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Open a foreign account? This is how it works (even without a residence!)

Would you like to open an account abroad? This is much easier today (despite strict regulations) than it was a few years ago. Some banks already allow an intuitive account opening from a distance.

In this article we give you an overview of the various options and countries in which you can open an account. We will explain to you what you have to consider if you want to open a foreign account without giving up your place of residence in Germany. Have fun! πŸ’Έ

Last updated January 5, 2021

Foreign accounts can be worthwhile for many reasons. Perhaps you have relatives, customers or friends in another country who want to send you regular payments? Or do you already have some German current accounts and would like to divide and hedge your capital across different currencies?

There are many reasons that speak in favor of keeping an account in another country in addition to a German account. However, this is not so easy with many banks. Often these require a local residence and a registration address. Many banks outside the European Union also have very strict requirements for non-residents to open an account and only allow this on presentation of letters of reference, tax returns and evidence of income activity.

However, there are also enough uncomplicated ways to open a foreign account. So you can assume that there is a feasible route for your requirements too. In this guide we explain how to find the ideal bank for your international account and how to open it. We also introduce you to some banks that allow German citizens to open an account remotely!

INFOπŸ“£: Would you like to set up a company abroad? Here you can find out all the basics!

Do you need detailed information on opening a foreign account?

When is an account abroad worthwhile?

An account in another country can be worthwhile for a number of reasons. The main reason for many account holders is that they regularly receive international transfers and want to process them more cheaply and efficiently.

This is particularly important for the self-employed and small companies, which are particularly sensitive to high transaction fees. Binational families or people with friends abroad also benefit from the fact that transfers can be cheaper with a foreign account.

Accounts outside the euro zone also offer many advantages for wealthy account holders. These diversify the currency risk and offer additional stability in economic crises. The Swiss franc and the Norwegian krone, which have historically low inflation rates and are considered crisis-proof, are particularly interesting.

In some countries there is also interest on savings accounts. This is tempting for many Europeans, as they are used to negative interest rates and account management fees from their home countries. An account in a country with a foreign currency can therefore also be financially worthwhile.

INFO: It is important that you properly tax the interest income earned in Germany. Because even with a foreign account, you remain tax resident in Germany if you have your place of residence or your usual place of residence there.

Basically, it can be said that foreign accounts in the euro zone offer few advantages. These are closely linked to the German banks through the SEPA area, so that they are treated like domestic accounts. In our opinion, opening an account in the Netherlands, Belgium or another country in the euro zone only makes sense for most people if the conditions of the bank are particularly attractive.

Are you primarily interested in a bank account without credit bureau information? Then a foreign account is probably not the best choice, as there are many worthwhile alternatives in Germany.

What options are there for opening a foreign account?

Today, banks' requirements for opening accounts for non-residents are stricter than they were a few years ago. This is because the OECD has defined clear standards to prevent money laundering and the financing of terrorist activities. Many banks in countries that do not belong to the OECD also follow these measures.

We think this is a fundamentally positive development. Because the knowledge that foreign accounts are managed legally and securely, helps banks in risk assessment before opening an account and makes the process more transparent and accessible for everyone involved.

Despite strict regulations in the banking sector, there are various ways of opening a foreign account or an account in a foreign currency without having to relocate abroad. These include:

  • Classic bank account at a bank outside the euro zone

Depending on the aim with which you open a foreign account, classic bank accounts may be the most worthwhile. Banks in many countries are generally open to non-residents to open an account, but you have to expect strict requirements and an obligation to be present when opening the account.

  • Versatile current account with a European neobank

With Wise, Revolut and some other neobanks, you get the ability to receive and issue foreign currencies. The Wise multi-currency account even offers local bank connections in seven different countries. If you are only interested in receiving or making cheap international transfers, European banks can be the ideal solution.

  • Bank account at a Neobank outside the Eurozone

Many foreign neobanks are generally more open to foreigners opening an account. In many cases, these allow an account to be opened remotely. Neobanks are also known for having fewer requirements for opening an account than traditional banks. However, many neobanks require a valid residence permit to open an account, as they are often unable to verify further documents. German citizens can apply for these in many countries, such as Mexico, relatively easily and without strict requirements.

