Why Foreign Bank Accounts Provide a Better Banking Alternative.
What is Offshore Banking
Offshore banking refers to the use of banking services in a foreign jurisdiction; where the individual resides outside the jurisdiction where the bank is located.
If you are a UK person with a bank in the U.S. for example, you are using offshore banking.
The term offshore is really just used to separate domestic and foreign banks.
Historically, offshore banking and financial services were predominately located in only a few jurisdictions, whereby the term became synonymous with the location itself, rather than the fact it it merely refers to a foreign bank.
Many banking and financial services performed by institutions located in offshore environments differ from local domestic services primarily because of the jurisdictions global banking laws which allows for a broader use of services with less regulations.
Offshore banks are regulated by laws defined specifically within each jurisdiction, and exist as per their regulations. Each banking entity operates under a Banking License governed by that specific state or governmental authority. To exist as a Banking institution it must also comply with international banking standards and regulations that must be meet regularly to continue dealing with correspondent banks.
An offshore bank operates in many ways like a traditional bank.
An individual or corporate body can open an offshore account with a a foreign bank outside of the country of their residency and have access to the same services such as deposits, payments, withdrawals and online transactions. The differences however, are that offshore accounts benefit from a number of advantages that come from being located in an international offshore jurisdiction.
Why Open an Offshore Bank Account?
Banking in a foreign jurisdiction isn’t as distant and exotic sounding as the name sounds.
By some estimates there are nearly 3 million people in the US who have foreign bank accounts. So its definitely catching on, but thats only 1% of the population, so it still hasn’t caught fire.
Many see the value in having a back-up-plan, a Plan B in case something goes wrong, to be prepared, but somehow using an alternative banking system is still not seen as a solution for tomorrows what if’s.
Global banking gives the ability to ensure your future. You become more autonomous in your ability to exist outside the confines of any one system; and
- should that economic system collapse (Venezuela)
- if your domestic assets get frozen (Cyprus)
- or if you get slapped with a lawsuit (1 in every 2 Americans)
you will have your offshore back-up-plan already in place.
Offshore banking isn’t what the headline say it is. Its not about tax evasion, secret stashes of cash, shady dealings, its, as its been said ‘going where you’re treated best’, going to a country that is economically sound, politically stable, with a banking system that is fully functional, where you are able to reap the benefits of establishing multiple financially secure asset structures in foreign banks.
Offshore banking doesn’t necessarily mean opening an offshore account in traditional tax-havens such Bahamas, Cayman Islands or Vanuatu, though there are still opportunities to be had there, it also extend to financial centers in modern ‘onshore’ environments such as Hong Kong, UAE, Liechtenstein, Singapore, and Georgia.
The simple fact is, there are many foreign jurisdictions that have banks that are safer, more fiscally sound and exist in a country that has a more durable economic outlook. Banking systems in the West are abysmal for a number of reasons.
If we take the US for example, it suffers from a profoundly sick banking system controlled by the federal government which has the highest debt in history, currently at roughly 20 trillion dollars. The Federal Reserve is insolvent and it supports a system that allows local banks to engage in dangerous banking practices leaving them like 2008’s financial crises, overexposed with much greater liabilities than is safe and little capital reserves too meet deposits.
Should the economy turn and people start to withdraw their money, all it takes is a fraction of depositors 3-5% and many banks will not have enough capital if their investments fail, to cover the demand for customers’ withdrawals creating a perfect storm (think 2008 crises).
After such a shock it might be a signal to start looking for a more solvent banking alternative.
Fragility of the Traditional Banking System
The financial crises of 2008 showed how fragile the traditional banking system really is. In the US alone there were over 500 banks that collapsed.
Many regular individuals lost their life savings, investments, retirements, and mortgagees. Over 10 million people in the US alone who lost their home.
Europe did not fair much better than the US during the global banking crises as Poland, Cyprus, Greece, Hungary, all had massive banking failures, with governments ending up taking large swaths of cash from their citizens!
Poland took half if its citizens retirements funds, Greece imposed severe capital controls and Hungary nearly ended private pensions.
