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SOVEREIGN MAN

Eight places where Americans can still bank offshore

Offshore banking in the Cook Islands

“Should we crawl into bed with the IRS?”

Thanks to the steady barrage of US government regulation ranging from the obtusely insipid Dodd-Frank financial reform to the impossible-to-implement Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA), banks everywhere have to make this decision.

In short, Congress has arrogantly passed legislation to control foreign banks on foreign soil. FATCA, for example, requires that every single bank on the planet enter into an information-sharing agreement with the IRS.

Banks that don’t comply will face severe penalties, including being subject to a steep withholding tax on funds sourced through the US.

In the long-run, Congress will have put the final nail in the coffin of the US banking system as the market will simply establish an alternative destination to source, clear, and transfer funds.

For now, though, many banks are simply walking away from US customers altogether… throwing their hands up and saying “we would rather not do business with this entire market rather than deal with Uncle Sam ever again…”

To be clear, this is a bank-by-bank decision that each one is making individually. And we’re seeing -a lot- of banks around the world, from Singapore to Panama to the Cayman Islands, say ‘thanks but no thanks’ to US customers.

But, as the saying goes, whenever one door closes, another one opens. OK, maybe not exactly 1 for 1… but there are still plenty of options around the world where US taxpayers can establish foreign bank accounts to diversify their savings abroad.

[As an aside, establishing a foreign bank account is one of the most important steps to take in order to safeguard your livelihood. It's critical to move a portion of your savings to a jurisdiction that is not under the control of the bureaucrats in your home country, so that your funds cannot be frozen with a single mouse click or phone call.]

While I’m not able to list (for the most part) individual banks, the following jurisdictions have multiple banks that are still happy to work with US customers. I should know, I have an account in most of these places:

  1. Andorra

    This tiny low-tax nation nestled high in the mountains between France and Spain has long been a favorite of well-heeled Europeans. Today, despite all the turmoil in the rest of Europe, Andorra has one of the most well-capitalized banking systems on the continent.

  2. St. Vincent and the Grenadines

    This country is more famous for being the filming location for Pirates of the Caribbean rather than as an international banking center. The banking sector is still quite small, and as a result, banks are still willing to do the extra paperwork required to deal with US customers in order to boost their balance sheets.

  3. Mongolia

    Perhaps one of my favorite places in the world to bank, you can get paid upwards of 13% interest in Mongolia, easily the fastest growing economy in the world.

  4. Belize

    Even though it’s just a short flight from a number of cities in the US, several banks in Belize will open accounts for US citizens through the mail without you having to leave town.

  5. Hong Kong

    One of the original international banking centers, Hong Kong remains one of the most efficient places in the world to bank. It’s cheap, it’s fast, and you have unfettered access to opportunities in mainland China. Many of the big name banks, including HSBC, will still open accounts for US citizens.

  6. The Bahamas

    With the local economy already so closely tied to the United States, most banks in the Bahamas have made the decision to stay in bed with Uncle Sam rather than rock the boat.

  7. Chile

    Among the most well-capitalized banks in Latin America, Chile’s banking system marches to the beat of its own drum. It’s very difficult (though possible) to open an account without obtaining residency first, but fortunately it’s a straightforward process to obtain residency in this thriving country.

  8. Turks and Caicos

    Like the Bahamas, T&C’s economy is heavily dependent on the United States for trade, tourism, and its financial sector (which constitutes 30% of all economic activity). While a few private banks have closed their doors, some larger multinationals (like Scotiabank) still readily accept US customers.

About the author: Simon Black is an international investor, entrepreneur, permanent traveler, free man, and founder of Sovereign Man. His free daily e-letter and crash course is about using the experiences from his life and travels to help you achieve more freedom.

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Comments on this entry are closed.

  • http://boldanddetermined.com/ Victor Pride

    Americanos can bank in China as well.

