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Foreign Currency Accounts at U.S. Banks - A Reader's Question

By November 7, 2007

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A reader asks the following question:
Thanks for the information that you educate others with on about.com. I was writing to ask if you knew of any US banks that allow customers to hold their savings in currencies other than the US dollar? I've done some research on the Internet, and it seems that these types of accounts exist more in the UK. I was wondering if any allow for holdings in the Chinese yuan or Indian rupee? The reason I'm asking, currency trading accounts seem risky and I don't like their margin requirements, a savings account or holding a CD in a foreign currency seems like a safer alternative.
I don't know the answer, so I thought I'd throw it out to site visitors - does anyone know of a U.S. bank that allows you to have rupee denominated accounts? In Canada having U.S. Dollar accounts is pretty common (I have one personally and so does one of the businesses I own). But I'm not sure about the U.S. banking system and for currencies more exotic than the Canadian dollar.

At the very least it should be possible to buy bonds denominated in Indian rupees. Does anyone have any recommendations on the best place to go to do this?

Comments

November 13, 2007 at 12:20 am
(1) Robert says:

i’m also very interested in this. i have searched a couple of hours and haven’t found what i’m looking for.

November 22, 2007 at 5:57 am
(2) Alex says:

Check Franklin Templeton Hard Currency (ICPHX). This fund invests mainly in high-quality, short-term money market instruments and forward currency contracts denominated in foreign hard currencies. Basically, you will be protected against depreciation of the U.S. dollar. Though, these load funds are not cheap to enter (2.5%) but in a long run you achive your goal..

November 23, 2007 at 3:16 pm
(3) Chintan Shah says:

I have done a lot of research on this, and so far, I have been able to find just one bank – Everbank – that allows you to hold savings account in foreign currencies. The interest they pay is not very competitive and you must be willing to invest at least USD10,000 or equivalent. Everbank has deposits in Indian Rupees, but the interest they pay hovers around 4.5%

For Indian citizens living in the US or people of Indian origin, another option is an NRI banking account. Many banks, including international ones like Citibank, HSBC and large Indian ones like ICICI bank and UTI bank have NRI services that can be found easily on Google.

November 30, 2007 at 10:00 am
(4) Bill Turner says:

I read a response in the Sunday paper just two weeks ago to this very question that stated it is illegal for US Banks to offer such accounts.

While I have not checked into this, isn’t it possible to find on-line banks in the country of your choice? Or possible one located on one of the Channel islands (Jersey, Guernsey being most probable) or Isle of Mann has such accounts. When I lived in Europe, a lot of ex-pats put there money in banks in one of these locations.

January 2, 2008 at 1:08 pm
(5) H. Shamir says:

I have just returned from a 4 hour trek among five banks having local branches in my town, including Bank of America, not a minibank by any means. Not a single one offered foreign currency accounts for individuals, period. One, Citizen’s Bk, offers such an account solely to businesses, and charges a hefty monthly charge for the service – never mind any interest. So I suspect there’s nothing illegal about such an account – just plain unheard of, to the point that each and every clerk at each bank did not even understand the concept (I had to repeat and patiently explain, repeatedly, to each!). Since foreign currency accounts are run-of-the-mill routine in all countries but the most restrictive – what does that say about the US banking system??

January 20, 2008 at 6:28 pm
(6) Robert says:

I have been having the same problems in Cleveland, Ohio. I have been told that in order to obtain an overseas branch account in the UK (ie with HSBC) that I would need a letter of referal from HSBC sent to the overseas branch for opening an account. I have also found the terminology is key. What I think we are looking for is a multi-currency account. Many banks I have talk seem deliberate in there distraction from what I am searching for.

January 22, 2008 at 11:27 am
(7) Sevn says:

I have also been researching this for some time and the only solution I have found is opening an account in London, which still has a few drawbacks. I learned that HSBC only offers offshore banking for personal accounts and not business accounts, unless you are registered in the Channel Islands. I think that this must be for tax reasons.

January 30, 2008 at 10:17 pm
(8) Bobb Dobbs says:

Info above on EVERBANK.COM is incomplete. They do, legally, offer foreign currency deposit accounts, FDIC insured, I believe. Their minimum to open is about $2500. Higher for CDs. Interest rates paid are low or even none depending on currency and account total balance. I believe most people are more focused on inflation hedging than in collecting interest.
They offer several currencies. See for yourself…

April 22, 2008 at 4:32 pm
(9) BILLY says:

I looked at internet, found citibank (japan) offer foreign currency saving account, i called citibank us, was told they do not have such accounts.

April 23, 2008 at 8:40 am
(10) Nick says:

Same situation here, went through many banks locally in Hawaii and none of them could help me. I just needed them to accept the foreign currency and wire it to another account without first converting it to USD. No help unfortunatly. Intended use is for money exchange business and perhaps a saving account with foreign currency Euro. It seems to be a dead end road whichever way i go. How do i have a currency exchange place if i have to pay the high conversion rate that banks offer. Any help is appreciated.

