Guide: How to Open a Bank Account in the Bahamas

Forty-five minutes from Miami sits the Bahamas. 700 little islands, on the same timezone as New York.

It’s dotted with bankers from old aristocratic families with wildly interesting backgrounds. People here understand the offshore world and they’ve seen everything. 

Need a trust? Want to buy a bank? Need to invest your nestegg? Or figure out the best way to pass on that $13.5 million to your kids? The professional crowd here is filled with wealth planning experts, structuring geniuses, and tax optimisation whiz kids that will help you. For a price.

You come to the Bahamas for banking, wealth management, trusts, and corporate structuring.

You stay for the beaches and zero taxes (note: anyone can become a tax resident by investing US $500,000 at Bahamian real estate).

Bahamian history, and the long list of famous residents, is the stuff movies are made of. 

The last 60 years read like an action thriller. Or a John Grisham novel with a bit of Jason Bourne and the Godfather mixed in.

In the 1960s, Al Capone’s money guy, Meyer Lanksy, popped in, befriended corrupt politicians and turned the British Colony into a mafia cleaning machine. It was the golden age of Caribbean-infused American organized crime.

Then, the Swiss banks started rolling in around the 1970s. UBS was first. By 2018, there were 30.

By the 1980s, the Bahamas morphed into a quasi-libertarian male fantasy novel. Sex, drugs, planes, free-market banking, and no rules. It became a bank secrecy hub and tax haven for money from North and South America.

But then, something happened…

The Bahamas cleaned up the banking system, adopted strict banking rules, and started getting serious about compliance.

And now, the Bahamas is less known for banking and wealth management and more commonly referred to as “that place” where the Kardashians swam with pigs.

But they aren’t the only famous visitors. In fact, David Copperfield owns islands and puts on magical treasure hunts for billionaires. 

In other words, now the Bahamas is (relatively) squeaky clean. 

Compared to other offshore financial centers that suffered massive reputational damage over the past decade (e.g. Cyprus, Belize, Panama, etc), the Bahamas didn’t. It came out relatively unscathed and neutral.

If you’d like to get a head start on account opening in the Bahamas as a non-resident download our FREE Non-Resident Banking Starter Guide right now!

Why Open a Bank Account in the Bahamas?

In a post-Panama Papers world with increasing compliance and stricter rules, banks in small countries are constantly under pressure and at risk of losing correspondent bank relationships.

In this environment, some people may wonder: “What’s the benefit of banking in the Caribbean or the Bahamas anymore?

The short answer? Backup accounts and diversification.

Account freezes and sudden account termination are becoming increasingly common and unpredictable. And they are happening at banks and fintechs everywhere. It’s not just in small countries, tax havens, and offshore financial centers anymore.

If you rely on only one bank account or have all your bank accounts in one country, you’re at risk.

If your accounts are suddenly frozen, you’re left in financial ruin. Your business stops. You can’t receive customer payments or pay staff. You’re stuck.

In this type of environment, you want the safest, sturdiest bank accounts possible. And, it makes sense to have backup accounts and keep at least some cash outside of your home country. Especially if you have a business. 

But there are other reasons why people might want to bank in the Bahamas. Here are just a few of the reasons that might bring you to open a Nassau bank account. 

Here are some reasons why people choose to open a bank account in the Bahamas

  • Banks in the Bahamas may be better & safer than your home country
  • Staff at Bahamanian banks tend to be more reliable and competent as well
  • It’s a friendly jurisdiction for non-resident individual accounts (at a price)
  • Remote account opening options exist for people from certain backgrounds
  • Foreign & offshore companies can find account opening options here
  • If you want wealth management or trust services, Bahamas can probably help

What Are the Benefits of Banking in the Bahamas?

open a bank account in the Bahamas benefits

Now that we know why some people open accounts in the Bahamas, let’s talk about the benefits. Because there are some serious benefits to opening a bank account here. We’ve outlined some of them below.

Well Capitalized Banking Sector

The banking sector is well-capitalized. And the Bahamas has the fourth-largest offshore financial sector in the world, behind Singapore, Hong Kong, and the Cayman Islands. 

Sure, there are some risks with that. The financial sector is 21 times the country’s GDP, which can be a good or a bad thing depending on how you look at it.

Still, some banks are riskier than others. You need to do your homework before opening an account. That means taking a look at the bank’s balance sheet, assessing whether their financials are stable, and to what extent they risk depositor funds.

Understand International Businesses

Being a small island nation, banks here have a long history of dealing with international businesses and offshore finance. They know how to spot bull and they can competently vet foreign entities, unlike many banks around the world. 

In fact, one of the only things that scare banks in the Bahamas tends to be Americans.

Non-Residents & Foreign Companies Can Open a Bank Account in the Bahamas

The major benefit that the Bahamas offers is that certain banks here accept non-residents and foreign companies. And you don’t always need a fortune to access them, you just need to know which ones to approach–learn how we can help here

You Can Open a Bank Account in the Bahamas Remotely

Another major benefit is that many accounts in the Bahamas are opened remotely, meaning you don’t have to physically show up at the bank in person–again, you just need to know which banks will accept remote applications.

It’s hard to find well-capitalized banks with decent online banking that allows remotely opening these days. Especially for foreigners and foreign companies, but certain banks in the Bahamas fit the criteria.

Remember: Additional documentation is required for remote opening. It can get overwhelming and expensive if you don’t know what you’re doing. If everything isn’t filled out perfectly or you’re missing key information, you risk being rejected. And if you’ve paid to acquire, authenticate, and courier documents to the bank, that can mean hundreds in lost expenses).

