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Guide to International Banking

Guide to International Banking
Jennifer Calonia
Jennifer CaloniaUpdated May 17, 2023
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The ability to access your money while traveling internationally can make or break your experience abroad. Working with an international bank can make purchases for your next trip overseas less stressful.If you’re planning a vacation to another country, you’ll need to know the nuances of international banking. Additionally, if you’re expecting a prolonged stay overseas, learning how to open an international bank account might be worthwhile.

What Is International Banking?

International banking describes financial products and services that are offered by a bank that operates in a country that’s not your own. These international banking solutions include deposit accounts, like a checking or savings account, as well as financing options, like international personal loans.Having a bank account from a financial institution that has established a presence in multiple countries or worldwide is considered an international bank. 

What Is the Point of Having an International Bank Account?

Whether you’re in the middle of paying off student loans while living abroad, temporarily working overseas, or just visiting a new country for leisure, having a bank account that is accessible internationally is very useful.An international bank account lets you seamlessly access your cash at a non-U.S. ATM. It also lets you process cashless transactions using a debit or credit card with minimal friction. Additionally, the ability to use an international bank card lets you avoid constantly exchanging physical currency during your stay.Expats who are living overseas will also find that opening accounts with an international bank makes transferring money between banks easier. For example, if you need to wire money to family members back home.

What Are the Pros and Cons of International Banking

An international bank account might be a helpful option for some travelers, but it might not always be the best route for everyone. Here are the pros and cons of international banking.


  • Have similar features as domestic bank accounts. Many international banks offer account features that you’ll find from a U.S.-based account, like tap to pay, mobile app accessibility, and more.
  • Supports multiple currencies. If you regularly get deposits in different currencies, an international bank account can accept the transfers with minimal delays and at an exchange rate that’s more in your favor. Some accounts even hold the currency type that the money was transferred under. 
  • Fewer international fees. By using banking products that are designed to be used in other countries, you might incur fewer fees for transactions compared to a U.S.-only account. For example, international credit cards meant for use internationally might have no foreign transaction fees.


  • Need for a U.S. physical address. To open an international bank account with a U.S.-based bank that operates overseas, you typically need a physical mailing address in the United States. This might be challenging for those who are permanently living abroad.
  • Some international accounts are restrictive. Certain international banks reserve the more desirable features of their international banking solutions to business clients only. For example, the ability to retain multiple currencies in the account. Additionally, some international banking accounts require a high minimum monthly balance which can be difficult to maintain.
  • It can take a while to open. Unlike opening a domestic bank account that can be done on the same day, opening an international account abroad might take multiple days to verify your information.

How Does Opening an International Bank Account Work?

The requirements for opening an international bank account depend on the bank you choose to work with. Some require customers to open an account from the U.S. and extend access to their account in other countries. Other banks let customers activate a new account from abroad.Typically, you’ll need the following to open an account:
  • Be at least 18 years of age
  • Have a valid form of identification (e.g., passport or national ID)
  • Have proof of address, like a utility bill
  • Provide employment and income documents
The bank might ask for additional paperwork regarding your residency status or proof that you meet eligibility based on local laws. Be aware that the timeline from submitting an application to having an activated account varies between banks, and how you apply. If you’re opening the account when you’re already overseas, expect additional time for the bank to verify your application and documents.Recommended: Routing Number vs. SWIFT Code: What Are the Differences?

Which U.S. Banks Can Be Used Internationally?

The modern global banking system is well-connected these days. Many traditional U.S. banks and credit unions offer international banking worldwide. Some examples include HSBC, Navy Federal Credit Union, Charles Schwab, and Citibank.Additionally, online banks don’t have physical locations that they’re tied to and, therefore, can be a valuable international banking source for travelers.Recommended: Guide to Online Savings Accounts

Factors to Consider When Choosing an International Bank

When selecting an international bank, compare all features of their international banking services:
  • Countries it accepts new accounts from 
  • Eligibility criteria
  • Minimum balance requirements
  • Maintenance fees
  • Branch locations
  • ATM locations and/or networks
  • Fees, like transaction, ATM, wire transfer, or lost card fees
  • Reimbursement features (e.g., for out-of-network ATM withdrawals)
  • Currency exchange rates

The Takeaway

Opening an international bank account can make managing your finances overseas simpler and more convenient for frequent travelers. Before accessing your account abroad, always check the fees that your international bank charges for using debit or credit cards in other countries.If opening a US bank account makes sense for you, you can find today’s top options on Lantern. Its marketplace helps you easily compare high-interest savings accounts that can conveniently be managed online for easy access.Find a new bank account today!

Frequently Asked Questions

What is international banking?
Which US banks do international banking?
Is banking internationally difficult?
What is the difference between international banking and domestic banking?
Photo credit: iStock/AscentXmedia

About the Author

Jennifer Calonia

Jennifer Calonia

Jennifer Calonia is a Los Angeles-based finance writer who has covered the gamut, including student loans, credit card rewards, consumer loans, and debt. Her work has been featured in outlets like Bankrate, NerdWallet, Business Insider, Yahoo Finance, and U.S. News.
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