Traveling the world does not always raise too many questions when it comes to banking. After all, you can have any bank account – as long as you have a card associated with it, you can use it pretty much anywhere in the world.
Indeed, you will end up paying commissions and fees for converting money, but this is part of the game. If you live in a beautiful country with a low cost of living and your income comes from a well-developed country, you probably do not even care.
But if you do the math to check all the fees, you will realize they add up. Moreover, being a digital nomad is not all about working for a western company and living in the east with nothing but a backpack. It sounds easy, but all easy things in life come with a price.
This article will explore the best bank for nomads in different jurisdictions, as well as the capabilities when going abroad. It will also explain why some common banks are not always the best for digital nomads. So, what options do you have?
Fintechs explained – Are they worth it?Fintechs may seem attractive at a first glance. Sure, they work wonders for a lot of people, but they are not always suitable for digital nomads. Many of them are established in Europe, so they require proof of address – a European one, of course. At this point, you end up in a tax-related issue.
Fintechs might be alright if your wealth is not overwhelming. Whether traveling the world is your main goal or you are still trying to figure out a strategy, a fintech could work. But on the other hand, these institutions are limited.
While they do work like banks, they do not have the same capacity. Make a deposit of $100,000 and questions will pop up. You may not even be able to do so. They do work if you want to deposit $3,000 a month from your Hong Kong-based company or freelancing projects though.
You get the point – fintechs work for holidays, short travels, or generally low amounts of money because of the restrictions they come up with. Some of them are operationally poor as well. If you want to buy real estate or transfer heavy amounts of money for investments, fintechs just will not do.
Of course, many fintechs are aimed at individuals, while others are made for corporate uses. Even so, fintechs would rather see small amounts of money coming from the same people or companies, rather than massive deposits or huge amounts of money sent to developing countries.
Bottom line, tax issues, and operational restrictions make fintechs an inappropriate choice. They may work for those dealing with small amounts of money, but this is pretty much it. The last thing you want is having your money blocked somewhere, without the capability to do anything.
Choosing the best bank for nomadsDeciding on the best bank for nomads is difficult because different people have different needs. However, if you find the opportunity to get some privacy, you should definitely take advantage of it. Whether you are a six-figure entrepreneur or a backpacker, you should ideally go for a non CRS country.
It is fairly simple to understand why. Non CRS banks are low maintenance. Their KYC (Know Your Customer) procedures are fairly simple as well, so they do not necessarily want to know too much about you and what you do.
On the other hand, if you go to a big economy – imagine opening a bank account in the UK, you will be asked a plethora of questions. Where is the money coming from? A different bank account? Can you provide a statement? They want to know everything – even to keep the account open.
There are lots of forms to fill and prove your income, not to mention proving your tax residence. You will need to complete one form after another. In the long run, it is simply not worth the headache – and yes, you will have plenty of it.
If you cannot always provide answers to such questions, a non CRS country is a must. Banks in such countries will not require too much information from you. Sure, it does not mean that you can hide your money – if you are American, you should know that banks are less likely to violate FATCA.
Those who are not American might be able to get over this issue and become anonymous. But then, each country has its own rules. You could live in Portugal or perhaps Madagascar – make sure you are aware of the requirements and follow all the laws and regulations.
Then, what makes non CRS countries so exciting? Simple – they come from emerging economies. They are not so strict, so they provide extra freedom. Developed countries have already adopted the CRS, so banks there are already a nightmare to deal with.
Of course, the best bank for nomads will not always work for everyone. What works for you will be useless to others. Therefore, you need to make this decision with your personal needs and expectations in mind.
Now that you have a clue or two about how to find the best bank for nomads, it is time to explore some of the best-rated economies for freelancers and digital nomads, as well as some of the top-rated banks in these jurisdictions. So, what options do you have?
You will be surprised by what Cambodia has to offer if you like to hang around Asia. Plenty of digital nomads choose countries in the southeastern side of Asia and Cambodia will surprise you with its options, especially ABA Bank.
ABA Bank has multiple awards and is considered one of the most appreciated digital banks in the country. In fact, it received awards from numerous magazines and institutions. Now, what should you know about it?
