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Ask HN: Online banks where I can open account worldwide?
233 points by theodor_shi on Nov 25, 2018 | hide | past | favorite | 114 comments
I travel to exotic countries to live and work remotely. If suddenly my credit card is blocked or stolen, are there any online banks where I can open an account and order a card by post to anywhere in the world, confirming my identity online?

For example, there are several banks which allows me to open a bank account without German registration and no non-residence, being in Germany. Unfortunately, they send cards only to a limited number of European countries. Even if they are ok with my passport I have to ask somebody to receive my card and send it directly to me.

Revolut[1] seems perfect, I cannot recommend them enough. With their premium plan you get 1% cashback on all card purchases outside the EU as well. The support is great, if your card gets cloned or something.

You also can fluidly and transparently transfer between all different currencies at the interbank rate, which I find is great for travelling back home (Most of my cash is in Euros).

They are really, really good.

1. https://www.revolut.com/

Whilst I recommend Revolut, be wary of the support. My card was stolen and I noticed that there had been several transactions on it, meaning somebody had been using it. Fortunately I have the push notifications turned on so I was alerted almost instantly.

When I got in touch with Revolut support, they needed a paper copy of the police report, along with several other documents from places such as ActionFraud (an organisation set up here in the UK to exclusively tackle fraud).

The police report took 2 hours to file, followed by a 2 week delay by Revolut to actually verify the claim and process the refund. Now, any other “bank” I’ve been with here will always refund you the money first and then resolve later.

This isn’t necessarily a criticism of Revolut, as I still use them very frequently but just a word of advice in case you’re used to the process, as I was.

Wow, I can’t even comprehend that much hassle to report a card stolen. American Express will deactivate my card and overnight me a new one in 5 minutes on the phone with customer service.

You can deactivate any Revolut card from your mobile app instantly (don't even have to call them).

What parent commenter was complaining about were the cumbersome procedures for refunds of fraudulent transactions. Given the worldwide distribution of their customers and the online only interactions with them, seem justified IMO.

Its not just reporting it stolen - that is instantaneous with revolut (and you can do it in the app) - it is the refunding of fraudulent transactions on a stolen card that takes time.

Reporting the card stolen is hassle-free and can be done from the app instantly. It's just the process to get the money refunded and back in my account.

Someone got a hold of my card number with Chase. I saw several thousands worth of charges. 5 minutes with Chase support got my card deactivated, account placed into fraud moderation and all the charges reversed within a few days (the process starting immediately). I was genuinely surprised at how well Chase handles fraud.

That's why you "pay" a premium for big US credit cards and banks. Trust, and when shit hits the fan, they will/should be there.

Somebody stole my Capital One card awhile back and racked up over $2,000 in charges. Capital One, instantly deactivated the card, sent me a new one, and reversed all the charges.

Capital one didn't eat those charges, the merchants did. They are the ones that get fucked

> Now, any other “bank” I’ve been with here will always refund you the money first and then resolve later.

Not with Citibank. Had money widhdrawn from atm by someone who probably copied my card, it took them 2 weeks to investigate and they only returned money after the investigation was over. And I was their customer for 15 years...Citibank is the worst bank I dealt with so far

I’ve been a bit wary of Revolut after it turned out they were making potential job applicants engage in an MLM to secure an interview: https://twitter.com/mellino/status/1054473108936122368?s=12

That thread is funny, their twitter account which is probably run by a Z level employee tried to stick up for the company and was completely blasted by commentators and didn't respond back.

Credibility. Gone.

They also had very dodgy BTC practices from memory but I can't remember specifics.

That doesn't look great :/

It's not clear what the job was though. It seems it was sales related which makes it a bit better IMO.

Revolut is not a bank (yet). It's nice to keep small amount of money there, but I wouldn't transfer all my money to them.

But yeah, they're great.

Yeah, good point. I get paid into Revolut and transfer most of it to another, physical bank.

One caveat about Revolut is that they do absolutely everything from topups to customer support through their mobile app. Which is great, until you want to top your card up to buy a new phone, or you have them both stolen from the same place.

Love revolut. The ability to store income in multiple currencies (and transition between them easily) is great. Personal accounts are free, so it is easy to try out. It is a zero interest account for business AND they charge a fee on top of that. I think they (or someone else) could do it more intelligently (like a Robinhood) for a zero fee setup.

On top of that you can order multiple physical cards for free on the same account so if one gets stolen you take the next one out and keep going. Needless to say you can disable the stolen one without having to call anyone.

