Best Places To Open A Bank Account

Our List Of The Best Countries To Bank In

For those of us who frequently travel or work across international borders, it’s inevitable that we may want to diversify our portfolios at some stage or simply create accounts offshore which would ease the administration of our financial portfolios. 

There are various reasons why you may want to open a bank account in a foreign country. Perhaps you are planning on relocating there, perhaps you are looking for tax relief, high interest, anonymity, security or simply ease of opening an account. Whatever your reasons, we take a look at some of the best places to open a bank account.

Before we jump into it, it’s important to remind you that although certain countries and banks can act as tax havens, this is becoming increasingly difficult and will be near impossible for South African expats when the new expatriate tax law kicks in next year. This is especially true if the country you are banking in is a member of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), since these countries are required to share financial information with each other.

Many banks may also require an apostilles stamp to confirm your compliance in your home country, so enquire with the bank first to confirm.

Nevertheless, here’s our list of the best countries to bank in. 

Georgia

Why you want to open an account here:

It’s just so quick and easy

The nitty-gritty:

  • Takes about 30 minutes
  • Visit a bank (if you can’t do so in person, a lawyer can do it on your behalf)
  • Provide copy of passport
  • Proof of residence may be required, but this can be local or international
  • A sample of your signature may be required
  • Banking fees are generally around 5 GEL per month (R25)
  • You can bank in multiple currencies at most banks
  • Accommodates international transfer through your chosen forex partner (such as Currency Online)

Cayman Islands

Why you want to open an account here:

Tax benefits (provided you are not taxed on your worldwide income)

The nitty-gritty:

  • Offers minimal tax liability (neutrality)
  • Offers more confidentiality than OECD countries, but is on the OECD white list so will need to volunteer your information if required by other countries or require tax clearance from certain regions
  • For greatest confidentiality benefits, locals advise choosing a bank without US or UK branches.
  • Accounts can be set up remotely via mail, and once set up, internet banking is available
  • Provide proof of identity
  • Provide reference letter from your current bank
  • Proof of residence may be required
  • Source of funds may be required

Germany

Why you want to open an account here:

Security

The nitty-gritty:

  • Offers stability
  • Offers high security (4 of the 10 safest banks worldwide)
  • Some banks offer account opening online from abroad (like DKB)
  • Tax free in Germany (but will require compliance with your own country’s tax system)
  • Deposit guarantees up to €100 000 by German Government
  • Identity verification required in person, via video call or via a notary
  • Credit checks via SCHUFA
  • Harder to open offshore accounts if you have never lived in Germany and are outside the EU so you may need to visit the country in person

Singapore

Why you want to open an account here:

Great for those with large amounts to invest

The nitty-gritty:

  • Great for wealth management and security
  • Banks comply with Singapore banking secrecy law (US and UK citizens may have to waive this right)
  • Not an OECD member, but whitelisted, so will provide banking information to other countries if required
  • May need to prove that immigration will allow you to stay in Singapore for extended periods (even if you don’t plan on moving there)
  • Provide proof of identification
  • Copy of passport required
  • Current banking statements required
  • Provide proof of residence
  • South African bank Standard Bank is well established in Singapore so you can open an account through them
  • May require a study or employment pass
  • Great premier banking options, but high initial investment required

Panama

Why you want to open an account here:

Great for business

The nitty-gritty:

  • Low-tax economy with high growth
  • Largest banking centre in Latin America
  • Obtaining residency is easy and offers lower tax rates
  • Maintaining residency requires but a few visits to the country every two years
  • Has never handed over assets to foreign countries
  • May require the establishment of a business, organisation or Panama foundation
  • You will need to open the account in person
  • Provide copy of articles of incorporation and their amendments
  • Provide public registration documents
  • Proof of funds and business activity
  • Copy of passport
  • Bank reference from your local bank

Luxembourg

Why you want to open an account here:

Asset protection & privacy

The nitty-gritty:

