Last Updated: August 4, 2021
Dateline: Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
People often wonder which country has the best offshore banks.
And if you’re a six or seven-figure entrepreneur, you may be fairly protective of where you’re going to diversify your assets; you should be!
But what if you’re a six- or seven-figure entrepreneur AND a US person? Not to worry – Americans can still open offshore accounts. In fact, there is even priority offshore banking for high-net-worth individuals.
The thing that will matter the most for US persons is compliance with tax reporting requirements. That means not only finding a reputable offshore bank in a stable jurisdiction but also finding one that caters to the whim of the US government.
While some banks have decided that they want nothing to do with the hand of the US government, others have complied with the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA) to ensure that their US customer accounts remain intact.
In this article, we’ll discuss what Americans need to know about offshore banking, what criteria to look for in an offshore bank, and even the best US bank for non-US citizens.
What US Persons Need to Know About Offshore Banking
I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: the US is incredibly strict about tax laws. Especially when it comes to offshore banks for Americans.
US citizens, and anyone considered a US person for tax reasons, are expected to meet many tax and reporting obligations. In fact, there are probably more than most other countries.
And although there are many rumors that US persons can’t open offshore accounts, that is not true in most jurisdictions. Instead, they will usually just have to jump through several hoops to do so.
Therefore, let’s look at two of the most common tax processes that any US nomad capitalist will need to endure if they’re considering an offshore account.
Foreign Bank and Financial Accounts
If you qualify as a US person, you’re required to report any foreign bank accounts to the US Government. To do so, you would use the report of Foreign Bank and Financial Accounts – otherwise known as the FBAR. And while the FBAR is generally administered by the IRS with annual taxes, it is actually filed with the Financial Crime Enforcement Network, or FinCEN.
Basically, FinCEN wants to make sure that you don’t have any illicit money laundering schemes, such as drug trafficking operations or terrorist activities.
Under the FBAR, you will need to report any foreign financial accounts that aggregate to $10,000 or more at any point during a given year. This can be done by using FinCEN’s online filing system. But keep in mind that any failure to do so can result in serious penalties, and I doubt you want that.
And while you don’t need to submit other forms to file the FBAR, people usually need to complete a Statement of Specified Foreign Assets form as well. This form allows you to account for other foreign assets and has disclosure values ranging from $50,000 – $600,000, depending on whether you live in the US or abroad.
Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act
The Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act, or FATCA, was signed into law in 2010 under the Obama administration. While the intention of this law was to increase transparency in offshore banking, it has essentially destroyed banking privacy.
In short, FATCA requires banks to report any information on their US customers to the US government’s Internal Revenue Service (IRS). That means that even though US persons were already reporting their foreign accounts through the FBAR, the US wanted to go a step further and require banks around the world to report on these accounts as well.
Not to name names, but it seems there was a certain group that didn’t believe people with offshore accounts would properly report their foreign account information.
And you can imagine how thrilled offshore banks must have been to implement this new process. But their alternatives were to either get slapped with a huge withholding tax for non-compliance or forgo using the US financial system.
Unfortunately, this led many banks to let go of their US customers. Even some non US-persons then had to clarify their citizenship or tax residence to convince banks they are not a US person.
And the banks that did keep their US customers suddenly required a pile of paperwork to open or keep an offshore account.
So, while these procedures might be a pain, they are necessary for keeping yourself out of jail and keeping up with offshore bank reporting requirements.
What Not to Look for in an Offshore Bank
Here is Nomad Capitalist, we’re always talking about going where you’re treated best. We believe there are certain criteria that you should look for in an offshore bank. Not only do these criteria meet our standards for the best offshore banks the world over, but we also consider them when assessing the best offshore banks for Americans.
While there is a slew of factors that one could consider, here are our top four:
- Jurisdiction Quality: Often, the traditional offshore locations are scrutinized by governments so much that it makes it a hassle to even deal with banks there. And if your offshore bank is located in an unstable jurisdiction, chances are that your money will be confiscated by the government at some point. When you’re looking for a location in which to grow your portfolio, you want to make sure that it’s a stable one.
- Institutional Quality: Of course, you will want to bank with an institution that has a great reputation. However, you will also want to ensure the financials of the bank that you’re dealing with as not all banks keep a high number of deposits on hand.
- Ease of Opening a Bank Account: This factor doesn’t necessarily mean that you’ll be able to open an account with the snap of your fingers, but the process itself should be easy overall. You will want to find banks that have great customer service and make the experience as smooth as possible.
