Overseas Banking Basics

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You’re moving overseas, and you can’t wait! Before you know it, you’ll be enjoying a coffee with some new friends and wondering what new area of downtown you can explore. You’ll pay for your java fix, not with dollars, but with euros, yen, pounds or some other strange and unusual currency.

You’ll probably pay for far more than your caffeine fix while living abroad, but it depends on the location and world economy. You may find yourself converting your dollars into host nation currency to pay your rent and utilities and fund your once in a lifetime travel and shopping excursions.

The thought brings to mind one important question.

How exactly do you manage your banking in a foreign country?

First-timers headed abroad and other inquiring minds deserve to know some basic overseas military banking facts before boarding the plane that carries you to the land of adventure.

Will there be banking options for me on the military installation overseas?

If you are PCSing to a military installation of any size, you will most likely have the option to bank in person. Depending on the size of the installation, you may even have more than one option. If you have an ID card, you are eligible to use their services.

What types of services are available overseas?

The services available at individual institutions may differ; however, you will find similar services to the banks you’ve used in the states. For example, many offer basic loan products, checking/savings accounts, certificates of deposit, ATM banking, interactive banking and currency exchanges. There often are foreign transaction fees associated with debit and credit transactions made overseas, but companies including USAA do not charge members for those fees.

How can I find out which ones are where I’m going to be stationed?

To find out specifically which financial institutions are available to you on a given installation, visit the DoD Installation Guide at and search for “financial institutions” under the location of your choice.

Which banks operate on the installations abroad?

Several highly reputable banks service our military members abroad. For example, you might recognize some of these big names:

Do I have to open an account overseas, or can I use my stateside account?

No, you are not required to open an account overseas on a military installation or within the host nation community. You may instead opt to keep your stateside bank as your primary institution, assuming it offers a full range of online banking options for you.

That said, there are some advantages to having a brick and mortar bank near you while you’re stationed abroad.

First, there may be bills that require payment in host nation currency. It may be your rent, your utilities or your meal at a local restaurant. If you have a checking or savings account at the installation’s bank or credit union, then paying those off-installation bills is an easy transaction. Wiring funds from a stateside account can be costly.

Think of your installation bank as being your “hometown” bank for a few years. You will want to have a friend there who can help you finance the things that happen in your life. Maybe you’ll want to buy that “import” BMW or Volvo.

Finally, if you work overseas on the installation, you will probably be required to have your pay directly deposited into an account somewhere. While you can have that account anywhere in the world, having one nearby can be helpful.

Can I open a bank account in the host nation community?

Yes, you can. Opening a bank account in a foreign country is just like opening one in the United States.

Depending upon where are stationed, having a host nation bank account can be advantageous.

For example, in Germany, you can use your US-based Mastercard/Visa debit card in many places to make everyday purchases. Some businesses, however, will not accept the cards. They will accept the European equivalent, however, called the EC Card. Having a host nation checking or savings account can give you an EC card easily.

Bear in mind that while English is often spoken at banking institutions, it’s not a guarantee.

Jeffrey M. Cathey, Senior Vice President, Military Affairs from the Bank of America, offers this valuable information about for those about to PCS overseas: “Community Bank operated by Bank of America is proud to support men and women serving in our armed forces in 78 military communities located in Europe and Asia.”

Here are some other things you should know about Community Bank:

  • The primary purpose is to provide and ensure stateside-like banking services that can be obtained while an individual or family is OCONUS.
  • Additionally, we offer specialized services that are required to conduct non-stateside financial transactions. Examples include U.S. dollar and foreign local currency ATMs and the ability to pay local bills.
  • We offer an online loan application system that significantly reduces the need for paperwork and provides customers with an instant loan decision.
  • We offer interactive, educational and valuable online banking services online.
  • We offer over 300 ATMs located in local communities that dispense dollars and local currencies.

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