A Practical Guide to Teaching English Abroad

Frank and Friendly Advice written by a Retired Teacher-Trainer, Experienced EFL Teacher
& Former Peace Corps Volunteer Living & Working Abroad since 1989

What kind of bank accounts do I need when living overseas?

Should I get an international ATM card?

credit card comparison

Rule #1 - Keep it simple - don't go chasing after "offshore" accounts and other fancy banking schemes that will cost you a small fortune in fees - and that are only interested in you if you have several hundred thousand dollars, at a minimum.

Start Practical

Get a bank account with free "Bill Pay" service that is totally accessible via the Internet.  Even your local credit union can do this nowadays.  Find a bank or credit union that also offers other financial services such as life insurance, bill payments via "EFT", and/or investment accounts.  All easy to do in this interconnected world.

Set up your Accounts

Arrange these accounts BEFORE you leave your home country.  Some are quite difficult to set up from overseas.  Once they are set up - it is easy to attend to your financial affairs, even financial planning, from anywhere in the world.

International ATM Card

Make sure you get an international ATM card to go with your account.  It should belong to one of the international systems such as Cirrus or Maestro.  Traveller's Cheques are old hat these days - good international ATM cards work almost everywhere.  I've never had a problem with mine. 

ATM cards are far more useful than Traveler's Checks (the other spelling!) - as you can withdraw funds whenever you need them - wherever you are.  I haven't used a Traveler's Check since about 1989.  Haven't needed one - and they are far too much trouble.

Integrated Banking

With your bank account on line and a related ATM card, you will find your finances greatly simplified.  I wire money home to my account, withdraw it as needed via my ATM card, pay my bills with the Bill Pay service, and even move money in and out of my brokerage account, to and from my bank.  All on line, from the comfort of my living room.  All of this is even interconnected with my PayPal account as I don't like to use my credit cards on the Internet.


Many people fear identity theft or other security issues when managing their finances online.  Ideally, you should use your home computer.  Get one.  If you use an Internet Cafe, be sure you carefully close all windows and sign out of each account.  Open them again before you leave to make sure that you did.  They should open to the log-in page - not directly to your account.

You wouldn't believe how many people's accounts I have had access to when using public computers at airports.  They simply forgot to log off!  Pay attention - it's your money!


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