Interested in closing a bank account but your bank won’t let you? Welcome to the club.
Choosing banks with painfully annoying closure policies is one of the biggest mistakes people make when opening accounts overseas.
Expats, digital nomads, business owners, and anyone living an international lifestyle has experienced it. And if you haven’t already, you will. So, get prepared.
Here’s how the conversation normally starts:
You: “I want to close my bank account”
Bank: “No. Can I help you with anything else today?”
If you persist and ask the bank for specifics, get ready to start jumping through hoops…lots of hoops.
The worst part? Painfully bureaucratic account closure policies aren’t just annoying, they’re also complicated, expensive, and time-consuming.
In this article, we’ll explain how to close an overseas bank account, how to close accounts from abroad, and what to watch out for.
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Having a bank account overseas makes sense – no matter what. Plus, having an emergency fund in a different banking system that is subject to different laws, puts you in a position of strength when crisis strikes. It also ensures that you’ll always have access to your money. It’s a tool you can use to protect your family’s finances from frivolous lawsuits, overreaching governments, account freezes, and financial predators at home.
Depending on the bank you chose, the type of bank account you have, and what the bank’s policy is for closing accounts – the closing process can either be easy or a painful and expensive battle.
The GlobalBanks team spends hundreds of hours each month analyzing banks, visiting branches, talking to bankers, and sifting through the intricacies of the international banking world. So we know that some banks are easier to deal with than others.
We know which banks are open to non-residents, what their account opening quirks are, their likes, dislikes, and what special client preferences they have.
But we also know which banks are painfully annoying to deal with. Who has predatory fees, horrible customer service, and the most annoying (and expensive) closure policies in the world.
Most people are shocked when their bank refuses to close their account.
But, it gets worse.
A bank is legally allowed to keep your account open and continue slapping you with fees if you can’t provide certain documents or can’t show up in person.
For this reason, knowing which banks have predatory account closure policies and are least friendly to foreigners, non-residents, or anyone living abroad (or not next door to a branch) is crucial.
If you’re living an international lifestyle or bank overseas, knowing which banks will let you close accounts from abroad or online is super important.
In fact, knowing precisely what it’ll take to close accounts before you open them can save you thousands of dollars in lost time and money.
It depends on the bank.
At some banks, closing an account costs absolutely nothing.
But at other banks, closing an account can cost anywhere from US $100 to $1,000 in fees. Or more, if you count the hours wasted talking to customer service, flying or driving to the branch, and the incredible paperwork gymnastics that you’ll likely have to perform.
It just depends on the bank you choose.
What Not to Do When Closing Bank Accounts
Warning: Do not tell the bank you want to close an account if you still have money in it.
Withdraw your money first, then close the account.
But, before you do anything, check the bank’s closure policy. Are there any requirements or conditions that could cause problems for you?
For example, do you have to show up in person to close the account? If you can’t travel to the bank in person, you have a problem. If you withdraw all your funds from the account, the bank will keep hitting you with fees every month until you show up.
“I made the mistake of trying to close my account while I still had money in it. I told the bank I wanted to close my account. The bank said “great, just give us your tax ID number first since we don’t have it on file.” The problem? I’m a foreigner so I didn’t have a local tax ID. And because I never gave the bank any tax ID number before, they couldn’t find me in their system. The result? The bank refused to close the account or give me my money back. They told me the only way to resolve it was to come to the branch in person…but I didn’t live in the country. “
So, he’s in a difficult position. He can’t close his account or get access to his money unless he buys a $700 flight, a $20 Uber, and a night in a hotel just to go to his bank’s branch.
On top of that, since he doesn’t have $2500 in the account (which is the minimum balance to avoid fees), he’s also paying $15 per month to keep the account open!
His account is effectively frozen and the bank will keep charging him monthly fees until he shows up in person!
How to Close a Bank Account From Abroad?
The process to close a bank account from overseas depends on the bank. Each bank has different policies for closing accounts. Some banks make the process for closing accounts complicated and expensive. At other banks, it’s quick and easy. You can do it online or by phone in seconds. It just depends on the bank you choose and how bad their account closure policy is.
