How to open a multi currency account in the US: Your complete guide


 

Multi-currency, or foreign currency accounts can be a good way to manage your money if you get an income from abroad, shop with international retailers a lot, or love to travel. By holding money in different currencies you can often cut the costs of international banking, and limit the fees you pay to exchange from one currency to another.

If you want to open a multi-currency account as a US citizen or resident, you’ll find a limited range on offer from traditional banks. However, there are great online alternatives out there including the TransferWise multi-currency account which can actually make it easier to manage your money across currencies - and cut the fees you pay. This guide covers all you need to know.

How to open a foreign currency bank account

Unfortunately foreign currency or multi-currency bank accounts are not commonly provided to retail customers by major US banks. 

You’ll usually be able to find business and corporate accounts which allow you to manage multiple currencies - and you can turn to specific expat and international services if you don’t mind paying high fees, or investing a large deposit. But as a regular retail customer looking for a simple way to hold and spend in foreign currencies, your options are somewhat more limited. Here’s an overview.

Euro account in the US

While some US traditional banks do offer euro services, these typically come with quite restrictive eligibility criteria. You’ll usually have to pay high monthly fees, or have a significant amount deposited and invested with the same bank to qualify. Alternatively you can take a look at alternative providers and newer online services, which usually have lower fees.

Canadian dollar in the US

If you’re looking to open a CAD account because you plan to move to Canada, there are some specialist banking products available for you, designed to ease the transition to your new location. These accounts have limitations and eligibility criteria, though, so take some time to research the options which may suit you.

If you’re not planning on moving to Canada in future, your options are likely to be restricted to a specific international service from a major bank - which comes with higher fees and deposit requirements - or online alternatives, which can present much better value.

Documents to open a foreign currency account

Each bank will have its own requirements for opening a foreign currency account. To get started you’ll need to prove your identity and residential address. This can usually be done by providing a government issued photo ID and a utility bill, tax letter or similar official correspondence in your name to confirm your address.

It’s important to note that many of the multi-currency accounts available in the US have eligibility criteria, and your chosen bank will need to see documents proving you meet these benchmarks. For example, you may need to prove your salary or savings - or make a significant deposit - before you’ll be able to open an account. More on the common eligibility requirements for foreign currency accounts, below.

Multi-currency account fees in the US

Unfortunately, most of the major US banks do not offer multi-currency or foreign currency account options to retail customers. Products which let you easily manage currencies tend to be limited to high net worth individuals, or business clients. You may be better off looking for a modern alternative like the TransferWise multi-currency account which can be opened online and for free. 

Let’s take a look at the account options and costs for some major providers in the US.

TransferWise multi currency account 

You can open a TransferWise multi-currency account online for free, to hold, send and spend dozens of different currencies. Accounts come with a linked Mastercard, and you’ll also get local bank details for a range of countries including the US, UK, euro area, Australia and New Zealand. That means you can receive fee free payments from these countries just like you were a local there. 

There is no minimum balance or monthly service fee, and all currency conversion is done using the mid-market exchange rate with no markup.

Citibank multi currency account

Citibank only offers multi-currency accounts through its Global Advantage, Citigold International product. This isn’t a regular savings or checking account - you’ll need to hold a relationship balance of USD200,000 or pay a monthly fee of USD150 to get access. 

Once you have an account you can hold and spend US dollars, British pounds and euros, using your linked card. You’ll also get a range of perks like access to business lounges in airports. Other fees do apply, so read the terms and conditions carefully.

HSBC multi currency account

Although HSBC US doesn’t offer multi-currency accounts, you can use the HSBC expat service to open a current account which allows you to use US dollars, euros and British pounds. In addition you can choose to access savings accounts in 16 further currencies. 

These accounts are aimed at high net worth individuals, and as such you’ll need to either hold a balance of the equivalent of GBP50,000, have a salary of GBP100,000 or more, or already be an HSBC Premier account

Bank of America foreign currency account

It’s not possible to open a Bank of America foreign currency or multi-currency account. Accounts can only be held in US dollars, although you can buy foreign currency through Bank of America when you travel.

Wells Fargo foreign currency account

Wells Fargo foreign currency accounts are only available to business customers. As a regular retail customer there are no multi-currency options. If you run an eligible business, however, you can open a foreign currency account with Wells Fargo to manage your money in British Pounds, euros or Canadian dollars.

So there you have it. Foreign currency accounts which suit regular travelers and retail customers are few and far between if you limit your search to traditional US banks - but cast your net a little wider and you’ll find some great online alternatives. Check out the TransferWise multi-currency account as a specialist alternative designed for customers like you, who want to hold, send and spend in a range of currencies without the high fees and restrictive deposit requirements.

Disclaimer: This publication is provided for general information purposes only and is not intended to cover every aspect of the topics with which it deals. It is not intended to amount to advice on which you should rely. You must obtain professional or specialist advice before taking, or refraining from, any action on the basis of the content in this publication. The information in this publication does not constitute legal, tax or other professional advice. Prior results do not guarantee a similar outcome. We make no representations, warranties or guarantees, whether express or implied, that the content in the publication is accurate, complete or up to date.

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