If a bank has low-cash reserves and engage in risky investments, all it takes is a bump in the economy to send those investments tumbling, leaving the bank unable to cover deposits. This is part of what happened in the sub-prime real estate mortgages in the US.
Banks were unable to cover their losses because they had lent money to people who couldn’t afford it, and when individuals defaulted on their payments, the banks found themselves overextended leaving many people out of luck.
8 Reasons Why You Need An Offshore Bank Account
Having Offshore Bank Accounts is a perfect diversification strategy that gives you much needed access to foreign banking systems that are much more aligned with common sense practices. There is too much to lose by having all your funds stored in the banks that engages in dangerous financial practices as they are gambling with YOUR MONEY!
Offshore accounts offer a wealth of opportunities that offer an insurance against the negligence of an irresponsible system. Here are 8 reasons why you need an offshore bank account.
Higher Returns in International Investment Funds
Generate Higher Interest Rates in an Offshore Bank Account
Stable Banking Systems in Foreign Jurisdictions
Don’t put all your Eggs into one Basket, Diversify Your Wealth
Foreign Banks have Higher Liquidity
Hold Multiple Currencies in Your Account
Asset Protection from unscrupulous lawsuits
Greater Levels of Banking Secrecy
1. Offshore Investments and International Markets
Offshore accounts give you greater access to banking and financial services typically not available to domestic banks.
Many international and offshore funds generate much higher returns through Private Hedge Funds and investment portfolios not readily available to domestic corporate accounts holders.
Offshore funds open up investments in multiple jurisdictions, regional as well as developing markets.
Spreading investments in different countries and global currencies allow you to play global markets and capitalize on regional trends. When a domestic economy enters a financial recession having offshore funds spreads your risk.
Spreading your assets liberates you from being dependent on the financial continuity of one country and having access to different markets greatly enhances your future financial stability.
2. High Interest Rates
If you live in Germany or Japan for example, banks there have negative interest rates. Thats right, negative. That means not only do you not earn any interest on your savings, but you actually lose money. Both Japan and Germany hover around minus .01% - 1.0%.
That means if you have 100,000 Euro parked in a German Bank, you will have to pay the bank 1000 EUR for the pleasure of you giving them your money!
In foreign offshore accounts, one can expect a much higher interest rate than found your local checking accounts in the US or UK for instance. Instead of a lousy 0.2% or 0.3%, some offshore banks can get upwards of 3-4%, though this might not sufficient reason alone to bank within the jurisdiction, it does tell you that not all banking systems were created equal.
3. Sound Banking System
It is important to make sure your assets are stored in a sound banking jurisdiction. Putting your wealth in a secure, and more importantly, time-tested banking system is extremely important.
To prevent yourself from going down with the ship its important to have your assets spread across different banking institutions, so that if one defaults you have a plan B.
Many banks failed in Cyprus and Greece these last few years showing the already growing cracks in many institutions, as well as in banking systems in Argentina, Venezuela, Hungary, Italy, and Poland all were hit hard by the global financial uncertainty.
The US, despite its global economic superiority has a very unsound banking system. The US only comes in a 23, 35 and 50, in the safest banks in the world, and those banks were only small agricultural banks. The large commercial banks didn't even come close.
Foreign banks are much safer alternative, for one, they require higher capital reserves than many banks in the US and UK. While many banks in the UK and US require roughly only 5% reserves, many international banks have a much higher capital reserve ratio such as Belize and Cayman Islands which have on average 20% and 25% respectively.
4. Diversify Wealth and Invesments
Protect your wealth from domestic political or economic fluctuations by diversifying your assets across jurisdictions and accounts. This allows for a stable long-term savings portfolio that will not be affected by the downturn of just one economy.
Opening an account in a foreign jurisdiction helps to ensure your freedom by being independent from a central authority. Being dependent upon one country or system makes you dependent upon its success.
Diversifying your assets is an important step in ensuring financial security.
If you have all your assets in one basket, all it take is a push of a button and you could be frozen out of your accounts. It is essential that you and your assets remain diversified across different accounts and different jurisdictions to ensure you don’t end up in a similar position as thousands of Greeks whose savings were taken by the government to bail out the failing banks.