June 9, 2008 at 12:43 pm
(11) Kat says:

I have to echo the comments on EverBank – Their mins start at $2,500 for a money market account – doesn’t pay interest, but you get the difference in value of your US dollar deposit against the currency you choose. And they are FDIC insured. No monthly fees – just the exchange fee, but I haven’t found anything else like it anywhere else.

July 27, 2008 at 12:07 am
(12) David says:

You can buy and exchange traded fund such as “EWL” which is a Swiss one. You are basically taking your dollars, putting them to work in a foreign country and currency, then receiving the profits back in dollars. So when you receive a dividend, they automatically exchange it in dollars for you.

October 23, 2008 at 6:28 pm
(13) Annette says:

I looked into EverBAnk – not very transparent, and very difficult to get past their boiler room type customer service. They appear on the list of top 100 banks in trouble – you can view this list at this link: http://www.private.is/arni/troubledbanks.htm

October 28, 2008 at 8:49 pm
(14) dlr says:

EWL isn’t a currency etf, it is a STOCK etf. It invests in stocks from switzerland, Nestles, for instance.

October 30, 2008 at 7:32 pm
(15) GEORGE ARSLANIAN says:

Union Bank of California’s website states it manages multiple currencies without making unnecessary exchange rate conversions. http://www.uboc.com Search foreign currency accounts.

November 5, 2008 at 5:08 pm
(16) Birgit says:

I am a Dutch expat in Turkey. Here it is possible to open an account even without a residency permit with each established bank (such as Citi, HSBC, ING). Automatically you are assigned with accounts in 3 currencies; YTL, USD, EUR. Online currency swapping is easy and fun (if you are lucky). The only thing you need is a tax number from the government which you can get at any tax office here within 10 mins. So next time book a little Istanbul city trip, visit the Blue Mosk, Bazars, Tax office and local HSBC and start the fun!

December 16, 2008 at 10:51 am
(17) XYZ says:
December 19, 2008 at 2:41 pm
(18) tim says:

i have the same problem – will be paid in GBP and would like to hold my salary until (hopefully) the rate appreciates again before transferring into dollars. HSBC premier seems fine if you meet the requirements or are willing to pay a monthly fee. everyone else i’ve spoken to is either completely clueless or it’s unavailable. Everbank takes a chunk by giving you a lower exrate (1%). the language is gimmicky.

maybe it’s worth it to pay HSBC to set up the local UK account and hold out for a few months and mass transfer back.

very aggravating

January 27, 2009 at 4:18 pm
(19) PenguinSix says:

Citibank Private Banking division has a foreign currency option, as does HSBC Premier service (check their website for International traveller accounts). Both have high minimums / fees. I was told BofA has a service as well but I’m not sure.

February 10, 2009 at 11:42 pm
(20) inertia says:

Although not offering many currency options, E-trade has a currency feature where you can hold funds in different currencies – Can $, HK $, Euro, Yen, and GBP. The primary purpose of the conversion option is to trade in those respective stock markets, but one can also leave the cash sitting in those currencies; however, although it is convenient and easy to set up, not sure how competitive the exchange rate is (probably not good), there is likely little to no interest, and, as noted, just a limited choice of currencies.

March 5, 2009 at 5:59 pm
(21) steven hoel says:

hello to all,

i have an account at everbank. good service and easy to get someone on the phone. no waiting.

i would like to know of recommendations for banks in canada to hold us$ accounts. thanks!

March 27, 2009 at 2:31 pm
(22) Foobar says:

HSBC also offers a multi-currency account:
http://www.hsbc.com.au/1/2/personal/savings/multi-currency

March 27, 2009 at 8:32 pm
(23) Foobar says:

Whoops. HSBC autstralia offers a multi-currency account.

April 12, 2009 at 6:19 am
(24) Heef says:

HSBC has a foreign currency account for personal use.
The problem I have with this account is that it only allows cash withdrawls in USD and HKD, whereas I wish to hold and withdraw YEN.
Anyone have a solution?

August 4, 2009 at 4:16 pm
(25) Ed P. says:

HSBC is for the birds. They froze our account for no reason. They got a scam impoena judgement and they did never notified us.

Citibank is a big fraud. When the collapse comes they will pay off some government officials, and pay you back in the worthless local currency.

September 23, 2009 at 4:23 am
(26) Dev.M.P. says:

I would say other than the banks stated above, a forex account could serve this purpose without ever trading.

igmarkets.com/fx

is one

though be careful with forex brokerage’s as there is an overwhelming amount of them, and a hefty portion of them being scam/”bucket shops”, be sure to check that they are regulated by some sort of securities commission (NFA or CFTC for instance).

I wouldn’t look too much into getting a great interest rate as if you do not hold 50K min. you most likely will not get a decent one, that being said, you could put a min. of 100-500 USD in an account, have them convert it to EUR//GBP//JPY//etc.. ..and let the money sit, if you are lucky you may end up with a bit more cash when converting back if you have speculated right.

be also aware that these types of accounts rarely have ACH transfer (the one I posted above is one of the few that does) so you will most likely only be able to withdraw by check or wire

and you will most likely only be able to hold in a MAJOR Currency gbp/eur/jpy/aud/nzd

I hope that helps

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