  • PIONEER_EXPEDITIONER

    I am very interested in banking in Mongolia. Does anyone know of a bank (or banks) that will open account either online or by mail for Americans? Thanks

    • http://profiles.google.com/tienruay Terry Crossman

      I will be travelling from Beijing where I live to Mongolia in mid-May and will investigate Mongolian banking in UB while there.  While Simon does mention the high interest rates, I have heard that the local inflation exceeds 20%.  I will ask about remote banking while there.

      • PIONEER_EXPEDITIONER

        WOW! Thank you very much, I really appreciate that. Also, according the the Bank of Mongolia inflation is running at about 15% right now
        http://www.mongolbank.mn/eng/default.aspx, but I’ll take that over the TRILLIONS of newly printed U.S. dollars any day. I also read that you live in Mongolia, if that is correct? I am curious, what (if any) are the entrepreneurial opportunities there if any? Thanks again for all your help.

      • http://twitter.com/mtogu Tuguldur Munkh-Ochir

        if you are that concerned about inflation as it may sound risky investment. Then you may check out the local brokerage firms but our stock exchange isn’t very liquid and there are only few companies that have market cap exceeding $ 1 million. If you have further questions pls write to my email togu.nyc@gmail.com . I’ll try to answer your questions if I can.

      • Sefton Hanley

        Please also look what rates are offered on international currencies.. Theres 6.5% on the USD in cambodia (easy bank opening, net banking, etc) I discovered last month. 

      • Jayy

        I am also planning a trip to Mongolia I would also appreciate your opinion about the entreprenural opportunities as you see them.

      • nomadcapitalist

        Check out Capitalist Exploits. They wrote the book on doing business in Mongolia.

    • http://www.capitalistexploits.at/ Chris

      Nope you’re going to have to get your ass over there. Its possible to open a CD remotely but not a transactional account. But then what would be the fun in opening an account from your sofa anyway?

    • http://twitter.com/mtogu Tuguldur Munkh-Ochir

      CD rates are pretty high due to government bonds. Last time i checked with one of the banks here in Mongolia it was around 13% (180 days). The highest was 100,000,000 MNT. Current MNT/USD rate is 1,308. in USD it would be around $76,452

  • http://realfilling.com/ the99th

    You’re neglecting Uruguay as well, not a haven but a place to have a USD account (and maybe UYU on a dip). 

    • schmoj

      I know this post is 2 years old, but Uruguay is no longer an option. Every bank except BROU (the central bank) refuses to open accounts for US citizens.

  • Bob

    In Belize, I recommend Caye International Bank. 

    • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_763UW2WKQBEFWU5GFNLB3U56FY Donald

       Why this bank? Any special reason? Safe? they are NOT about to go under in QE debt? just curious? Thanks

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_763UW2WKQBEFWU5GFNLB3U56FY Donald

    What about Costa Rica, and how about Canada to the North. 

    • Earth67mars48

      You can open an account with RBC in Canada (not online) as long as you have a US Passport and drivers license. Other banks stated that you needed to have a Canadian mailing address in order to open a Canadian bank account (Scotia, BMO, TD).

  • A. Nonny Mooose

    The big banks in Canada let US citizens open accounts, even interest bearing accounts denominated in Canadian dollars. You do not need the Canadian equivalent of a social security number (i.e., a social insurance number I think). 

    • nomadcapitalist

      You usually need to show up in person, though. And then there’s the part about statutory bail-ins.

  • iamblu2

    I opened an account in Uruguay. Took an hour but otherwise very easy.

    • dreamerdick

      Can you tell us more and the process?  Or tell it on the total uruguay forum.

  • Mmanglitz

    I am more concerned that Uncle will be able to attach my foreign account in a bank which still does business with him.  I would prefer to find a bank that refuses to knuckle under to Uncle and bank there.

  • Sefton Hanley

    Surprised Singapore didnt get a mention, I am not so happy with HSBC there but it was easy to open an account as a non US person. 

    • nomadcapitalist

      Yes, once you get past their sales pitch for cash-value life insurance, it is. Same pretty much everywhere they are, including in Philippines and other SEA countries, but especially in Singapore.

  • 老外

    I bank in mainland China. Sure it’s not the best situation, but it takes 5 minutes, almost no money, and your passport. No hassle.

