services vary according to region. So, head to the upper left section of their website to ensure that you’re viewing the correct page for your nationality.
4. Monzo (Best for U.K. Citizens)
One of the best banks for expats with U.K. citizenship is Monzo, given that they offer online-only banking without monthly minimums and no overdraft fees.
You can set up your Monzo account wherever the world you are as long as you’re a U.K. citizen.
Monzo is an especially good option for British travelers who are expats in the European Economic Area (EEA). That’s because they offer free ATM withdrawals.
All hope isn’t lost if you’re traveling outside of the EEA, though. Instead, You can withdraw up to £200 once per month without paying ATM fees. Any amount you need after that point will incur a 3% fee.
Needless to say, Monzo isn’t a great fit if you’re an expat in an area that operates mostly on cash. But since Monzo’s bank card is a Mastercard, you can use it at any location that accepts Mastercard without paying foreign transaction or added conversion fees.
Mastercard tends to have higher exchange rates than the standard interbank rate, though. So, you might be better off accepting the retailer’s rates.
|No added fees to the exchange rate||Maximum free £200 withdrawal per month|
|User-friendly app to help with budgeting||£1 fee for depositing cash into your account|
|You don't have to let Monzo know when and where you'll be traveling||Heafty 3% fee for cash you withdraw over £200|
|Fee-free transactions when using your debit card with MasterCard compatible purchases||Mastercard exchange rate instead of interbank rate|
|Personalized information about exchange rates and banking info when you arrive in a new country|
You can visit Monzo’s website here.
5. Payoneer (Best for Inclusivity)
Payoneer is among the best bank account for expats who are from countries that offer few banking choices. It facilitates customers withdrawing money via local bank accounts in the country they’re living in.
As of now, Payoneer works with over 150 countries and currencies.
The currency part is especially advantageous if you own a business with clients from various parts of the world. That way, they can pay you in their currency of preference, and Payoneer can easily and cheaply convert it for you.
Payoneer will also help you pay VAT for any e-commerce businesses you may have without additional fees.
You can manage your Payoneer bank account directly from their mobile app.
Before signing up with Payoneer, though, I recommend doing your due diligence with other banking options; they charge an almost $30 inactivity fee if you don’t make a transaction on your account during any 12-month period.
|Pay VAT fee-free from the app||Fees for inactivity|
|Available to citizens in many parts of the world||High transaction fees for non-Payoneer money transactions|
|Money transfers to over 150 countries and currencies|
|Excellent resources for digital ecommerce businesses|
|Ability to request a client payment from Payoneer's platform|
You can visit Payoneer’s website here.
6. Wise (Best for Cheap Money Transfers)
People from many parts of the globe can sign up for a Wise account, as they facilitate fast, cheap money transfers between 80 countries.
Furthermore, they work with 54 currencies, and you can receive payments from 10 countries, which is useful if you’re an expat and own a business that works with people from around the globe.
Wise does so by providing a personalized U.S. routing number, Euro IBAN, etc. How cool is that?
Although Wise is more of a money transfer service than a bank, you can order a Wise card for $9 that you can use in over 200 countries.
Alternatively, you can make payments through your wise account using Apple or Google Play.
|Receive payments in 10 currencies||No savings account option|
|Wise card is accepted in 200+ countries||Isn't compatible with all world currencies|
|Uses real exchange rates without hidden fees|
|3 times cheaper international money transfers|
|2.3 million compatible ATMs throughout the world|
|Convert between and hold 50+ currencies in your account|
You can visit Wise’s website here.
7. Citibank (Best for Countries With Citibank)
Citibank is among the best banks for expats who feel comforted by a brick-and-mortar institution. Admittedly, they don’t offer exceptional banking policies abroad like many of the other banking options on this list.
However, Citibank operates in many countries throughout the world. So, they might be worth contemplating if you’re an expat that travels frequently.
What’s great about Citibank is that you can rely on fee-free ATM withdrawals whenever you use their ATM.
And you don’t necessarily have to be at a physical Citibank location to do so—I’ve encountered many stand-alone Citibank ATMs at grocery stores and malls during my travels.
As a side note for Americans, Citibank is my go-to ATM for withdrawing money with my Schwab card when there’s one available, given that it always qualifies for fee refunds.
|No foreign transaction fees||Monthly maintenance fee if you don't meet their minimum requirements|
|Account perks for senior citizens||
Overdraft, insufficient funds, and many other types of potential account fees
|Bank branches in many parts of the world|
|Full range of services from a traditional bank|
|Zelle available, allowing for free money transfers with other Zelle accounts|
You can visit Citibank’s website here.
8. Revolut (Best for High Earners)
If you’ll be keeping a lot of money in your bank account, Revolut might be the best expat bank account for you. They offer three tiers according to your transaction needs.
Revolut’s Standard account has $0 in monthly fees, and you can exchange over 140 currencies at the market rate. Best of all, you can exchange $1,000 per month without hidden fees.
They also offer no ATM withdrawal fees at their over 55,000 locations worldwide. But what’s equally enticing is their $1,200 monthly allowance for customers to withdraw from ATMs that they don’t partner with.
