Q EXPERTS' BLOG
Best and Safest Offshore Bank Accounts and Countries?
“When the facts change, I change my mind. What do you do, sir?” Keynes’ comments are very relevant to the fast changing world of banking where we do business today. Investors more than ever have to keep on their toes, keep themselves informed, and not be complacent.
Which are the world’s safest or best offshore banks? Where is the best country to open a bank account? Which is the best offshore tax haven? Is it still a good idea to open a bank account in Switzerland?
These are the type of questions I get on a daily basis as an offshore wealth management editor and consultant. For example, in recent months I have seen a lot of the fallout of the UBS scandal in the United States. Swiss banking giant UBS has closed thousands of bank accounts based in their Swiss branches where American residents or citizens were involved as signatories – even accounts that had been open for decades. Many investors believe that Credit Suisse could be next on the hitlist and are beginning to think that ‘small is beautiful’ when it comes to private banking.
The answer, as I always have to explain, is that there is no ‘best offshore bank’ nor even ‘best offshore banking country.’ A whole range of individual circumstances come in to play. Investors have many different motivations when looking for a new bank. Often these days, the level of service, privacy, and asset protection are far more important than the tax implications of a secret offshore bank account.
For example, your citizenship is very important. If you are a US citizen your options are more limited, as many offshore banks no longer accept US citizens as clients. Canadians or Australians for example will have fewer problems in this regard. But the traditional wisdom is that for the best level of privacy, choose a bank that does not have offices or branches in your home country.
If you are a citizen of a European Union country (including the United Kingdom of course) then the European Union Savings Tax Directive comes into play, and you might prefer to hold your offshore bank account in one of the tax-haven type banking countries that is not a signatory to this treaty. That rules out Switzerland, Andorra and the Cayman Islands for example – and brings into play other prominent financial capitals a little further afield, like Panama or Singapore.
But there are also other nuances to look out for besides citizenship and residency. What kind of services are you looking for? Do you want one with the best online trading technology or the one with the highest level of personal service? Generally, those two are polar opposites. Traditional private banking is expensive. Whereas for online trading in the financial markets, maybe you don’t even need a bank account these days.
Most offshore banks offer debit and/or credit cards, and internet banking – two essentials for the modern expat bank account. But again from here, services vary widely. Will it be a Maestro ATM card or a an American Express Platinum? If you are mainly interested in cash withdrawals using an offshore card, then Maestro might be better. But other clients want the prestige and service level afforded to those Gold and Platinum level clients – not to mention perks like airline miles offered on HSBC’s Panama Platinum Mastercards (that can be very valuable if you are conducting serious business through your offshore company.)
Ultimately, then, there is no correct answer – the best offshore bank account for one person is completely different from the best account for somebody down the road. If you would like to read more about this, you will find 40 or so pages of easy to read advice in my Practical Offshore Banking Guide 2009. This report is available instantly for download in pdf format, and also includes contact details of ten offshore banks we can particularly recommend that are suitable for most of our readers.
The guide is FREE OF CHARGE if you are already a member of The Q Wealth Report. If you are not yet a member, you can sign up online right now for the price of a good lunch ($87 to be precise) and get instant access to this information, together with our no-quibble money back guarantee of satisfaction. Or, if you are not ready just yet but would like to stay in touch, sign up for our Q Bytes online newsletter and get a free five part course on offshore banking and asset protection.