Oh yeah, I forgot to mention that. They also have single-use disposable virtual cards which is pretty handy!

They are only disposable if there are no outstanding charges. For example, try to conveniently opt out of a newspaper subscription and you may find your account is closed at no notice, as mine was.

I subscribed to a "free for one week" service using a disposable Revolut card and didn't had my account suspended, even though the service kept trying to charge my card weekly. Even funnier, I could use the free trial for about 6 months.

Well, since I received no communication from revolut, this was the only reason I could think that would lead to my account being cancelled.

If there was some other reason I was not aware of then, maybe, it's less encouraging?

You sure those physical cards are 'free'? They were £5 when I had an account.

Any similar services that let you buy stocks worldwide?

Transferwise borderless accounts (https://transferwise.com/gb/borderless/) do exactly that. You can open up multiple international bank accounts that are all linked to one debit card. It's free as well.

I use them too, but note that they are not a bank, so your money is not protected, also consider Revolut

How is your experience with them so far?

Haven’t used their borderless account but I live in NZ and get paid by a UK company into a UK account. I use them to bring all my money back to NZ and have nothing but good things to say about them. I usually have the cash in my NZ the next day but sometimes I’ve had it the same day, they’re really fast.

Yep, I used them so send money every month between EU countries and the money is available literally instantly, compared to 2-3 days for a regular bank transfer. The rates are better too. You can also lock your transfer rate for up to 24 hours, so if you think there's a chance there rate will be better the next day you can lock your transfer rate for a day - if it improves, just schedule another transfer. If it goes down, then send the one planned the day before. It's really good.

I haven't checked for the UK, but take a look at OFX if you can, I've found a notably better exchange rate from US to NZ when compared to Transferwise.

I got a borderless account about 4 months ago and I am happy with it. I use it to receive my salary in pounds, and I use the bank card to pay in pounds and euro in UK and France. I choose to use this account instead because they let me open the account before I moved to UK and they sent me the bank card in France. Still, I run into few minor problems: it's impossible to change the limitations of the card with the web-based interface, you need to use the android/ios app (which I don't have). Also, I have never been able to pay in Asda and Tesco by inserting the card (but contactless works). I never had any problems with other shop or hotel.

I've been using them for a while now. I have had no issues and everything works as they say it does. I use it to transfer money between bank accounts in various countries as well as their debit card for travel.

This is somewhat tangential, but does anyone have a good way to accept money in different currencies with minimal fees? Specifically I'm making money from different international Amazon sites and they all either send a paper check or I need a bank account in the country of origin which is not often possible.

I've looked into Payoneer, but they are taking a cut too and only really support a couple currencies. Any good options? I haven't looked at Transferwise yet so they might work.

I use TransferWise Borderless to collect payments in USD/EUR/AUD/SGD. They give you routing details for a local bank account created in your name. You can hold cash in the original currency, centralized it to one currency, or send it all back home. I have moved significant sums over the last two years without a single issue. Recommended.

You got my hopes up, but the TW borderless bank doesn't give you local SG bank account details (yet?). SGD is a supported currency of course.

Have a look at transferwise, you don't need a bank account with them to transfer money round different curencies/accounts. I've used them a fair bit and saved hugely on fees and currency conversion rates.

Try Neat (https://www.neat.hk/) - they offer both personal and business accounts to people and businesses worldwide and are based in Hong Kong.

Businesses get a virtual account number at Standard Chartered.

Funds for personal accounts are held at Bank of China Hong Kong.

Both types of accounts get debit cards that ship globally.

I've signed up for a business account and been approved all online.

I think they exclude people from some countries.

Can try here: https://www.neat.hk/signup/start

From their website it seems they don't allow bank transfers out, so money in is, well, in. Getting it out means a 2% fee. FX at 1.5% is also high.

Any similar services that let you buy stocks worldwide?

I wouldn't call Interactive Brokers a "similar service" but it's one of the few brokers that offers accounts pretty much worldwide [0] and also one of the few that offers access to pretty much any market [1].

That said, they either cost $10/month (commission or inactivity fee) unless you have a $100k balance with them.

[0]: https://www.interactivebrokers.com/en/index.php?f=7021

[1]: https://www.interactivebrokers.com/en/index.php?f=1562

What if you want to buy and hold as a long term investment?

Depends on your definition of "worldwide". I think IB is pretty unique in that it offers accounts worldwide access to markets worldwide.

If you only want access to worldwide markets, you can probably do it with a local brokerage.