  • Great tax incentives
  • Amazing client service
  • Account opening remotely via the
  • Not a tax haven but offers deferring of tax for certain accounts or assets
  • Though the country prides itself on privacy for its banking clients, it is a founding member of the OECD.
  • No business tax
  • Variable VAT from 3% to a maximum of 17%
  • Provide proof of identity
  • Provide proof of residence
  • For credit or business accounts a reference letter from the bank and proof of income is required
  • High initial deposit requirement
  • Takes approximately 10 days to open an offshore account
  • Highly trained staff

Nevis

Why you want to open an account here:

Great for business

The nitty-gritty:

  • Multicurrency corporate accounts
  • Lawsuit, credit and asset protection
  • LLC (Limited Liability Company) statute enforcement
  • Strong privacy and identity protection, including shareholders, directors and registration information
  • Takes around five business days to open an account
  • Lower opening deposits than other international banks
  • Provide certified copies of incorporation documents
  • Can be opened via intermediaries
  • Proof of residence required
  • Multi-currency trading accounts
  • Certificate of good standing and banking reference required
  • Copy of passport

Belize

Why you want to open an account here:

Asset protection & ease

The nitty-gritty:

  • Low initial deposits, even for high-interest bank accounts
  • Account opening via email
  • Quick access to money
  • Protection in income and capital gains tax
  • Banks are required to keep 24% liquidity at all times
  • Assets safeguarded from external claimants
  • Personal and income reference letters
  • Proof of residence
  • Provide proof of identity

Switzerland

Why you want to open an account here:

Low risk & strict privacy

The nitty-gritty:

  • Highest focus on privacy (account holder information only disclosed in suspicion of severe criminal activity)
  • Due to financial stability and banking guarantees it offers very low risk
  • High initial investment requirement
  • Accounts may be opened in various currencies
  • Privacy is vetoed by banks who have branches in other countries (such as the US and UK)
  • Safety deposit boxes available at many banks
  • Accounts can be opened at some banks via mail, fax or email (requires apostille stamp)
  • You may have to visit the bank in person
  • Lowest VAT in the EU (2.5% to 8%)
  • Provide proof of identity
  • Provide proof of residence
  • Provide employment documentation
  • Provide company documentation
  • Prove source of funds

Banks

If you are not concerned with privacy and simply want the ease of international banking, then there are a few banks which offer branches in numerous countries around the world and ease of international transfer and diversification.

HSBC

  • Based in London, UK
  • Branches in more than 30 countries worldwide
  • Mobile international wire transfer to any HSBC bank

Charles Schwab

  • International accounts operating in France, UK, Ireland, Italy, Netherlands, Sweden, Austria, Hong Kong, Australia, Singapore, Thailand and Malaysia
  • No foreign exchange fees or annual markups
  • Free global card usage
  • Online account opening allowed
  • You need a US residential address

Citibank

  • Largest international reach with thousands of banks worldwide
  • Free ATM usage
  • International wire transfers between Citibank accounts are free

JP Morgan Chase

  • Services offered in 100 countries worldwide
  • Headquartered in New York, USA
  • Offers asset management, investment banking, private banking, treasury and securities services, and commercial banking

Agricultural Bank of China

  • Third largest bank in the world by asset value
  • Branches in South Korea, Singapore, Australia, UK, USA and many other of the world’s largest cities.

Global ATM Alliance

The Global ATM Alliance offers clients of member banks free ATM transactions at any of the participating bank ATMs worldwide.

  • Westpac
  • ABSA
  • Bank of America
  • Barclays
  • Deutsche Bank
  • BNP Paribas
  • Scotiabank
  • Bank of Nanjing
  • DBS Bank

Let Rand Rescue help you out

If you’re considering opening accounts in your new home or need assistance with foreign exchange to your international accounts, talk to Rand Rescue about your options.

Rand Rescue has partnered with Currency Online to bring you a trusted money transfer service that offers exceptional rates and great service.

Currency Online is a member of the HiFX group of companies and have specialised in foreign currency services for over 18 years.

We can offer you:

  • Better rates than your bank can offer
  • Zero fees on amounts over $10 000
  • 20/5 hour online money transfer service
  • Fast, secure payments to accounts worldwide
  • Market Orders. secure a better rate
  • Immediate transfers, forward contracts
  • Open an account in less than 5 minutes

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