First of all, the deposit is relatively low – about $50. Most people will be able to afford it. Then, there are no fees for using the card or for maintenance. Sure, withdrawing money in Europe from their card could bring in some conversion fees, but you will not be robbed.
You can open accounts in a few currencies – KHR and USD. Citizens of the USA can also sign up. In order to open an account, you will need a local address and number, as well as a passport and valid visa. The address could be your hotel address too. As for the phone number, get a local SIM card.
Montenegro has never been given too much attention among digital nomads, but the European jurisdiction is quite interesting and offers a bunch of different opportunities. Generally speaking, local banks are open to foreigners – you do not necessarily need to be a resident.
However, you will have to prove that you are not there for money laundering or other sketchy activities. In other words, you need to prove some ties to the country – you could find personal ties, but business ties are also accepted.
Erste Banka is probably the most open-minded institution in Montenegro. It is open to foreigners and also accepts citizens of the USA. Again, it does not mean that you can hide money from the government, but at least it accepts you.
While there are some fees associated with different operations, they are small and insignificant. As for the minimum deposit, there is no such thing. You could open a bank account and leave it empty until you actually need it.
The Philippines could be the perfect destination for digital nomads. It has some amazing landscapes, lots of islands, a low cost of living, and pretty much everyone speaks English in there. How about the banking options then?
Not all banks in the Philippines are open to foreigners. Besides, their requirements vary. From all the options out there, Metrobank seems to be the most popular one among digital nomads, and for some good reasons.
First of all, you can open a checking account with a low deposit. As for the requirements, you will need a local phone number. It could be any phone number – get to a convenience store and purchase a local SIM card.
Metrobank is not just open to foreigners, but also to those without actual residence in the Philippines. Fees are super small and many operations are free of charge anyway. While there are more alternatives in there, Metrobank is by far the best bank for nomads.
Very few people associate Georgia with entrepreneurs and money. In fact, Georgia became more popular due to a conflict with Russia about a decade ago. It is also known for its beautiful landscapes – similar to what you can see in Switzerland.
However, Georgia is attracting more and more wealthy business people and entrepreneurs looking for different benefits. It is an emerging economy with lots of opportunities. In terms of banking, there are little to no restrictions at all.
TBC Bank could be the best bank for nomads. You can open a retail account and pay nothing in it, but use it later on, when you may actually need. Apart from no deposit requirements, TBC Bank also has no maintenance fees.
You will only need to visit the place once and open the account. Nonresidents are also accepted. Status banking is more expensive and there are no possibilities to open joint accounts – not really a problem though.
Bank of Georgia is another good option. It has a minimum deposit requirement of 20,000 GEL – less than $7,000. You do not necessarily have to do everything in one go. The other alternative implies 3,000 GEL – about $1,000 – a month.
You must visit a branch in-person to open an account. Other than that, you can choose between different currencies. You can also get a card and use it all over the world – you may have to pick it up in person or get it delivered to a local address though.
Known under different names – due to its attempt to join the European Union, Macedonia is also a good choice for banks. Most local banks do not really have a minimum deposit requirement, so you can open an account without it.
You can open an account as a nonresident – citizens of the USA are also accepted. Most banks allow access to multiple currency accounts – with MKD, EUR, and USD being the most popular options among them.
Ohridska Banka is one of the top options in Macedonia – part of Societe Generale Group. As a foreigner, you will face a few more requirements, but they are easy to overcome. In other words, it will take a bit longer to open your bank account.
Sparkasse Banka – part of Erste Group – is another solid option for digital nomads. It has a monthly maintenance fee though – about 30MKD, which is about 50 cents. You will need a valid passport, but also proof of address in Macedonia.
Stopanska Banka is not to be overlooked either. Again, you must bring a valid passport, a notarized copy of it, an ID, and another notarized copy. Basically, you will require two different IDs. A local tax number is also required.
For Stopanska Banka, nonresidents must pay a monthly maintenance fee of 10EUR.
Serbia is open to foreigners, as well as nonresidents. Unlike banks in other countries on this list, Serbia does not need proof of ties. You do not need any connections with the country to open a bank account there.
Most banks offer accounts in multiple currencies. At the same time, you will have the opportunity to join as an American too. Despite trying to join the EU, Serbia is not very eager to apply all the reporting standards out there.