If you only want a worldwide account, the brokers in the market you want access to will often give you an account.

Do they let you send wires anywhere? Does every wire require manual review or extra documentation?

thank you! it looks exactly what i looked for

You can make bank transfers out (HK / international) with a business account. For personal accounts you can spend with the card at the moment, but bank transfers are coming soon.

N26 works the best. I have tried many banks, from Revolut, Bunq to many traditional banks (I have 7+ accounts).

N26 offers very nice desktop experience too. It's not an argument that you need to use your mobile – with EU requirements and MFA thingy going on, there are very few services where you are NOT required to use your phone (none in my experience!).

Revolut couldn't accept my salary, bc it was too much money turnover for them (due to their non-bank regulatory). N26 has super convenient customer support (chat, very fast in my experience!), plus you can deposit money in common stores...Flawless experience so far (1yr now, using for salary and everything – thousands of euros in and out, not a single problem). Revolut wants to be everything, but to me lacks of some seriousness – e.g. customer support sucks big time (in my direct experience), all these ads for crypto and stuff...N26 is like the older brother to Revolut.

I’ve been using N26 for a couple years now, and I agree with almost everything you’ve said except the customer service part - it’ been unbearable slow for me, especially in emergencies. They don’t offer a hotline, for example, so when my credit card data was stolen and money taken from my account I spent 45 minutes in a little chat window in their app waiting for my turn. If you switch to another app, or your phone locks, or you lose your internet connection you lose your place in the queue. In the end they did do a chargeback on the money, it took about 6 weeks though and I had to get in touch with them multiple times.

How much is your salary ? Am curious to why a bank can’t accept it.,

Again, Revolut is not a bank. I was told that my top-up yearly is 15k EUR – after asking if I can use R account for my salary (all in all I would deposit around 50-80k EUR yearly).

If I would provide documents it would maybe be possible to increase that limit – however, no one ever got back to me, after several requests from my side.

I'm not sure doing it online is particular useful in that case. As it takes at best a couple of days to receive the card you ordered, were you willing to be stuck at that place (or hotel) for days without the card?

As a Korean student who have studied in America and England, I found Citibank useful enough in my case. Citibank is particular good at international personal banking services and they have branches across pretty many countries. When I lost my wallet in Prague 7 years ago, I could visit a Prague branch to withdraw some money without a card immediately (called Emergency Cash or something) , confirming my identity with my passport and calling a Korean branch to make sure it's me. I'm not sure I could make a card in Prague though.

I can't comment on the worldwide aspect, but plenty of challenger banks allow you to add your card to your Apple Pay/Google Pay wallets immediately after account opening; without having to wait for the physical card.

Oh right. I might say it from the 7 years old point of view. But you should also consider that only a few countries support Apple Pay/Google Pay yet - Neither of them are available in Korea for example. And withdrawing cash is even harder with them.

In my experience (with a few exceptions), Apple Pay will work at nearly any merchant that accepts PayWave (obviously with a Visa card), even if Apple Pay hasn't landed in that country yet.

> (called Emergency Cash or something)

HSBC offers something similar as well.

My standard swiss banks always offered me to ship the replacement cards to anywhere in the world as long as I notify them how long I am in which country. I see no reason except cost-saving that an online bank shouldn‘t offer it.

However you need to be a resident to open an account, and at the very least keep a permanent address in Switzerland if you travel for extended period of times unless you're ready to pay outrageous fees as a non-resident. So this doesn't really answer OP's question.

Incorrect. You can open accounts as a non-resident. However if you're afflicted with USA citizenship they'll generally tell you to get lost unless you have a lot of money.

You will have to pay fees, correct, that's just the cost of compliance in today's world though. The fees are comparable to fees at US based banks FWIW (except the US banks will charge those even to residents in certain cases).

Good for you, now we know you have a set of banks in Swiss. Care to namedrop them so others can take a look as well?

Just choose any canton bank, they’re identical

Good options have been mentioned this thread.

With EU-based neo-banks, I believe that because of the KYC guidelines, you'll always need a somewhat permanent address in Europe (like friends/family) that can forward you the card, when you open your account.

However if you just need a replacement card, many can send it internationally, at least for a fee.

I'm curious if the Estonian e-residency can help workaround the need for an European permanent address?

(wrote this prior to trying to google around for the info)

It cannot.