The quickest way to prevent this from happening is to set up an international bank account in a foreign jurisdiction account that is outside the reach of the government.
5. Access to Greater Liquidity
Offshore banks are much more liquid than traditional commercial domestic banks in your home country.
Some offshore banks for example do not led out any money and keep 100% of all deposits on hand.
Foreign accounts also allow you to access and move large amount of funds quicker. This matters if you are in a position where you need access to emergency funds are you need to transfer funds from one country to another.
6. Multiple Currencies
Domestic accounts usually hold all of your assets in a single currency. If your entire savings is in a single currency, especially if you live in a country where there are: capital controls (Greece), a fluctuating currency (Argentina) or economic uncertainties (insert your country here), having your assets in multiple currencies is something you can not do without.
Holding all your assets in one currency, is not advisable, especially if your accounts are in a currency that is volatile. While many domestic accounts limit your ability in holding other currency denominations, accounts in Hong Kong or Singapore for example allow you to have upwards of a dozen currencies to chose from all in just one account.
7. Asset Protection
It pays to have a well protected finances. And this is not to defraud the government or hide your wealth for tax evasion, it is for asset security.
Conspiracy theories aside, the fact that its possible of being frozen out of your banks accounts at the touch of a button because some court says your under investigation- is scary.
Without any access to your assets how can you defend yourself in court?
Money and assets that are kept offshore are much harder to seize because foreign governments do not have any jurisdiction and therefore can not force banks to do anything. Local courts and governments that control them only have limited influence.
This is not to say you are 100% immune from criminal prosecution, or that your can hide assets from foreign governments, but are much safer than if your assets were in their back pockets.
Offshore Bank accounts is just creating checks and balances on a system that has gone out of control.
Protecting your wealth from domestic political or economic fluctuations by diversifying your assets across jurisdictions and accounts is financial advice you would find anywhere.
Having a successful business or having wealth unfortunately makes you a target. If you are a doctor, lawyer, fund manager, or any type of professional the chances of being faced with some type of legal battle is high. Its not if - its when.
In the US, there are over 40 million new lawsuits filed every year, with 80% of the worlds lawyers living in the USA, that is not to surprising. If you are hit with a lawsuit you can be virtually cut off from all your assets before being brought to trial. It seem that one is guilty until proven innocent.
8. Banking Privacy
Anonymous offshore bank accounts are no longer around. Though there are still many layers of security and privacy that can be used to protect your name.
You still can retain much higher levels of privacy than in domestic banks, as many jurisdictions have secrecy laws that require non-disclosure, but not if there is a criminal investigation or if you are suspected of tax evasion. Because of the numerous Double Taxation Treaties (DTTs), FATF, and the CRS, details of customers are widely shared amongst countries, however that is only if they are in a reciprocal sharing of information. So be sure to check your countries agreements and if they are a signatory for the Common Reporting Scheme (CRS).
However, properly structuring a personal or corporate offshore account with an offshore LLC, Limited Company or Trust can provide a measure of confidentiality that can not be found in any personal domestic account.
Banks do have an interests in keeping confidential the names and details of their clients as in places like Panama where privacy is militantly maintained, however, Know Your Customer (KYC) rules, the CRS and the OECD has radically reshaped banking privacy.
Opening an offshore bank account held by an offshore company removes your name from being directly affiliated with the assets. Using nominee directors can also be used to create another layer of security that removes your name from the paperwork. Though this still does not make you completely anonymous it can provide layers of security and privacy that would otherwise not be possible.
Is it Illegal to Have an Offshore Bank Account?
Contrary to common perception opening an offshore account is perfectly legal. Not only is it legal but nearly 75% of all Fortune 500 companies have offshore companies and accounts in foreign offshore jurisdictions.
As long as you abide by the laws regulating the overseas bank as well as laws within your own country of residency there is no problem.
The problems only start to come when you are trying to hide assets. That is illegal.
Gone are the days of anonymous Swiss numbered bank accounts. While there still can be various levels of privacy, that depends on the laws in both the offshore jurisdiction and the laws in the country where you live.