  • Foreign currency account at a European bank

In Germany, almost all major banks offer foreign currency accounts. As a rule, these do not bring any advantages for foreign transactions, but they are suitable for benefiting from the development of other currencies. You can find out what to look out for when opening a foreign currency account in our comprehensive guide.

Which countries are particularly suitable for opening a foreign account?

If you have decided to open a foreign account, you probably already have an idea of ​​where you would like to open this account. You should not necessarily open a foreign account in countries where this is particularly easy, but should be based on your personal needs and goals.

We would like to give you an overview of five countries which, in our opinion, are very suitable for opening a foreign account. It was important to us that opening an account there is relatively easy and that one account offers various local advantages.

If you are simply looking for a way to diversify your assets into different currencies, then you will surely find it in our overview.

Opening an account in Norway

Norway offers significant advantages as a location for a foreign account. The Norwegian krone is one of the most stable and crisis-proof currencies in the world and is supported by a relatively rich country. Due to the geographical proximity to Germany, it is also relatively easy to open a Norwegian account.

Most Norwegian banks, however, require the account holder to be present when opening the account. This applies at least to people who do not have a β€œNorwegian Identity Card” because they are not resident in Norway. For most people, it is mandatory to travel to Norway to open the account.

Many Norwegian banks only open accounts for non-residents if they have legitimate interests in the country. This could be a job or a company in Norway, for example. For some banks it is enough if their customers plan to invest in Norway, hold money in Norwegian kroner or start a business there.

Often the opening of the bank account ends with an interview in which the applicant has to give precise information about his economic interests in Norway. As a rule, opening an account in Norway is not a complicated process and for German citizens it is possible without major hurdles.

Advantages:

πŸ‘πŸ» Very stable currency

πŸ‘πŸ» Relatively uncomplicated account opening for foreigners

πŸ‘πŸ» Part of the SEPA area

πŸ‘πŸ» Advantages for transactions in Norway, Denmark, Sweden and Finland

Disadvantage:

πŸ‘ŽπŸ» Often no free use in other European countries

πŸ‘ŽπŸ» Many banks charge fees to convert euros to Norwegian kroner

πŸ‘ŽπŸ» Partly higher deposits required

Which banks are most suitable for foreign accounts in Norway?

In principle, it is easier for non-Norwegians to open an account at larger banks. They have established processes and know exactly which documents foreigners can show and which they do not have. If you already have an account with a German bank that has branches in Norway, you should try to open an account there.

The following banks are considered to be relatively open to foreign account holders:

  • DNB Norway
  • Bank Norwegian
  • Storebrand Bank

Opening an account in Thailand:

The Thai banking system is considered to be one of the best in Southeast Asia. With a Thai bank account, transactions throughout the ASEAN region can be carried out relatively cheaply. In addition, it offers emigrants, investors and tourists the opportunity to receive money relatively inexpensively during their stay in Thailand via various European transfer service providers such as Azimo or Wise.

The Thai baht is also one of the most stable currencies in Asia. The Thai government has tried several times over the past few years to weaken the baht through foreign currency purchases, as the strength of the currency has had a negative impact on exports in the country. However, this did not really work out.

Thai banks offer relatively attractive exchange rates for neighboring countries' currencies, allowing account holders with a Thai account to conduct business across the region.

Opening an account is not easy for foreigners, but it is quite feasible. However, many Thai banks require an ED (student) or other long-term visa and do not open accounts for tourists. However, it is relatively easy to get a student visa if you are enrolled in a language school for a course.

However, there are some bank branches that also open accounts for tourists. All you need to do is provide proof of address that certifies a stay of over a month and a valid passport.

INFO: The requirements of Thai banks often vary from branch to branch. We recommend that you visit several branches on site with your passport. Then you should be able to open an account without any problems.

