International Banking Options for Expats

Expats and UN employees in particular know this problem: How can I get a bank account in my new country of residence?

It can be tough and local banks often are not very helpful. There are however a couple of helpful institutions that can make life a lot easier.

I have experience with this issue and have had many bank accounts in lots of jurisdictions. Very few banks are actually helpful when you deal across borders. And most charge heavy foregin transaction or wire fees. So here's a list of the most useful financial instutitons that can help make banking easier - and cheaper.


If you are a UN employee or a UN Consultant, you are elgibile to open a bank account with UNFCU. UNFCU is a credit union dedicated to staff of the United Nations. They are located in the US, but account opening and all banking transactions can be completed online. This is a great option if you want to bank with an institution that knows how to deal with complex international banking issues.

UNFCU also gives you the option to obtain loans including international mortgages! Their credit cards come without foreign transaction fees and their wire fees are reasonable. Their online banking and app service is awesome.

Another great plus is that because they're a credit union, every account holder is also an owner. You will receive an annual dividend based on the financial performance of the bank.

If you want to join UNFCU, you can use my referral link which will give you US$10. Click here to join UNFCU!


Wise used to be called Transferwise and has a mission to reduce transfer fees to the lowest possible amount. Wise isn't a bank, but does provide you with a payment account. That's essentially a checking account. You can obtain a MasterCard debit card and use it anywhere in the world. You can open balances in different currencies and can easily and cheaply transfer money to any local bank account in the world.

Since Wise is not a bank, you cannot get a loan from them or a credit card. But you can get paid into a Wise account and pay using the debit card they provide you. Wise is a great option because it provides intertnational flexibility and makes transfers easy.

You can check out Wise here.