While its often the illegality of the offshore industry which grabs headlines. Tax evasion, money laundering, international drug dealing headlines sell papers. “Middle income business person opens offshore bank account in Bahamas”, doesn’t quiet get heads turning.
Like all media headlines, illegality and criminal behavior are always over-reported, and so the reality of things is also skewed by whats reported. Whats there to report if there is no scandal?
It is estimated that nearly 25% of the worlds wealth is held in offshore accounts. Upwards of up to 20 trillion Pounds Sterling. While that is a staggering number, this number shouldn’t be too surprising, as the world is filled with countries with favorable tax codes and liberal banking systems.
Offshore Banks Are Easy to Use
Offshore banks exist like many other domestic or international banks and can be accessed globally with a touch of a few buttons on your mobile.
Offshore banking allows you access to many of the same services as domestic local banks such ATM withdrawals, online banking and transactions services, customer support as well as the use of credit and debit cards.
While regular personal domestic checking accounts limit its banking services there, an offshore account can also allow for investment opportunities not available in domestic accounts.
Why do most people bank locally? Well for one its easier and generally speaking most people do not know there is an alternative.
An offshore bank account is easier to establish than ever. With the easy access of information, one can literally open an offshore bank account online minimal documents from the comforts of your couch!
Though it may be easier finding information on how to open an offshore bank account, offshore banking is more difficult of an environment to navigate in.
Global banking laws are tighter and constantly changing with many new regulations, plus offshore banks are more hesitant to take clients who have certain shell companies or companies formed in non-compliant jurisdictions fearing being blacklisted by the OECD, tariffed by the US or bullied out of the global banking system by their correspondent banks.
Not that this vastly changes things for most people per se. What it does mean, is that individuals should seek professional guidance from an offshore tax professional, banking consultant and conduct thorough research to help get you started on the right track and make sure you have up-to-date information.
Differences in an Foreign Bank Account and a Domestic Bank Account
There really are not many differences. Despite all the misinformation out there on offshore accounts, they act like any other traditional domestic checking or savings account.
While we somehow in our minds eye see local banks to be safer and more secure because it is just down the road, that is often not the case. Just because we can walk down the street and withdraw money from our home branch does not mean that our account is safe and sound.
Bank accounts are all digitally recorded on global servers around the world. That goes for your small town bank and your big International Commercial Banks. Both types of banks are stored on the same types of global servers irrespective of where you reside.
When you go on vacation to a foreign country you can still access funds from your local bank account. It doesn’t matter what country your in or where your bank is physically located.
What to Look for When Opening an Offshore Account?
There are potentially many things one could look into when opening an offshore account. One of the important things to look out for is economic and political stability of the offshore jurisdiction that you choose to bank in.
Finding a secure and stable country is of utmost important, as the very reason you might be wanting to go offshore in the first place is to find financial security!
Be sure to check the amount of debt the bank is carrying and the amount of capital reserves it has, as well as the debt of the governing institutions and Central Banks as well as the primary backer - The Government. This should all give a pretty clear picture as to the nature of the system that governs banking policy.
To find the best offshore banking jurisdiction it might be helpful:
What are my motives for opening an offshore bank account in the first place?
What types of assets or currencies would I like to invest in?
Are there any tax laws or Doubt Taxation Agreements I need to be aware about?
What do I need to make myself tax compliant yet reduce my worldwide taxation?
This will allow you to begin to find a suitable jurisdiction that matches what you need.
For example, people with large amounts of wealth who do not mind paying a little more for their accounts, will see Switzerland to match with their expectations, as it is financially secure, private and has a strong banking history, however, with a more modest sum, Switzerland might prove to be a little too costly.
Somewhere like Singapore might prove to be an offshore banking alternative, with a strong banking system, a history of economic stability, a respectable name., and a host of financial services.
Whereas places like Cayman Islands, being one of the most popular and burgeoning offshore financial centers, provides individuals with tax incentives and investment funds that attract many offshore investors and corporate houses.