You’ll need to pay for Revolut’s Premium and Metal tiers, which cost $9.99 and $16.99 per month, respectively. But these tiers come with advantages, some of which can include:
- 0.07% instead of 0.05% APY
- Overseas medical insurance
- Delayed flight insurance
- LoungeKey Pass access
- Global express delivery
No matter the tier you choose, you’ll be able to make 10 free international transfers per month to non-Revolut banks free of charge. All transfers between Revolut bank accounts are always free.
Revolut also caters to crypto buffs. You can even trade up to $200,000 per month in cryptocurrency without fees.
|Unlimited free in-network withdrawals||Monthly fees to upgrade to a plan that comes with more perks|
|Hold, spend, and transfer money in 30+ currencies||Charges for withdrawing more than $1,200/month from out-of-network ATMs|
|Unlimited free international transfers to Revolut users|
|Low international exchange rates to 200+ destinations|
Savings vaults including rounding up spare cash and recurring savings transfers
You can visit Revolut’s website here.
9. Starling (Best for British Business Owners)
If you’re an expat British business owner, Starling is a strong contender. Starling offers 100% online bank accounts that have zero monthly fees, no ATM fees, and no foreign transaction fees.
Many customers love Starling’s bookkeeping feature, which you can add to your account for only £7 per month.
In addition to opening a British bank account and using it when living abroad, Starling also offers the option to open a Euro or U.S. dollar account for £2 and £5 per month, respectively.
To be fair, not only is Starling among the best bank account for expats that leave the U.K., but it’s also an excellent option for those who wish to return to their homeland. More than 400,000 British businesses use Starling, so you won’t have to jump through any bank transition hurdles.
It’s worth noting that Starling provides individual bank accounts for British non-business owners.
|Free digital check deposits||Only available to U.K. citizens|
|Instant payment notifications||Limited on the types of currencies you can exchange|
|Zero ATM and foreign transaction fees||0.03% cash deposit fee that must be done at a post office|
|Ability to open Euro and USD accounts|
|Features like spending analytics and digital recepits|
You can visit Starling’s website here.
10. Monese (Best for a European Alternative)
If you’re a European on the fence about N26 for your expat banking needs, Monese is worth your attention.
Monese’s customer service speaks 14 languages, speaking the language of nearly every citizen in the 20+ countries where they operate.
You can also choose to open one or more accounts in the following currencies:
- British Pound
- Romanian Leu
Another attractive feature of Monese is that they offer unlimited free money transfers as long as you do so with other Monese accounts.
But I wouldn’t go so far as to say that Monese is among the very best banks for expats since they charge ATM withdrawal fees according to your tier level.
Of the four plans, the Starter tier has no fees and the Premium has the highest fees. But such fees are worth paying if you withdraw from ATMs frequently. For example, all ATM fees with the Starter tier incur a £1.5 charge.
In contrast, the higher tiers allow for fee-free transfers up to a certain amount of money.
So, while I don’t recommend Monese over N26 for ATM withdrawals, they can be a good option if you want to make frequent fee-free transfers between other Monese account holders.
|Multi-lingual customer support team||Costly ATM withdrawal fees and low limits|
|Wide range of ATM availability worldwide||Insurance is only available for paid plans|
|User-friendly app with budgeting options|
|Free money transfers between Monese customers|
|Low international exchange rate for non-Monese money transfers|
You can visit Monese’s website here.
11. PayPal (Best for Expats With Few Choices)
You likely didn’t expect to see PayPal in an article on the best expat bank account, given that they’re not a bank. However, if you’ve arrived at this point without finding any other bank to suit your needs, PayPal might be the right fit.
The great thing about PayPal is that people from over 200 countries can use its services. They also offer a streamlined way to make credit card payments, buy items, and send invoices all from a single account.
You can even buy cryptocurrency through your PayPal account if you wish.
Sadly, PayPal has high fees. You can expect to pay 3.49% plus 49 cents per transaction. Ouch.
But PayPal is often one of the best options for people from countries with few banking options who want to move abroad. Once you get residency in your new country, you’ll hopefully have access to better local banking options.
|Supports 20+ currencies||Extraordinarily high fees|
|Can use PayPal to pay off credit cards||No ability to earn interest on money held in your account|
|No annual fees to keep an account open|
|Available to just about anyone in the world|
|Ability to open a personal and business PayPal account|
You can visit PayPal’s website here.
12. Cryptocurrency (Best for Techies)
The word “cryptocurrency” often elicits strong feelings in people, for better or worse. And I’m not about to advocate the volatile digital asset market as a suitable bank account for expats with no experience in crypto.
But cryptocurrency is worth considering if you have a background in trading digital assets and want to transfer money quickly and cheaply without having to deal with fiat currency conversion fees.
I recommend using stablecoins like USDC, BUSD, and USDT to do your transfers. These coins are pegged to the U.S. dollar, so their price doesn’t have drastic changes (although nothing is ever guaranteed in crypto).
