How to Open a Foreign Currency Account in the US
And start paying in every currency possible.

Contents

    There are several reasons why you may want to open a foreign currency account with a bank.

    Some of the most significant reasons are that you are a frequent traveler, handle frequent deals overseas, seek to avoid foreign exchange conversion costs, or have a job that offers you payment in a different form of currency.

    Whatever your reason may be, you may find the process a little more difficult than you expected, primarily because a great number of the high-end banks do not offer a multi-currency foreign account option.

    Nonetheless, there are some out there, and we will provide you with the information and method to get your foreign currency account set up with minimal fuss.

    Pros and cons of foreign currency accounts

    As with most things in life, there are both advantages and disadvantages to having a specialized multi-currency account.

    Pros:

    • switch currencies to take advantage of better exchange rates
    • hold a variety of currencies allowing you flexibility
    • enjoy tiered interest rates
    • avoid additional fees if your bank offers waivers
    • receive overdraft protection

    Cons: 

    • suffer miscellaneous expenses such as overdraft or cash handling fees 
    • face daily minimums and later high fees with some banks
    • expect your money to fluctuate in tandem with shifting currency values
    • receive lower interest rates than a standard bank savings account

    Shopping around

    As with most financial considerations, it’s a good idea to shop around to find out which options are available to you and which is the best fit for your budget.

    Here are a few options to get you started:

    Citi

    Not to be confused with Citigroup, Citi International Personal Bank provides an offshore bank that can handle multi-currency options.

    It can provide you with an account and a debit card which will allow you transfers within sixteen different types of currencies.

    However, the major drawback is that you need to have a minimum balance that’s equivalent to $200,000 U.S. dollars.

    TIAA Bank

    This bank option provides transactions involving twenty-one different types of currency via its World Access Deposit Account and only requires a modest $2,500 to open the account or an option for a $100 a month purchase plan, making this a more generally accessible account.

    HSBC

    Providing ex-pat services for three major currencies (Euros, British Pounds, and U.S. Dollars) may be somewhat limiting, but the service does provide 16 different currencies which are linked into your savings account, which can go a long way toward making up for its limitations.

    Wells Fargo

    If you are looking to open a business account, Wells Fargo does offer options for that specific scenario.

    To learn more, however, your best bet is to contact them directly and ask about their foreign currency accounts and see what sort of offer you can negotiate.

    Other options

    Keep in mind that those are just some of the options, although U.S. bank options for multi-currency accounts do not offer a wide spectrum.

    Nonetheless, do your diligent research and make comparisons, keep notes, and once you have good average data, perhaps you can negotiate an even better deal with a bank.

    It’s important to make sure that the bank you choose is FDIC insured because that way if it fails for some reason, your money is protected!

    You can also go unbanked with tools that are ready to deliver business accounts that are meant for small businesses.

    Which type of account should I open?

    Now that you’ve found the best option for your budget and needs, it’s time to get that account open.

    Yet, there are a few more questions you need to answer up-front.

    Do you want a checking account or a savings account?

    While that may be an easier decision with HSBC due to its limitations in non-savings capacities, this decision is important nonetheless.

    If you’re looking to perform frequent transactions, then you’re better off with a checking account, although you should keep an eye on your prospective bank’s fee policy.

    If you’re wanting to keep money long-term and enjoy the benefits of interest, then savings is the way to go, but consider whichever option will give you the greatest yield on your investment.

    Single or joint account?

    Your answer to this depends on whether you are going to be the only one using this account or if you plan to share responsibility for the account itself and any money within.

    What do I need to open a foreign currency account?

    As with a regular bank account, there are certain documents and requirements that must be met before you can open an account.

    Here is a list of items you will need to have or provide for your account application:

    • Name
    • Address
    • Date of Birth
    • Contact Information
    • Social Security Number
    • Valid Driver’s License (or equivalent)
    • Debit Card or Alternate Bank Information (if there is a required deposit)

    This information can typically be provided online during the application process (or in-person) but some banks may request for you to fax or e-mail some of these options.

    You may also need to e-sign the documentation or send in a signed card acknowledging your agreement with the plan and policies that correspond to it.

    Initial funding

    If your account requires an initial deposit, you can provide cash or other options such as a check or money order

    If you have an online-only bank account, you may be able to transfer using e-checks, or the previous methods of standard checks or money orders if they do not allow you to transfer from your account outright.

    Once the payment arrives in the new account, then you will be ready to make use of it.

    Keep in mind that it may take a few days for the money to process, so you might be twiddling your thumbs for a little bit until those funds clear. 

    Key takeaways

    If you travel often or make frequent transactions that involve foreign currency, a multi-currency account can prove invaluable.

    Try to find an option that will waive some of the fees in order to save major amounts of money and ensure your bank is covered by the FDIC in case disaster strikes them.

    Always shop around for the best bargain you can find in an account and consider carefully what currency options each bank provides to find one well-suited for your needs.

    85% of our customers open their account in less than 48 hours.

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