Advantages:

πŸ‘πŸ» One of the most stable currencies in Asia

πŸ‘πŸ» Uncomplicated account opening in many bank branches

πŸ‘πŸ» Compatible with many transfer service providers

πŸ‘πŸ» Inexpensive transfers throughout the ASEAN area

πŸ‘πŸ» Cheap cash withdrawals in Thailand and many other Asian countries

Disadvantage:

πŸ‘ŽπŸ» Partially opaque requirements

πŸ‘ŽπŸ» Knowledge of Thai required

Which banks offer Thai bank accounts to foreigners?

Thailand is a country with a very high proportion of foreigners. This is also reflected in the banking system. Many Thai banks open bank accounts for foreigners. However, the regulations may differ from branch to branch.

The following banks are considered good choices for foreign account holders:

  • Bangkok Bank
  • Siam Commercial Bank
  • Kasikorn Bank

Opening an account in the USA:

A bank account in the United States can have many advantages for Europeans and is relatively easy to open. A local account is particularly interesting for people who have to carry out regular transactions in the USA.

In addition, the US dollar is the world's leading currency and is therefore systemically relevant. This promises long-term security and reduces exchange rate losses if the euro should lose value in the future.

Most banks in the United States are also more open to transactions in Central and South America. This can offer you significant advantages if you have customers, relatives or friends on the American continent and want to send them money on a regular basis.

In addition, the USA is one of the countries in which non-residents can easily open a bank account. This often only takes a few minutes and only requires a short personal interview in a branch.

As local banks send bank cards and other important documents by post, you should have a temporary local address that you can provide when applying for an account.

advantages: Β Β 

πŸ‘πŸ» Can be opened easily

πŸ‘πŸ» No high minimum deposits required

πŸ‘πŸ» Globally recognized bank account in the world's leading currency

πŸ‘πŸ» Ideal for transactions across the American continent

πŸ‘πŸ» Often with an inexpensive credit card

Disadvantage:

πŸ‘ŽπŸ» Bank branches in smaller cities and rural regions are often unresponsive

πŸ‘ŽπŸ» Often bad conditions when working abroad

Which banks offer accounts in the US for non-residents?

Almost all of the major American banks work with non-residents. However, opening an account is not straightforward and simple with all providers. In principle, we would recommend that you prefer larger banks, as these foreigners are generally more open-minded.

The following banks are considered to be particularly friendly to foreigners:

  • Wells Fargo
  • Bank of America
  • Charles Schwab Bank (comparatively favorable conditions for foreign assignments!)

Account opening in Australia:

Australia is considered to be one of the most stable and prosperous economies in the world. It is therefore fundamentally attractive to have a bank account there as a foreigner. The Australian dollar is also an independent currency that is relatively stable even in financial crises.

If you are planning on staying in New Zealand or Australia, you can expect excellent transaction fees with an Australian bank account and debit card. Many Australian banks also offer domestic conditions in New Zealand, Indonesia or in the many island states of Oceania.

This is of course particularly attractive to account holders who have family or business relationships in these countries.

Opening an account is relatively easy and straightforward, even for non-residents in Australia. In principle, you can also submit the application online and only have to travel to the country to pick up your debit card.

All you need is a valid passport and an Australian entry stamp. With an account application that has already been confirmed, collecting the debit card only takes a few minutes. Proof of address is not required in most cases.

Advantages:

πŸ‘πŸ» Ideal for doing business in Oceania

πŸ‘πŸ» Easy to open

πŸ‘πŸ» A secure and, above all, independent account currency

πŸ‘πŸ» Often direct cooperation with Wise and other transfer service providers

Disadvantage:

πŸ‘ŽπŸ» Doing business abroad is very expensive with many local banks

πŸ‘ŽπŸ» Bank branches in rural regions are often reluctant

The following banks open Australian accounts for foreigners particularly quickly:

Similar to the US, most Australian banks also work with foreigners.However, there are also banks there that are particularly ready and generally have lower requirements.

The following banks are particularly open to non-residents:

  • Commonwealth Bank of Australia
  • National Australia Bank
  • Bank Australia

UK account opening:

Although the UK has left the EU, many banks still offer accounts for people from neighboring European countries. A British account can bring many advantages, because the British pound is one of the most stable currencies in the world.

