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Living Outside the U.S.? Don’t Take Banking for Granted

by Jac La Tour

man at bank counter smiling

September 1, 2017

Planning. Packing. Passports. The to-do list for missionaries preparing to live abroad is long. Many items on the list are routine. But these days, banking isn’t one of them. Several laws passed in recent years have made some banks in the U.S. and abroad skittish about serving American citizens living outside the States. Some people have had difficulty opening accounts; others’ accounts have been closed.

The reasons for this unexpected challenge to living abroad make sense. Sort of.

A few years after the 9/11 terror attacks, Congress passed the USA PATRIOT Act. And while American Citizens Abroad reports that there “is NO provision in the USA PATRIOT Act which prohibits banks from accepting clients who do not live in the US,” an increasing number of banks have closed Americans’ existing accounts or refused to open new ones. The news website Dispatches explains why in a June 11, 2016 article titled “Expat Essentials: Dispatches’ foolproof solutions for overseas banking hassles”:

The…Patriot Act, which gave new guidelines to financial institutions regarding tracking terrorist financing, raised red flags for clients with foreign addresses, with suddenly abandoned U.S. addresses or U.S. addresses that were no more than P.O. boxes.

Then in 2010 Congress passed the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act to prevent U.S. taxpayers from hiding money in European banks, primarily in Switzerland and Luxembourg. Now, the Dispatches article reports, “all these foreign financial firms have to report balances above a certain amount to the IRS. Penalties for not doing so are severe, and so the banks are deciding it’s all not worth the hassle, the risk and the paperwork.”

One news source says an unintended consequence of legislation to combat terrorism and fraud is that law-abiding people living outside the U.S., like missionaries, are finding it more difficult to get the banking services they need. Dispatches number one suggestion to counter this consequence is simple: Find a bank that proactively caters to your needs.

ECCU is a great option. ECCU knows and understands the needs of its missionary members and balances that with the regulatory requirements for a financial institution. This includes knowing and verifying our members and understanding the purpose and use of their accounts, whether they are a new or existing member. Because the credit union makes serving missionary members a priority, it offers the banking services they need at rates they can afford. For example, because so many services are free—like international1 and domestic ATM withdrawals2, bill pay, mobile check deposits and incoming international wire transfers3—missionaries can save an average of $600 a year in fees by banking with ECCU.

There’s also the convenience factor. ECCU’s check card employs EMV chip card technology, which is required in many other countries. Membership gives missionaries free access to over a million ATMs worldwide. And, since ECCU staff have been serving missionary members for decades, they’re skilled at meeting their unique banking needs.

All this means that if ECCU turns out to be the right bank for you, that’s one more thing you can check off your to-do list. You can learn more about the credit union’s missionary banking services.

1 ECCU does not charge for international ATM withdrawals for missionary members with Interest Checking. Visa® imposes a 1% international transaction fee, and some merchants may charge withdrawal fees.
2 In the CO-OP network
3 For missionary members with Interest Checking

Category: Missionary Minded