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How To Use a U.S. Bank In A Foreign Country

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One of the popular places to stay for a considerable time (whether visiting or living there) is the Philippines. Cost Rica is another that many Americans stay for considerable time or retire. There are other places like Mexico, Portugal, and so on. Many of the these spots have their own local banks and maybe a few American based banks in large urban areas that are loosely affiliated (yet different) with the same banks in the USA.

Eventually, a person will be out of country will want to access his American bank account to get funds from abroad. This can more of an issue than thought. Here are a few methods:

  1. Open a bank account in a local bank in the country you are living in. They usually will have a minimum dollar amount you must keep in it to remain active.
  2. Using your checks based on your American bank, write yourself a check in the amount you need and deposit it into the new local bank account. Keep in mind those funds are not available for 20-30 days for the check to clear. The local foreign bank will probably charge you a fee.
  3. After the waiting period, the money is available in the new account. The bank may have already converted the dollars into the local currency, but if not, withdraw the money you need in USD and have the bank or other money exchange into the local currency.
  4. This method works fine but you need plan accounting for the waiting period for the funds to clear and also keeping a minimum balance in the account.

Another Method 1:

With a company like Transferwise you can use any bank to transfer and exchange currency for only 1% fee. It takes about 1 business day for personal transfers or five business days for business method:

Another Method 2:

Like in the first scenario, open a local bank account. Once opened, use Western Union (or another sending money program) to wire the money directly into the account opened (not your American account). This can easily be done online as long as you can provide the account number etc.

Still Another Method 3:

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Before you embark on your travel to a country that you know you will stay for sometime, send yourself money using WU or another online money sending app. When you arrive in-country, just go get it at the nearest station. I did this and it worked just fine because the the USD is converted upon pickup. You don't need to pick it up right away, just when you start to run low.

Keep in mind, sending large amounts of money may cause issues with the foreign country. They may have limits, or, high amounts are taxable, or, they may suspect illegal activities. With that in mind, when you need money, try to limit the amount to under $5000 USD. Also, you may try sending amounts to your account in smaller amounts to avoid these issues and causing red flags to go up. It does happen with larger amounts and frequency when sending, so space them out, maybe once a week or so.

Using your credit or debit cards at the local ATM's usually is not a problem except limitations on the amount allowed and fees associated with it.

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