Now you might be wondering why anyone would want to go through with closing a bank account. Well, there are countless reasons why you might want to close a bank account. Here are some commons reasons:
Plans change. So do your banking needs.
Maybe you opened an account in Singapore because you were getting paid in Singapore Dollars (SGD). But, then realized you were getting killed on currency exchange and transfer fees.
Maybe you opened a bank account in Europe because you lived there, needed low-cost SEPA transfers, and wanted a more cost-effective way to pay bills in EUR. But now, you don’t need that account anymore.
Whatever the case, needs change. Old accounts that previously served a purpose, may no longer be needed. And, instead of allocating capital to them or paying fees, you want to close them.
The problem? You can’t meet the minimum requirement at your old bank. Result? Your old bank starts charging you fees every month…until you close the account.
If you can’t meet a bank’s minimum balance requirements, you’re charged monthly maintenance fees. So, you want to close your bank account and move to a bank with lower minimum balance requirements.
By moving to a new bank, you can use your money and won’t constantly worry about whether you’re hitting the minimum balance or not.
For example, one bank might require a balance of US $50,000 to avoid a $50 monthly fee. Whereas another might only require a US $1,000 balance. By switching banks, you can free up US $49,000.
Let’s say you move to a new country. You need to pay bills, receive salary payments, use different currencies, and have a local debit card. In that case, you probably need a local bank in your new country than where you lived before.
And if you don’t have a specific need for the bank account in your old country, or if you don’t plan on moving back, you might choose to close it instead.
Let’s say, in 2019, you opened an account with TD Bank in the US. Why? Because you wanted a debit card with no foreign transaction fees. This gave you an option to make international purchases without penalty.
But, a year later, the bank scraps that fee structure. Now they charge 3% for every non-US transaction. Now, the TD Bank debit card is useless to you and there’s no reason to keep your TD Bank account. You need to switch to a bank that has the service you want (aka: a debit card with no foreign transaction fees).
Did you choose a certain bank because of a specific product, service, or capability it had?
For example, let’s say you need to send/receive transfers from Revolut or Transferwise. If your bank all of sudden won’t allow transfers to Revolut or Transferwise, that account is useless to you. Plus, if you can’t use Transferwise, you’ll get killed on transfer fees.
If physically traveling to the bank in person costs more than the account is worth, then you may want to close it.
This is a common problem for people who live abroad. It’s also why having backup accounts is important. If one account is frozen, you always have another option.
For example, let’s say a bank freezes your account or disables outgoing transfers. To unlock it, the bank requires you to travel to a branch in person and show your ID (this is common with many banks in the US).
But, that’s inconvenient and expensive for you. Especially if you live abroad or don’t live next to a physical branch, an international trip to unfreeze a bank account can easily cost over US $1,000+.
In short, choose the right banks. And, understand the account closure policy.
Don’t get stuck with banks that have an expensive and painful closing process.
A bank’s closure policy can cost you: High account closure fees, the cost of flying there in person, ongoing monthly fees, inactivity fees, time wasted dealing with customer service and closing paperwork, etc.
Before you open an account overseas, think ahead. Carefully examine each bank’s rules for closing accounts (and watch out for hidden fees!). Choose your bank wisely so you don’t get hit with fees. Or worse, have to jump through hoops when closing the account in the future.
If you’re worried about expensive account closing policies (or already having problems closing your account) and need help figuring out what to do next, you can get started by using the information in this article.
But if you need more help or want to find banks with cheap and easy closing options, which countries to target, the best account opening (and closing) strategies to use, and how to overcome tough paperwork obstacles, then we’d be happy to help you on your journey.
When you join GlobalBanks, you’ll also get instant access to our entire archive of Banking Intelligence Reports including proven strategies for opening accounts, contact information for specific banks and bankers, details on bank preferences and sensitivities, customer case studies, information on what not to do, which banks to avoid, and much more…
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