This is a guest post from Julie. Consideration was received for the editing and publishing of this post.
Moving and living abroad carries with it its own set of complications – cultural, linguistic, and, for many expatriates, living at a great distance from friends and family. But fortunately, thanks to a number of very good international banks with branches around the world, banking and borrowing money abroad doesn’t have to be another stress added to your already-hectic international life.
The importance of a good bank while living abroad probably goes without saying; you need to be able access money easily from bank branches and ATMs, and without fees, but you also need a bank that is able to offer other services like good savings plans, solid investment vehicles and the ability to secure personal loans. In fact, being able to secure a personal loan is particularly helpful for many families living abroad or planning to live abroad, as it often takes an infusion of cash to get started in another country.
Up-front costs can include enrolling children in an expensive international school, refurbishing a house or apartment to make it more family-friendly, buying an automobile, making a down-payment on a property, transporting furniture or other large items abroad (or paying for a storage facility for those items you plan to leave back home), or some combination of several of these things.
For American families who have moved to the Middle East – particularly Egypt and the UAE – the advice from expatriates is to find a trustworthy international bank that also has a presence in the country in which you live; by banking with such an institution, you have the benefit of speaking with someone face-to-face – and often people who work for large international banks, especially ones with branches in major cities like Dubai or Cairo, will in fact have English-speaking staff on hand – while also ensuring that if you relocate to another country, you’ll stand a good chance of being able to keep your bank, provided the bank’s reach is global.
Do your comparison shopping when searching for a bank, especially if you know you’ll be looking for a personal loan. Comparison websites allow you to instantly make personal loan comparisons based on the amount of money you’ll want to borrow and the amount of time you plan to pay that personal loan back; of course, banks will charge different interest rates based on factors like your credit history, so always contact the bank first in order to receive a definitive quote. But many comparison websites are about more than just loans: they will also allow you to make a side-by-side comparison of international bank accounts for expatriates.
Online magazines like Forbes.com also feature articles on international banking and finding the best bank for you, and Forbes notes that it’s worth checking whether your U.S. bank has branches abroad, or is owned by a larger conglomerate that does. It’s important to do your homework here, as making a decision on bank – and potentially also a personal loan – is an important decision that will affect your daily life. You want to make sure it’s a decision that will make your international life easier, not more difficult.