In addition, many major UK banks have branches around the world. With a UK account, you may at some point have an easier time opening another account in Asia, North or South America or even Africa.

Many banks also offer attractive transfer conditions to some countries that belong to the Commonwealth. With Barclays or NatWest, for example, you benefit from relatively good conditions for international transfers to South Africa or Canada.

Opening an account is still very easy for residents of an EU member state. The conditions that apply depend on the respective bank. Most banks only require proof of address in Europe and a valid passport, but the requirements can differ from branch to branch.

With almost all traditional banks, it is imperative to have a local conversation in order to complete the account opening.

INFO: Do you already know Monese and Revolut? These neobanks offer the possibility of opening an account remotely! So you don't have to travel to the UK and still get a fully functional UK bank account.

Advantages:

πŸ‘πŸ» Very stable account currency

πŸ‘πŸ» Benefits of doing business with Commonwealth countries

πŸ‘πŸ» Many UK banks have a worldwide network

Disadvantage:

πŸ‘ŽπŸ» There is uncertainty after Brexit

πŸ‘ŽπŸ» Banks require proof of address

πŸ‘ŽπŸ» Often expensive to use outside the UK

The following banks in the UK are considered open to foreign account holders:

In the UK, too, larger banks are generally more likely to work with non-residents than smaller ones. If in doubt, it is advisable to visit several branches and inquire directly about opening an account.

Find out more about opening an account in the UK here!

When a foreign account is not worthwhile:

If you live in the European Union, then you suit one of the best banking systems in the world to disposal. European banks are considered secure, transparent and inexpensive for end customers. In addition, there are a large number of neobanks that open accounts completely digitally from a distance - without proof of address or other disruptive conditions.

We would therefore only recommend a foreign account if you really need it. You can be sure that the total costs for most international accounts are significantly higher than for domestic accounts.

In addition, almost all traditional banks insist on the local presence of the applicant when opening accounts for non-residents. So you have to expect that in addition to the fees for the account, you will also have to pay for travel and accommodation in the respective country.

Nevertheless, foreign accounts can bring significant advantages for many people. Ultimately, you have to decide for yourself whether it is worthwhile for you. We recommend that you research enough information in advance and then make the most informed decision possible.

Conclusion: which international accounts are the most worthwhile?

We have introduced you to various countries in which you can also open an account as a non-resident without any problems. Which country is most worthwhile for you depends on your individual requirements. Do you have family or friends in the US? Then you should open an account there. Would you like to invest money in Southeast Asia? Then Thailand is an interesting banking location.

Are you just interested in doing transactions in other countries and keeping the local currencies? Then you may only have to open a single account! With Wise, for example, you can hold up to 50 different currencies in your account - including that all the national currencies of the countries that we have just introduced to you. In addition, you will receive 8 local bank detailswith which you can receive money transfers without any problems.

Revolut offers similar functions and also shines with excellent exchange rates for international transactions. So you can spend money worldwide without having to pay high fees.

And the best part: You don't have to visit a branch or even leave the country to open an account with the two neobanks.

Whether a foreign account can protect you from seizure depends on where you open it. In principle, accounts throughout the European Union can be seized by a member state. In Thailand, the USA or any other third country, this is probably not so easy.

In your income tax return you only provide information about your income. Therefore, you do not have to enter foreign accounts. However, if you have earned interest, these are of course subject to the tax obligations in your place of residence. The foreign profits are converted into euros at the current rate and, if necessary, stated in the tax return.

No, as the banking sector in most other countries is also very well regulated. You can open accounts in many countries, but these are then always in your name.

Yes, in many cases you can open a foreign account despite a negative Schufa entry. This is because Schufa only works with very few private credit agencies. However, you should expect that a foreign account can cost you a lot of money, since in most cases you have to be present locally. If you are simply looking for a free international account without an overdraft facility, we can recommend Revolut and Monese, which do not ask Schufa queries.