Banking and Payments for Nomads: What Are Your Options?

Putting aside money for health care when you travel is key. Pexels photo
Putting aside money for health care when you travel is key. Pexels photo

Money Transfer and Banking For Nomads

By Oscar Davis

theft
How to handle money transfers and banking when living abroad.

As of 2024, there are approximately 35 million digital nomads worldwide who enjoy flexibility, the freedom to live anywhere, and significant cost savings, with most earning between $38,000 and $123,578 annually. 

However, this lifestyle of freedom and flexibility brings its own set of challenges

Some of these are financial, and particularly currency exchange, getting paid, and transferring money internationally between bank accounts.

For those reasons, we have come up with a list of potential nomad banking solutions alongside the best ways to send money abroad in this situation. 

Reviewing the challenges

Getting Paid!

Digital Nomads get paid by clients in different countries using various currencies. One day, we do web design for a Madrid start-up; the next, copywriting for a Singapore news site. Clients prefer their currency, which is costly to exchange, or yours, introducing bank fees and exchange rate markups. You may receive much less than expected.

Sending Payments

Sending money internationally between bank accounts as a digital nomad can be just as tricky as receiving it. When you need to pay for services or settle bills internationally, traditional banks often impose hefty fees and unfavorable exchange rates.

Depending on where you’re from and where you currently reside and the banking system in there and in your home country, you could end up paying as much as 5-10% on each transfer in fees. 

Spending Money from an Overseas Account

Every time a Digital Nomad uses their “local” bank card to pay for coffee, phone data or withdraw cash to pay rent, their bank will charge foreign transaction fees. Local cards with no FX charges will make the difference. 

Investing Locally

Opening a local bank account as a digital nomad can be challenging. Many countries require a long-term visa or proof of residency, which can be difficult to obtain for those who frequently move. It is often also tricky to use the bank/broker you used so far after moving to a new country.

Digital Nomad Banking Solutions

Expat Banking

Relying on a regular bank account can be expensive for payments, but some banks offer specialized ‘expat banking services’ for managing finances abroad. Benefits include multi-currency accounts, preferential international transfer rates, and extras like medical insurance and tax advice.

Some even offer international mortgages. However, expat accounts often have monthly/annual fees, and require a minimum balance, or a high salary, which may not suit lower-income nomads. Notable banks offering expat accounts include HSBC, Lloyds, Citibank, and BNP Paribas. HSBC even has an offshoot brand, HSBC Expat, headquartered in Jersey.

Credit Cards

Credit cards are popular with travelers and digital nomads, but can be as expensive for currency exchanges. 

Some cards, like the Chase Sapphire Preferred and Amex Gold, offer zero-fee overseas payments and rewards. The Barclays Miles & More World Elite Mastercard is great for frequent travelers, offering miles and no foreign transaction fees. 

For European nomads, the N26 You card offers free ATM withdrawals, travel insurance, and no foreign transaction fees. 

In Australia, the ANZ Travel Adventures Card provides free domestic flights, no foreign transaction fees, travel insurance, and reward points. These cards are best for daily spending due to currency exchange fees.

 Getting a Local Bank Account

Generally speaking, the banking systems of most countries will expect Digital Nomads to have a permanent address and a permanent visa/full work visa before they issue them with a bank account. As such, nomads who change country every few months are unlikely to want to bother with this.

However, this is a lot easier in some countries than others. For example, countries like Georgia and Malta are known to have ‘user-friendly’ banking systems that can onboard you before you have permanent residence in the country, whereas countries like Thailand make it much more difficult for foreigners to open bank accounts.

Indonesian Rupiah IDR banknotesCheap International Transfers

The money transfer specialist market is a buoyant one right now. International money transfer services can accept a local payment from your local bank account (or card) and transfer it in foreign exchange to a bank account abroad. They are cheaper than banks as they charge between 0.5% and 1% on average whereas the total cost with a bank is normally not less than 2% and in some cases as high as 7%.

There are hundreds of money transfer companies available, each with slightly different targeting and features. Companies like, Xe, Remitly, World Remit, TransferMate, Currencyfair, Tor FX and Send Payments.

Neobanks

Neobanks are digital, app-based banks with lower thresholds for opening accounts than traditional banks. They offer lower fees on transfers and better exchange rates. Monzo and N26 provide zero-fee overseas card payments and multi-currency accounts. Wise and Revolut, primarily money transfer services, can function as bank accounts, offering debit cards with competitive rates. 

Neobanks like N26 and Revolut also offer Mastercards. Monzo features budget management, Wise offers multi-currency accounts and low-cost transfers, and Bunq provides multi-currency accounts and zero-fee ATM withdrawals. Chime in the US offers no-fee accounts with budgeting tools, and Up Bank in Australia provides no international fees and real-time notifications.

Investments for Nomads

Digital Nomads may not qualify for full retirement pensions after extended periods abroad. Investing can mitigate this risk. Here are some key options and their client acceptance:

Robinhood: Available only to residents of the US and UK. 

Interactive Brokers (IBKR): Accepts clients from over 220 countries

DEGIRO: Primarily serves clients in Europe. 

eToro: Available in many countries, except Canada, Japan, and Hong Kong. Revolut: Offers stock trading in the European Economic Area (EEA), Australia, Switzerland, and the UK. 

Monzo: Provides full banking services mainly to UK residents. 

These brokers typically require proof of identity, address, and tax identification numbers to ensure compliance and prevent fraud. They are cheaper than banks, have friendly interfaces and good support, and are generally a good tool to use for investment, whether you are a digital nomad or not. 

oscar davis

 

Oscar Davis is a freelance writer from Leeds, UK.

Airline Miles and Points: Going to Cooler Places for Less

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back to Top
Skip to content