Opening an offshore bank account for seafarers shouldn’t be difficult. But due to increasingly strict bank onboarding policies, it’s becoming more challenging.
In many cases, when bankers hear you’re working as a crew member, they’ll ask you to go elsewhere.
Seafarers, mariners, merchant navy professionals, yacht crew, and even shipowners struggle to open bank accounts because of the international nature of their work, constantly moving from place to place.
But, not to worry…
In this article, we’ll help you navigate your options and find the best place for offshore banking for your unique circumstances.
Feel free to use the table of contents to jump ahead.
Table of Contents
- Best Bank Accounts for Seafarers
- Which Bank is Good for Seafarers?
- How Much Money Do You Need to Open an Offshore Account?
- Open a Seafarer Bank Account Today
Best Bank Accounts for Seafarers
Finding the best seafarer bank account is like finding any bank account, with a few extra special occupational considerations.
In short, you need to find a bank that not only understands your occupation but can also help you meet your specific goals.
With this in mind, let’s take a look at both the basic requirements of a seafarer account and some of the overlooked requirements seafarers should consider.
Basic Requirements for a Seafarer Bank Account
- Easy to open and accepting of seafarers (most important)
- Low (or no) minimum balance requirements & income requirements
- Low (or no) monthly maintenance fees
- Multi-currency account in preferred currencies
- Multi-currency payment card (debit or credit)
- Preferential exchange rate on preferred currencies
- Reasonable interest rate on your deposits
- Easy to navigate mobile banking
- Low transaction fees for international wires
- Limited secondary authentication (e.g. mobile codes)
- Support in your desired language
These are the basics that most people living international lives typically look for when opening an account. In fact, the only major differences (for seafarers) include the acceptance of seafarers, the need for remote opening, and a greater emphasis on the mobile banking interface and secondary authentication.
After all, if you’re sitting in the middle of an ocean with limited cell reception and spotty internet access. So banks that constantly send secondary authentication codes via cell phones or have outdated mobile banking options aren’t attractive.
But as mentioned, there are other requirements that seafarers tend to overlook – especially if they have specific financial goals in mind.
Overlooked Requirements for a Seafarer Bank Account
- Tax-efficient investment products
- Life insurance offering for seafarers
- Financial planning services
- Support in multiple jurisdictions
- No limit on deposits held (some EMIs have limits)
- Move funds without restrictions
- Accept documents verified by an employer
- Aligned with your long-term goals
Some of these “overlooked” requirements are often considered more important for older seafarers. But in reality, they’re important considerations for anyone that would like greater financial stability later in life.
With this in mind, let’s take a closer look at finding a bank that is good for seafarers.
Which Bank is Good for Seafarers?
There are many different seafarer accounts available. In fact, for most people, there are between 5 to 10 different accounts to choose from.
But, thanks to the fees that certain banks offer to “introducers,” there’s a lot of bad information out there. And, it’s often difficult to find objective, unbiased details about which banks are actually worth considering for seafarers.
Generally speaking, there are 5-7 types of accounts:
- Banks with special seafarer accounts
- International banks that cater to non-residents and accept seafarers
- Domestic banks that allow tourists to easily open accounts
- Banks from your home country that offer special to non-residents & expats
- Fintechs, such as EMIs & PSPs (typically in the UK, Lithuania, Malta, & Cyprus)
- Digital banks (Revolut, N26, etc.)
- Brokerages that have banking licenses & open for non-residents
Let’s take a quick look at the most frequently referenced seafarer account, the Standard Bank Seafarer Account.
Should Crew Open a Standard Bank Seafarer Account?
The Standard Bank Seafarer Account is one of at least 10 seafarer accounts that most people can open. In terms of deposit requirements, basic services, and acceptance of crew members, they are a good option to consider.
But, they are not the only option on the market. And depending on your specific client profile and goals, they may not be the best option for you.
Should You Consider Other Seafarer Accounts?
We’re big proponents of having backup accounts. This is especially important for individuals leading international lives, with interests in multiple jurisdictions or regions.
Having a backup account also makes good financial sense, especially if you’re living abroad or traveling a lot. If one account gets frozen or closed, you always have another option.
With this in mind, we typically suggest that seafarers consider opening at least 2-3 accounts, which are:
- Bank account with low deposit requirements and low fees for day-to-day banking & transactions
- An account with a cross-border money transfer service for low-cost international transfers in multiple currencies (typically cheaper than banks)
- An investment account for long-term planning and investing
The Standard Bank Seafarer Account could be worth considering for the first account. It has a reasonably low deposit, and low fees, and can give you a payment card that works in most countries. But make sure to confirm the transfer fees for the currencies and amounts you’ll be sending.
Having an account with a money transfer service is also helpful. These are often used in combination with a bank account to send international transfers at lower rates than traditional banks. Wise is one example.
For investment accounts, there are various options. Additionally, there are many low-cost brokerage options out there. Interactive Brokers is one example.
How Much Money Do You Need to Open an Offshore Account?
One of the most common questions we receive from crew is about the required deposit for seafarer accounts. In most cases, accounts can be opened for a few thousand dollars (or local currency equivalent).
That said, in certain instances, some seafarer accounts can be opened with no initial deposit. Though these accounts usually have very limited services and don’t meet many of the basic requirements listed above.
Alternatively, if you are looking to open an account to meet your long-term goals, access investments, or receive additional benefits like those listed above in the “Overlooked Requirements” section, then expect to deposit more. In most cases, banks offering these additional services will look for an initial deposit between 50,000 and 100,000 (typically denominated in GBP, EUR, or USD).
Open a Seafarer Bank Account Today
If you’re looking to open a seafarer bank account, there are many options to consider. But, it’s important to find a bank that both accepts your occupation and meets your long-term goals.
If you need help sorting out your options and finding the right banking solutions for your particular situation, don’t hesitate to contact us and we’d be happy to help you get started.