- Nomad Friendliness: Nomads often have different needs to fit their lifestyles and that fact is no different when it comes to offshore banking. You will want to find a bank that has a robust online banking system, offers the option to use overseas ATMs and conduct transactions in multiple countries, and allows access to 24-hour customer service.
There are also a few factors that you will want to avoid when you consider an offshore bank. In my experience, these include:
- Big brands
- Banks in classic offshore jurisdictions
Additionally, while all of these criteria apply to US and non-US persons alike, US persons will also need to look out for a few more factors when considering the best offshore banks for Americans.
For instance, now that you know about the FATCA requirements, it will be critical to ensure that whichever offshore bank you end up choosing will also be willing to comply with these reporting requirements. That even includes countries where you may already be a permanent resident.
Another factor to consider is the amount of your deposit. I often talk about banking in Hong Kong, and it is the perfect example to illustrate that when you have a big enough sum, they are willing to open an account for anyone – US person or not.
And don’t forget that while there are jurisdictions and banks that don’t want to jump through hoops with the US government, there are plenty of jurisdictions that do.
US persons have offshore options.
The Best Offshore Banks for Americans in 2021
In another article, we listed the best offshore banks in 2021 in general. And while most of the banks in that article are open to US persons as well, there are certain jurisdictions that I recommend specifically for US persons.
As I’ve said before, it’s important to investigate non-traditional jurisdictions. They’ll be under less scrutiny from governments and should have less cumbersome processes for opening an account. And I’ve personally experienced that in the following countries:
- Georgia: This country is one of the easiest jurisdictions for an American to open an offshore account. Not only do they have one of the freest economies, but it’s easy to do business there – including opening an offshore bank account. Here, I recommend the Bank of Georgia, where you can open an account in one day.
- Singapore: This is one of my favorite banking locations in the world. Not only are its banks among the safest in the world, but they also rank first in the best banks of the world for their reputation and performance. One such bank is DBS Treasures, which offers premier banking services and are easy to deal with. However, they only offer savings accounts for US persons.
- Vanuatu: This less-known option offers both privacy and is FATCA-compliant. Sounds perfect for a US person, right? It is. Banks such as Pacific Private Bank offer flexibility and privacy while keeping all legal matters above board. The only caveat is that they no longer accept USD.
And if you’re looking for a remote offshore account, we have that option too – though I don’t generally think it’s worth it. However, the two remote options that I do recommend are Capital Security Bank in the Cook Islands and N26 in Germany. Both allow US persons to open accounts, and you don’t even have to travel there, though you might wish to.
While it could seem more difficult for an American to open an offshore bank account, the fact is that it is generally becoming more difficult for everyone. This is due to more competition and regulation, rather than citizenship.
But if you take into account the criteria that I consider when selecting an offshore account, you should have no problem finding a jurisdiction that you trust with your money.
And if you happen to be a non-US person, we might just have a suggestion or two for you as well.
Best US Bank for Non-US Citizens: Wells Fargo
While this article is focused on the best offshore banks for Americans, banking in the US is surprisingly desirable for those who are non-US persons. Although the US doesn’t have the safest banks in the world, they’re well-connected to the global financial system, and opening an account there is quite easy as well.
As an added benefit, the US has Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) deposit insurance, which insures up to $250,000 per account. This is, by far, the highest amount of deposit insurance in the world.
Although I hate to say it, the best bank for opening a bank account in the US as a non-resident is Wells Fargo. I understand that this bank does have some challenges, but it’s one of the few that will allow you to open an account without a Social Security number (SSN).
If you decide to travel to the US to open an account at Wells Fargo, I personally recommend using the Miami or Las Vegas branches. Both are accustomed to dealing with non-US residents, and neither require an SSN to open an account.
While opening an account at Wells Fargo may seem like the antithesis of offshore to a US person, it can actually be an excellent diversification strategy for people outside of the US.
With excellent deposit insurance and deep ties to the global financial system, it might just be an excellent choice for people who want a US bank account.
Summary: The Best Offshore Banks for Americans in 2021
I hope I’ve convinced you that US persons can open offshore bank accounts.
While there is a lot of disinformation out there and some people shudder at the word “offshore,” it really isn’t taboo. There are plenty of options for US persons and ways for them to stay compliant.
Just remember, when you’re looking for the best offshore banks for Americans, you will want to find one that is stable, high-quality, easy to work with, and has services to fit your lifestyle.
After all, you are a nomad. And we want to ensure that your portfolio is protected, growing, and diversified.
Contact Nomad Capitalist today. We’re ready to help you open an offshore bank account and create a diversification strategy.