    Why’d you miss this one? =D

    • PIONEER_EXPEDITIONER

      This may be a dumb question but are there any Chinese banks that will open accounts to Americans over the internet or is it all face-to-face? Thanks

      • nomadcapitalist

        Face to face. But not hard. If you simply want to diversify out of USD, the Bank of China NYC branch takes CNY deposits. But you’re still under the US banking system and FDIC insurance.

  • mmk

    the joke is on all of us. the us banks are the same as the european banks…all owned by the same group of people. the government is owned by them and it is their blanket of control over all of us. move your money here, move your money there, it is all under the control of the same global elite who live outside the tax/government system.

  • http://spy4mobile.com/ Ebrunet

    It’s easy to open a bank account in China

  • iamblu2

    Uruguay: I used the Banco Republica, the government bank. If you are opening an account with cash, bring new, unused bills. The big branch in Montevideo is overwhelming. Better to use a branch in another city. I used the one in Punta del Este. It helps to know some Spanish.

  • frozeninthenorth

    SM although you are largely correct about HK, there are severe restriction on what “type” of American can open a bank account there.

    Also some of the countries you mention here have dubious reputation.  I would think long and hard before investing in Mongolia.

    Finally, lets not forget that Congress passed these laws, and that many many Americans supported such rules mainly because so many Americans were using off shore accounts to execute insider trading.  There were many well know schemes (sold by many Swiss banks).  

    Americans have always loved imposing their rules onto others — call this the consequence of hubris.  

    Sorry but I have very little sympathy for Americans trying to hid their money off shore, very little sympathy indeed 

    • Noni77

      And of course paint the innocent citizens trying to protect their meager savings with the same brush you paint the corrupt and arrogant politicians we often voted AGAINST (since we are those working and not the parasites who suck off the government teat) with the same brush.

  • http://www.facebook.com/stmartinez1 S Thania Martinez

    Not all banks in St. Vincent accept US citizens, only Loyal Bank. 

    And you left out two jurisdiction that still allow US citizens such as Cyprus and Mauritius.

  • nottd

    I have two accounts in Australia at Westpac.  Opened both over the phone and internet from the US.  No problems.  

    • Noni77

      I thought Australia demanded you visit there within one year of opening an account?

      • nomadcapitalist

        They do. And there have been times when they shut down accounts or simply turn off interest earning if they figure out you opened an account in such a fashion. They’re not that creative especially when you’re dealing with the phone bankers to open an account, and they tend to figure you just want to stash some cash for visiting Australia. Plus, you need a tax ID # to pay NRWT.

  • Ccs925

    I am wondering about banking in the Philippines? I have an account with Bank of Philippine Islands but this is an international bank. Wonder if the US can ding my account there?

    • nomadcapitalist

      Would be harder. It’s not easy to get a Philippines bank account as any foreigner, let alone a US national, without living there. Great place to hang out, possibly live, definitely start a company, but not exactly the world’s most creative banking sector.

  • Tiger-paws

    I have a bank account in the Principality of Monaco, they have THE most secretive banking system in the world. You do need a fair amount of money to open an account but you will be TOTALLY secure in the knowledge that they DO NOT comply with U.S. demands. 

    • Jan

      How were you able to open this account in Monaco?  And how much do they require as a deposit?  Can it be done by phone or mail?  Please reply to katydidjf@aol.com.  Thank you

    • nomadcapitalist

      As long as you’re not French.

  • guest

    A mongolian bank account is easy to get online:  Golomt Bank.  No problem for US citizens.

  • John

    What is the guarantee that if the foreign bank shuts down my half million sitting there is insured?

    • nomadcapitalist

      What is your guarantee of that in the United States? Diversify and be careful and you will likely have few problems.

  • http://www.newsuperhuman.com/ newsuperhuman

    The point is not to open a foreign bank account, it’s to do it at a bank that won’t report your information to the IRS. Hong Kong for instance will open an account for an American but will report you to the IRS, so what’s the point?

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