There are more banks to choose from and Societe Generale is probably the most famous one – at least for international users. You will not have to make a minimum deposit as you open the account, but there is a monthly maintenance fee – 395RSD, which is around 3.5USD.
You are not able to open an account remotely. Instead, you must go there in person – it makes no difference what branch you choose. At the same time, you must bring a valid passport, a white piece of paper, and your most recent payslip.
Banca Intesa is similar. It does not require a minimum deposit, while the monthly maintenance fee is lower – about two times less than what you need to pay for Societe Generale. The same requirements apply – go there in person and bring the exact same things.
From many points of view, well-developed countries do not make such good options when it comes to finding the best bank for nomads. However, you can still dig and find some suitable options – take Canada, for example.
One bank, in particular, could be considered the best bank for nomads in Canada – TD Bank. You can open accounts in two currencies only – CAD and USD. However, the bank can exchange more than 50 different currencies.
Requirements are more diversified and it normally depends on what type of account you want to open. You will most likely have to go there in person and pay some fees for different operations, such as using the card in other countries.
Located close to Georgia, Armenia is another solid jurisdiction for digital nomads – it keeps gaining more and more popularity due to its relaxed attitude towards banking. In other words, it is ideal for those who do not want to be bothered with too many questions.
Evocabank is one of the best options out there. You will not be required to make a deposit when you open the account – you might as well leave it empty. There are no monthly maintenance fees to dig in your money either.
If you are a resident of Armenia, you can open a bank account remotely. If you are a nonresident, you must go to a branch in person. The good news is requirements are just as low, so there is not much to worry about.
Evocabank accepts citizens of the USA too. Americans will need to go there in person, bring a passport, a social card, and a notarized translation. If you do not have a social card, you can also bring an identification card – also, it has to be translated.
Unless you can speak Armenian, you need to visit the bank in person with a lawyer or a licensed translator. Although Evocabank accepts foreigners, all the documents are given in Armenian, so you are less likely to understand anything.
It is worth noting that you can open an account in more currencies.
HSBC is a British multinational bank. It has spread all over the world. You will find HSBC banks in former British colonies, members of the Commonwealth, and British territories. Furthermore, HSBC is also common in other parts of the world.
The bank is not among the top recommendations when searching for the best bank for nomads, but it may actually work. HSBC is known for accepting nonresidents, regardless of the country you choose for your venture.
With these thoughts in mind, HSBC could be an option for digital nomads. The bank does not offer all the services you might expect, so it mostly works for those with low expectations or necessities – if you want more than that, find a more professional alternative.
ConclusionBottom line, deciding on the best bank for nomads is a sophisticated process. You can go the easy way and choose a fintech, but your options will be incredibly limited and there are plenty of risks associated with fintechs.
A professional would rather travel to Georgia and open a local bank account than use a fintech that accepts remote bank accounts. It is the hard way to do things, but rewards will normally be directly proportional.
Indeed, if you live in Thailand or South America, you might need to leave the beach and laid back lifestyle to go to Georgia, but at some point, you will have to do it anyway. If you do choose Georgia, you will be surprised by how many foreigners you will find there, looking forward to opening bank accounts.
It may seem surprising for some – given the recent conflicts and the lack of superior development, but Tbilish is slowly turning into a digital nomad hub, mostly because of the good amenities in the country and its proximity to Europe.
Based on trends, it looks like emerging economies are more popular than ever. Although Georgia has opened its borders to foreigners, Armenia may see it as a role model and follow the exact same scenario – only time can tell, but it is definitely moving in the right direction.
All in all, it makes no difference what country you choose. You need to work for it. Sure, you want a comfortable life and you would rather do everything from the comfort of a sunbed or your couch. It does not always work this way.
Sometimes, you need to stand up, leave the beach behind, jump on a plane and get things done. If you are a digital nomad, you like to travel and explore new places anyway, so you might as well do it with a financial purpose too.
The best bank for nomads will give you lower tax exposure, higher quality standards, no random calls or forms, and better debit cards. You will get multiple benefits that will make your trip worth it – plus, you visit a new country.
Some of these banks have no deposit requirements. Some others have no monthly maintenance fees. Some others provide accounts in more currencies. If you are a digital nomad, this is what you have to look for.