I won’t bore you with the nitty-gritty of transacting crypto here. But if you’re interested in learning about cryptocurrency transfers, you can find plenty of resources online.
|Low-cost transaction fees||Many people may not have a crypto account|
|Immediate transfers to anywhere in the world||Possibility of losing your crypto if you send it to the wrong address|
|No foreign transaction fees or currency conversion fees||No option for earning interest unless you stake your crypto|
|Hold fiat in the exchange like a bank account|
|Choose to make transactions from hundreds of crypto assets|
If you choose Binance, note that U.S. customers must use Binance.us whereas citizens elsewhere in the world can use Binance.com.
Questions to Ask When Choosing the Best Bank for Expats
Choosing a bank for your expat lifestyle can significantly impact your finances, for better or worse. So, below are some questions worth assessing.
Does the bank offer credit cards?
A credit card paid in full each month is an asset when living abroad. That’s because credit cards come with theft protections—something that you might not be able to get if someone withdraws money with your debit card.
Not all of the expat banks covered here offer credit cards.
That’s not a dealbreaker. But for most people, it’s wise to travel with at least one credit card, which you can sign up for with another company.
Will you get in a tax bind?
Depending on the country you’re from, there may be legal ways not to pay taxes if you’re an expat. So, if you plan on taking advantage of tax breaks by being abroad, I recommend speaking with a tax specialist.
In some cases, you might dig yourself in a hole if you sign up with an online bank with a home address that isn’t consistent with the type of taxes you plan on paying (or legally not paying).
“Legal” is the key word here. I’m not advocating to illegally avoid paying taxes.
So, do your due diligence according to the country you’re from, preferably with a certified tax specialist.
Can I set up a bank account in another country?
The best banks for expats I covered here are general banks that cover expats living in many countries across the globe.
But if you’re not planning on traveling abroad from your expat country of choice, it might be worth checking whether you can set up a local bank account.
You’ll often have access to setting up a bank account once you have residency in the country you move to.
5 Ways to Protect your Expat Bank Account
Now that you have a grasp of some of the best banks for expats, below are strategies for keeping your money safe.
- Use a password containing at least 12 characters with a combination of numbers, symbols, uppercase letters, and lowercase letters. Don’t believe me? This chart will change your mind.
- Withdraw money from ATMs inside of banks. That way, there’s a lower chance that someone tampered with the machine.
- Don’t give out your debit card PIN or bank login information. Hackers are excellent at making phishing emails and phone calls that seem like the real deal. Just know that your bank will never ask for these details.
- Leave your bank information with a trusted person. That way, if you forget your password or bank details, you can give them a call.
- Use two-factor authentication. This makes it more difficult for a hacker to access your account since they’ll also need to access your phone or email. A code generator app is also an excellent two-factor authentication option.
How to Reduce Conversion Fees When Banking Abroad
When you’re working with exchanging money to a currency that isn’t yours, you’ll encounter conversion fees.
However, you can usually reduce how much you spend on conversion fees by opting to use your bank’s exchange rate.
There are two situations where you’ll see conversion exchange rate fees occur:
- At ATMs
- When purchasing items with your debit or credit card
When using an ATM, it’ll give you the option to accept the ATM’s conversion rate or let your bank do it.
I recommend ignoring any doomsday wording the ATM uses—if you don’t want to take the time to run the numbers yourself, more likely than not, letting your bank do the conversion will save you money.
Similarly, when making a purchase with your credit or debit card, ask the clerk to charge you in local currency. That way, your bank will do the conversion.
Otherwise, if you pay for an item in your home currency, the credit or debit card company will do the exchange rate conversion. That’ll often leave you with less money regardless of the quality of the best bank account for expats that I covered.
FAQs About Banking as an Expat
Below are some of the most common expat banking questions people search for on Google. Feel free to skip this section if you already know which bank is best for you.
What’s the best checking account for expats?
The best checking account for expats depends on their country of residency. For example, Charles Schwab is ideal for Americans, Monzo is best for U.K. citizens, and N26 is best for Europeans.
What’s the best bank for US expats?
Charles Schwab is the best bank for US expats. Schwab offers refundable ATM fees, no foreign transaction fees, and no minimum balance requirements.
What’s the best bank in France for expats?
The best bank in France for expats is N26. But Monese is also worth looking at so you can compare your options.
What’s the best bank account for expats in Spain?
The best bank account for expats in Spain is N26 or Monese. Both are online banks, making it easy to do your banking when living abroad.
Which Expat Bank Is Best for You?
The best banks for expats vary according to the country you’re from and where you live. Thanks to the rise of online banks, banking for expats is an emerging field, and I expect the options to continue to get better.
I’d love to hear from you in the comments section if you have experience using the banks discussed here or if you discover a new option you’d like to share.
Laura has been wandering the globe for over a decade. She’s an early bird and backpacker at heart and can often be spotted with a dog or ten that she’s befriended along the way. Much of the content Laura writes on A Piece of Travel includes details on wheelchair accessibility, with the support of her brother-in-law and sister. You can learn about their accessibility endeavors here.