Compliance & Keeping International Authorities Happy 

Being a large offshore financial center, the Bahamas has a lot to lose if they don’t follow the rules. If they don’t adapt to increasing regulations and compliance standards, they risk being frozen out of the global financial system and losing their correspondent bank relationships. This would devastate the local economy. 

Banks here realize that tides are changing, secrecy is dead, and transparency is the only option. So they seem to be complying and doing everything that international authorities are telling them to do.

Who Should Open a Bank Account in the Bahamas?

The Bahamas is like “Switzerland-lite.” There’s a huge focus on private banking, wealth management, trust services, and legacy planning. And, there are still lots of Swiss banks here.

In fact, some of the largest banks in the world have branches here, so it wouldn’t surprise us if the Bahamas are already on your radar.

But non-residents and entrepreneurs, take note: transactional banking is possible in the Bahamas too. If, of course, you know which banks will accept you and who to talk to.

Plus, it’s an interesting option for non-residents, offshore companies, and entrepreneurs with international businesses. 

Foreign & Offshore Companies

There are few places left in the world that are willing to open accounts remotely for foreign companies, offshore companies, and non-residents without any local ties or economic substance–and some of the banks that we highlight in the GlobalBanks Database are willing to do just that.

Remote Account Opening

The Bahamas is also a good choice if you desperately need remote account opening, cannot travel elsewhere, have a decent amount of money to deposit, and can handle the fees. If you’re a GlobalBanks Insider and you’re interested in opening accounts in the Bahamas, check out the Database or contact our team to learn more.

Backup Account Opening

For entrepreneurs and foreign companies, the Bahamas can be a good place to have a backup bank account. If your primary business bank account elsewhere is frozen, your business doesn’t have to shut down and stop making payments. You can just use your bank account in the Bahamas as a backup solution until things clear.

Primary Account Opening

The Bahamas is also a useful option if you’re struggling to open accounts elsewhere. Obviously, if you can open accounts at better banks, in better jurisdictions, with lower fees, and less correspondent banking risk, do it. 

But if you can’t, the Bahamas could be worth looking at. And we share all the details about how to access these accounts with our GlobalBanks Insiders.

Challenges With Account Opening in the Bahamas

Opening a bank account in the Bahamas can be overwhelming and expensive if you don’t know which banks to target and don’t know what you’re doing. 

Too Many Choices

There are a lot of banks here, and they all have different requirements. Some banks in the Bahamas accept non-residents and foreign companies. Some don’t. Others may only accept local residents. 

Alternatively, certain banks may require you to invest a certain amount of money or buy a trust or corporate entity from them in order to become a client. 

Before you can apply, you need to figure out which banks will actually accept you and have the services you want. And while that might not sound so bad, it can be a massive headache and a lot of research. 

Information can be hard to find, the banks don’t always respond to people who aren’t customers, and the process can be very tedious and time-consuming.

Early Rejection

In fact, many people can’t believe it when a bank rejects them before they even submit an application. Or worse, sometimes they don’t even know they were rejected (e.g. “we’re not taking on clients at this time”).

If you say or email the wrong thing in your initial contact with the bank, you can also get rejected. Once you say the wrong thing, there’s no going back. You’ve already flagged yourself as an undesirable client.

Moving Targets

Some banks will have very high deposit requirements. Others accept lower amounts. Some will say they require high amounts when they really don’t. 

Or worse, you never find out what they are and end up depositing significantly more cash than you should have.

So, what should you do? Well, you need to know what the real requirements are. And figuring that out can be a very confusing process. 

Unspoken Requirements

Before applying, you need to know if the bank has any hidden requirements. You also need to know about any restrictions. And it’s critical to know if the bank has any preferences that are not public. This is common, especially when dealing with smaller banks that have specific preferences. 

But the only way to find out what a bank’s true requirements is to talk to bankers, bank employees, customers, and applicants who went through the bank’s application process themselves.

High Fees

Some banks in the Bahamas will have painfully high fees. If you’re not careful or don’t know what to ask for beforehand, fees can add up and make your banking experience way more expensive than it has to be. That’s why we analyze fee structures and keep tabs on more than 20 different types of bank fees that can severely impact the cost of maintaining an account.

Paperwork Requirements

Some banks will have more challenging paperwork requirements than others. If you choose the wrong bank or don’t know what alternatives are possible, things can get very expensive and time-consuming. Just acquiring, authenticating, and mailing certain types of documents can cost over $1,000. 

That’s why we discuss account opening topics like this in GlobalBanks Insider. If you have just a little guidance, you can save hundreds of dollars, breeze through the application process, avoid pitfalls, and access much better banks than you otherwise could on your own.

Are You Ready to Open a Bank Account in the Bahamas?

If you want to open a bank account in the Bahamas and need help figuring out what to do next, you can get started by using the information we’ve shared in this article.

But if you want to know which banks will accept you, the best account opening strategies to use, how to avoid high fees, and how to overcome tough paperwork requirements, then we’d be happy to help you with account opening.

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 each bank’s preferences and sensitivities, customer case studies, and information on what not to do and which banks to avoid.

You will also get access to the GlobalBanks Database which includes easy-to-digest bank profiles, analyst insights, account opening contacts, and unique opportunities for over 250 banks in 50+ countries. 

Plus, you’ll get real-time analyst support through chat and email, and get answers to your most pressing banking questions.

GlobalBanks Insider is the most comprehensive international banking resource you’ll find anywhere. Click through below to learn more…

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