Best Countries to Open an Offshore Bank Account
Top 3 Destinations for International Bank Accounts
These have large international commercial and regional banks and history of offshore banking services in strong financial centers that offer most every banking and financial servers available.
If you are American it might be more difficult to bank in these jurisdictions. While they mostly all require an in person visit and generally have largely minimum deposits.
The popularity of these offshore financial centers has makes it a little more difficult to open a foreign individual account especially without a local IBC company. Changes in banking regulations and transparency laws together with the onerous due diligence processes has made them more wary in accepting every clients.
Hong Kong and Singapore you will likely need valid business plan and a solid reason why for you would like to open a bank account.
Offshore Protection's Top Banking Jurisdictions for Offshore Accounts
These accounts have become popular for our clients as they require only basic documentation requirements, without the need of a bank introduction, offer multiple currency options, have minimal balances and can be done entirely online:
We establish many accounts in these jurisdictions because they are reliable, don’t require in person visits, have a long history of offshore services, offer attractive financial services and have potential investment opportunities.
They are great alternative for those living working in the North American region, as are easily reached by flight, are in the same time zone and offer accounts that are widely accessible.
Top destinations if measured by total amount of capital deposits
Luxembourg and Liechtenstein are also some of the most popular places for offshore banking that have a strong history of banking legislation, robust and stable economy together with a sound banking system and secrecy laws.
Jurisdictions that not now have weaker banking secrecy
Many offshore jurisdictions now have eroded banking secrecy laws that we do not recommend as readily as we used too if someone is looking for more confidentiality.
Many British Dependent territories have seriously eroded their banking secrecy laws. Places such as:
- British Virgin Islands
- Turks and Caicos Islands
- Cayman Islands
- Isle of Man
- The Channel Islands
This does not mean that banking in these jurisdictions should be absolutely avoided, its just that there are not the same levels of confidentiality as they were in the past or in comparison to other jurisdictions. However, there are virtually no countries where we can claim are anonymous.
There are ways in making your details more private but if you are American its impossible for complete confidentiality, though most other countries as for now, can maintain high levels of secrecy in most jurisdictions, depending on each countries tax laws, which we always recommend you be aware of.
Consideration should therefore, be placed on how important banking secrecy is above other factors for your type of business. This may depend on your country of residence and what information sharing agreements it may have.
As of 2014, the U.S. FATCA (Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act) makes it very tough for any U.S. citizens or residents to obtain any type of banking secrecy if the account will have more than US$10,000 in it at any time. This is due to the U.S. reporting obligations thrust upon individuals and all foreign banks that wish to maintain their own U.S. based correspondent or branch banking arrangements.
Of course U.S. citizens and residents were always supposed to report their signatory authority on any offshore account with US$10,000 or more in it, through FBAR, so not much has really changed other than the fact that it is no longer option to hide the existence of the account.
Different Types of Offshore Accounts
There are many different types of offshore accounts. For clarity sake we will be talking only of offshore bank accounts and will be making a distinction between two different types of offshore accounts that generally operate differently and have different services.
Offshore Commercial Bank Accounts
Type 1: These are Ordinary current or savings account for standard commercial or personal usage. These accounts generally are used for business transactions have have inflow and outflow of assets. They can be started with minimum balances from a few hundred to a few thousand dollars
These are designed for those that need a secure location to place assets and an account to receive payments, transactions, commissions or investment dividend payments. Investment options are usually limited with little or no personalized banking services or investment portfolio management. However, some banks do offer in-house brokerage facilities as well as other investment options.
Offshore Private Bank Accounts
Type 2: Private client banking accounts that specialize in private investment banking and require a higher minimum opening. Generally accounts assets are transferred rarely, and do not have high volume of transactions, although a Private account can be paired with a commercial account. In most cases private bank accounts require starting balances of at least US$100,000 with upwards of 1 million USD.
They provide more personalized services and investment portfolio management. With a wider variety of investment options beyond just simple term deposits, and in many cases 'in house' investment products.
Offshore accounts, surprisingly have a stigma surrounding their use, which is generally why people have avoided them. Once we begin to understand the nature of the offshore banking industry and how it works, these prejudices will be washed away and we will realize that we are actually free to chose our banking jurisdiction from anywhere in the world.