I have Charles Schwab, use it for all my banking and it's fantastic. No fees to take out money from any ATM in the world. Don't even know why I'd want something else, but now that I see people talking about Revolut, N26 and TransferWise I guess I should at least investigate whether they have anything to offer.

Schwab are great if you only want to keep USD. They're terrible otherwise, including the fact that they charge 1% currency conversion if you send them a non-USD wire.

And they're not a bank, meaning your cash isn't insured. (Unless you reside in the USA, in which case you can get a proper bank account with FDIC insurance).

Ah -- makes sense, thanks, I do live in the US, and generally what I need/want the account for is just to be able to take out my USD in other currencies, not particularly to deposit other ones.

Are any of the options listed in this comment thread available to US citizens ?

My understanding has been that US "Know Your Customer" laws make it very difficult for these banks to work with US customers and so they just choose not to. For instance, unless you have $10M or more, you cannot walk into Zurich Kantonalbank (for instance) and open up a bank account. They don't want your money.

Is that not also true of Revolut and N26 and the other options in this thread - or are those all paypal clones that work differently than actual banks ?

I, solely a US person, have accounts with N26, Revolut and Transferwise. None are officially banks.

I recommend Transferwise because they support ACH transfers and US$ balances.

Doesn't N26 hold a German (and very recently, UK) banking licence?

Yes I believe this to be correct.

"N26 has had a full European banking licence since 2016 – and any funds you have with it are covered by the German Bank guarantee (up to €100,000)." [1]

[1] http://www.moneyguideireland.com/n26-compared-revolut.html

How are these more useful/interesting/performant than paypal, which I already use ?

Genuinely interested ...

If you need these, you know it. For example, if you keep balances in multiple currencies or want to transfer money between EU and US banks or have a low-fee multi-currency debit card. Paypal doesn't allow any of that.

Not sure you can use paypal to put money in an account and then use a card to withdraw it at cash points and pay for coffee etc. Also I once sent a US friend $500 with paypal and got charged $25. Transferwise would be way cheaper.

Does anyone have a good comparison of something like Revolut v N26 v Simple?

What's the main USP of N26?

Blame FATCA[1] and the bizarre US policy of taxing ex-pats on foreign earnings. No non-US bank wants to touch US citizens now because of it.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Foreign_Account_Tax_Compliance...

What about Ally?

I love N26. I use it everyday. It is free, great conversion rate etc. it even works with Apple Pay. I know I sound like a paid advertiser, but I swear I just love their service

Some nice things: - you can pay with it during a flight, not possible with most of the online bank - depending on the country you can apply for overdraft - you can get cards that include different types of insurance, free withdrawals in any currency etc - you can have a savings account - you can even open business accounts and many more

Affiliate link, we will both get €15: https://n26.com/r/razvana9235

Non-affiliate link: https://n26.com

//added more info

Please don't use N26! There've been major security vulnerabilities in the past [0]. I wouldn't trust them with my money.

[0] https://theheureka.com/massive-security-vulnerabilities-dete...

Thanks for that, didn't know. I am curios if you are insured and even if someone steals your money, you get it back.

The problem isn't whether it's insured, the problem is whether anyone believes your claim that it was stolen.

haha you are right

Yep. The also closed a bunch of people’s accounts with no warning a while back.

Ex-customer here:

Beware, N26 is not "mobile first", it's "mobile only".

If you intend to use it without mobile phone or your mobile phone doesn't use the original Google Play services (e.g. due to LineageOS), then you can't confirm transactions and that makes it pretty useless.

Your statement about lineageos does not match my experience. I've been running lineageos and never had an issue like that.

Are you confusing transactions with Google pay support? The latter doesn't support rooted phones.

Google Pay doesn't "support" rooted phones, but it's pretty easy to get it working with something that hides the fact your phone is rooted, like Magisk.

Yea, thanks for pointing that out, you are right, and that is why I love it :D But I see how that can be a problem to some people :) I am the kind of person that tends to focus on the positives.

I tried to register for an account with N26 early this year. After uploading all my personal information and passport scans, I received a generic rejection notice almost immediately. Extensively talked to the customer service, but they couldn't possibly figure out the rejection reason and eventually just stopped replying.

N26 appears to be one of those modern companies built on automation and algorithms where human customer service is an afterthought. It'll work until it doesn't - and then you're on your own. Wouldn't recommend using them to handle significant amounts of money.

I’m a happy n26 for a little more than a year. I have one major issue which hasn’t yet been solved after 4 months now. They rejectected the wire of my dividends from my company to my personal bank account, asking for a document of justification. The support people are nice but none was able to tell me which documents they would accept despite me proposing them multiple options such as the official document voting the decision. I am currently in a situation with n26 where i love the service but i can’t get my money in.

