The Best International Business Bank Account

As a permanent resident of your home country, the choice of bank is multifaceted, but ATM location is the most popular consideration (See Figure 1.).  Finance is an area of great importance but less personal interest for me. At regular intervals I force myself to revisit what I do and don’t like about my banking setup and make some changes. The time is now.


Figure 1.

As a LIP (Location Independent Professional) the selection of bank and account type becomes more complex. While convenient ATM locations is important, that benefit becomes far more easy to measure upfront. How do you know which of your home country’s banks will have official ATM locations as you travel? (There will probably be few or none). How do you know which local banks will have ATM locations which are compatible with your home bank? (There will be many, but you really don’t know until you attempt a withdrawal at each bank, and there may be local bank fees, home bank fees, and international fees for each transaction). Withdrawing from a non-BOFA ATM using a typical BOFA (Bank of America) debit card for example can lead to 10-15$ total charges PER transaction.

Considerations When Choosing An International Bank Account

  • Balance – How large a minimum account balance will I be able to maintain? The greater your so-called “relationship balance”, the greater the potential benefits you can usually access. Note: your relationship balance may be made up of cash deposits, saved or invested wealth, as well as outstanding mortgage debt with the bank in question – different banks have different criteria.
  • Currency – Do I need a multi-currency account? Such an account can be of use to those who earn their income in one currency but who transact/pay bills in another – or who want to benefit from the ability to move money between currencies easily and cheaply.
  • Investment Services – Would I benefit from/use a wealth management service? Some banks offer those with a high relationship balance a wealth management service. This is one of the most common additional incentives offered to attract new client business, but remember this is not an independent service, as all advice is tied/limited to the bank’s own services and solutions.

For business owners the additional need of a business (vs personal) account must be addressed. Whether you work from home or own a multi-million dollar company, there are numerous reasons to separate personal and business finances. Yet, business owners still make the mistake of using a personal bank account for their business. Although having two bank accounts appears inconvenient, you shouldn’t use a personal account for your business finances primarily because it can affect your legal liability.

In fact, one of the first steps to owning a business should be opening a business bank account, in addition to a personal bank account. Most banks now offer free business checking accounts so cost shouldn’t be an issue.

Why Choose A ‘Business’ Bank Account for Your Business Needs

  • Legal Protection – If you have an LLC or a corporation, one of the primary advantages of doing so is the legal liability protection it affords you. The bottom line: the courts consider the corporation a separate entity from the individuals who own it. For example, when you do business as a corporation, if the corporation gets sued, the party suing the corporation cannot sue you as an individual, unless of course you have personally guaranteed something.
  • Accounting Advantages – Bryan Greenwood from Washington Mutual¨ Small Business Banking notes, “Keeping separate accounts (business and personal) is always the smart thing to do. Many business owners are so busy starting, running and growing their businesses, it is always better to develop good business habits early, especially when it comes to finances and record keeping.”
  • Tax Advantages – In addition, the IRS has stringent rules for those who work from home about what can be deducted as “business expenses.” If you use your personal account for business use, the IRS may frown upon those deductions, even if they are legitimate business expenses. This varies greatly depending on the type of company structure you have (LLC, etc…).
  • Credibility – The account type adds a note of professionalism to your company. If a client receives a personal check for services rendered, they may not take you as seriously as you would like. However, a professional check from a business account will convey professionalism and, more importantly, confidence.

Best International Business Checking Accounts

When recently restructuring my business banking, my must-haves for a bank account were; 1) No minimum balance requirement, 2) No or low ATM fees, 3) USD currency. Here are some of the major options based on online research.

The International Traveler is someone who needs a bank with branches all over the place, or that at least offers free ATM cash withdrawals from anywhere.

Charles Schwab offers a high-yield investor checking account that meets some of these criteria. An alternative is HSBC Premier Checking. HSBC has branches all over the world and a strong concentration in the U.S. around New York and on the West Coast.

Another route to global reach: Some major foreign banks own smaller U.S. regional banks, often under other names. Take Citizens Bank, which is owned by Royal Bank of Scotland . Citizens operates 1,200 branches and 3,500 ATMs from Rhode Island to Illinois. Its Circle Gold Checking with Interest could appeal to the international traveler. Same with the relationship checking account at TD Bank, owned by Canada’s Toronto Dominion Bank, and the CompassLink Checking account offered at BBVA Compass, a Southern U.S. bank owned by Spain’s BBVA, which has 7,600 branches in 30 countries.

Tech-Savvy Professionals are similar to the international traveler, with an extra emphasis on electronic banking. The Schwab account would work, as would TD Bank’s convenience checking. For Texans, a possibility is Frost National Bank’s Signature Checking, which has mobile banking services and a low minimum balance requirement. Bank of America offers advantage checking with tiered interest, which means balances over zero earn interest of 0.05% and balances over $10,000.00 earn 0.1%.

Personal Recommendations from satisfied customers are of course important too. Among the suggestions are; PNC, Capitol One 360, & Fidelity Cash Management Account.