How Much Does it Cost to Open an Offshore Bank Account?
Opening an offshore bank account is far more affordable than the fancy name implies. In fact, one can usually open an account with as little as several hundred Pounds with minimal documentation in as little as a few days.
Some foreign accounts have minimum balances of as low as 300 USD. Though one may ask, 'ok where's the catch, how do offshore banks make their money?'
Good question, with a very simple answer. They generally make their money on monthly or yearly account and transaction fees as having low-overheads allows them to give more benefits and higher returns. They also usually provide a wealth of other financial services, in-house investment options, wealth management and brokerage accounts, where they make a substantial share of their profits.
The fact is offshore accounts have always been readily available, even for individuals without a considerable nest egg. And today, with readily available information, it is easier than ever.
Offshore Bank Account Product Options
Offshore Commercial Bank Accounts
Type 1: Typically this comes with our Offshore Corporate Packages, whether it is a Company, Foundation, or IBC & Foundation Combination Packages, they usually can include a ‘Type 1’ offshore account and offshore debit card.
Our entry level accounts with these packages make for a suitable entry level option for clients from all over the world. They provide:
- Comprehensive internet banking service
- Debit cards
- Checking and savings accounts that pay higher than normal interest
- Variety of innovative investment offerings
- Account currency diversification
Many clients need an EU corporation because of the requirements of EU based merchant credit card processors or for marketing reasons. In this case we usually recommend Cyprus or the U.K. (LLP) as tax-free incorporation options along with an account in one of those EU jurisdictions or another.
Offshore Private Banking
Type 2: This is an ideal option for those that have a nest egg that they wish to preserve in the most safe, private and conservative way possible for the long term. It is not a good choice where funds need to be moved in and out on an ongoing basis.
Private Banking services are traditionally exemplified by Switzerland, but also Andorra, Liechtenstein, Austria as well as Singapore and Panama.
These types of banks usually require a personal visit although if the deposit is large enough they will come and visit you.
We also can arrange for accounts in other jurisdictions on a case-by-case basis. In many instances, this has to be done in conjunction with an incorporation executed in the same jurisdiction. Typical examples are a Seychelles corporation along with a Seychelles accounts or a Hong Kong corporation along with a Hong Kong account.
Requirements for Opening A Personal or Commercial Offshore Bank Account
Opening an offshore bank account is much simpler than its often made out to be. Despite all the negative associations around offshore accounts, an international offshore bank account has many similarities as your traditional onshore domestic bank.
- Copy of passport
- Proof of address (utility bill)
- Professional Reference
- Proof of Funds
Additional requirements that may be needed depending on the jurisdiction:
- Letter from your Bank
- Business Plan
There are a few more additional requirements needed if one opens a corporate bank account
Requirements for Opening an Offshore Corporate Bank Account
The requirements for opening an account typically vary from one bank to another, but some documents are common for all.
The common requirements for opening corporate accounts typically include the following:
- Original or certified copies of the corporate documents issued by the appropriate regulatory authority (Memorandum & Articles of Association/By-laws), Certificate of Incorporation.
- Certificate of Good Standing (if the corporation is older than one year).
- One bank reference letter for each signatory to the corporate account and covering at least a period of two years. References need to be on the letterhead of the referring bank and simply need to state the length of the relationship and something positive about it. Most banks will have their own approved formats.
- One professional (i.e. lawyer, accountant etc.) or business reference letter as above.
- Legible copy of passport with apostille for each authorized signatory, beneficial owner and director on the account.
- Proof of Address (utility bill, credit card statement, mortgage statement, local authority tax bill from within the last 60 days).
- Most banks require a short business plan or overview of the business.
Offshore Banking Introductions from Offshore-Protection.com
We specialize in providing offshore account solutions for our clients without needing a personal presence. For private banking and specialized banking services usually a physical presence is necessary.
We form relationships with financial institutions of all types that prefer to deal with introductions from a law firm rather than with persons who contact them directly.
All provide online access and almost all allow you to execute a wire online.