This works well on mobile...and is not in the USA yet.

But I joined the waiting list so eventually it will work.

This isn't a solution. OP asked for an account that can be opened from anywhere. This one only works in a handful of countries.

> I can open account worldwide?

Yea, you can open it from wherever you are, you just have to know someone in one of the supported countries and you should have a valid passport. A friend of mine opened it while I was living in Italy and there was no problem. The address is used to send you the card. As soon I received his card, I sent him all the details and he started using it through ApplePay and online. But thanks for pointing it out. I didn't make it clear enought

I tried N26 for a few month... before they close my account.

They require picture of two ID (which I gave during their outsourced identity verification process). Then a few month later someone noticed that the expiration date of my national ID card expired and send my a mail about redoing the ID check process. I told them it was unnecessary because the ID is still valid for 5 more year and gave them a link to the official government website explaining it. They pushed for the verification and swap the two piece during, except I couldn't do it because I was living abroad (the reason I opened an account in their bank in the first place) with just my passport. I withdraw all my money from the account two days before they lock it.

Lessons learned: 1. Their support is non-cooperative. 2. Their support don't care about the laws of your country concerning ID validity (even if EU). 3. They will lock and keep you money if they want. 4. Their ID check is outsourced and done by people not speaking good French/English. 5. They cannot swap the two ID by themselves in their database.

So keep care of this "bank" and don't put in it more money than you can afford to lose on their whim.

Revolut seems to make the most sense in this case. You could consider Curve Card as well. In terms of traditional banks, Charles Schwab welcomes international clients who are ready to invest $25K upfront.

It’s not something I’ve looked into, but being from Denmark, one of the most digitised public sectors of Europe, I do hear about our competitors.

I think you should look into Estonia, they offer digital citizenship and a range of other services. It’s not a full citizenship, but it allows you to do banking and create companies and such.

Not sure how commonly accepted it is in other parts of Europe though. But I think it might be worth a look.

The problem with Estonia is that I think you still need to travel here in person to open a bank account. The KYC laws are pretty strict. Source – I'm Estonian.

Holvi (Finnish payment processor) allows you to open corporate account for Estonian E-Residency LLC without visiting Estonia. Works well.

I try to avoid SPOF. I carry separately 2 cards from 2 bank accounts. I use 1 for guaranty (hotels never cancel them manually which can be a problem if you often change hotels), the other is for consumption. Also, maybe you should change your bank. Mine is sending a card replacement whereever I am on the planet in a few business days.

Have you looked at classic investment banks like Schwab or TDAmeritrade? You can use them solely as checking accounts and they have had pretty good customer service when I've traveled abroad and may be able to send cards internationally.

Schwab is great especially if you're a US citizen working remote abroad.


- Loads of account details available - US, AUS, USD, EUR - Super cheap all of the time (think revolut is cheaper for some amounts and routes) - Plastic card

Not a bank per se but Revolut is any option perhaps.

I'm using it and it's great: https://n26.com

I did not put the name in the description of my question. But I used them as well. When I came to Germany they opened me the account without the German apartments registration. I confirmed my identity with the web camera and my passport and they sent me the card by post to my hotel. Easy. But I think they can do it only within EU. If I travel with their card to another country and will lose it, they will not send it worldwide.

Not sure with n26 but when I lost my Monzo they sent a new one to Thailand without problems, fast too.

Check out NomadCapitalist.com or specifically his YouTube channel where he has numerous videos about this exact topic. I know he recommends Georgia a lot for banking, but you might still need to open in person.


Any similar services that let you buy stocks worldwide?

For larger investors Interactive Brokers is good.

What if you want to buy and hold as a long term investment?

It ok though if <$100k they charge as below:

>We do not charge any account maintenance fee for any account that meets the following criteria: Greater than 100,000 USD in average equity for a calendar month or 10 USD in commissions generated in a calendar month.


cool, i will look


I hope your getting banned, not even mentioning the service but instead trying to force users to visit your fishy bit.ly. The link he is referring to is: https://www.payoneer.com

Careful of Payoneer, they will lock your account and money for no reason. I have had money sitting for a month “in process” and every time I call support they tell me it will go through within 24 - 72 hours and to call back if it doesn’t. So I call back, again, and again, and finally just cancel the transaction. I recommend Transferwise.

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