US dollar account in EU

Hello everyone,

I need to open a US dollar account in Europe minus UK.
I am a European citizen myself and live in Austria at the moment.
Basically I need to be able to make SWIFT USD payments at a reasonable price.

If you have done this research already please share some options other than Wise and those well described on NG.

Thanks a lot in advance. :ok_hand:

Bison Bank in Portugal is an option for twin USD+EUR accounts. I’m quite satisfied with their service.

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Excellent, thank you.
Can it be opened online and is it available for non Portuguese?

Hi Nevadaandonward,

I gave a quick look and found 3 main services on their Homepage:

  1. Wealth Management
  2. Depositary/Custody
  3. Investment banking

Where do I look for opening those twin accounts that you mention?

Thanks a lot!

you probably need to define “reasonable”…?

A Bison Bank account can be opened remotely. It can not be opened online. You will have to get documents authenticated by a lawyer, and will have to pen-sign and physically ship many pages of forms. I learned the hard way that USPS “International Priority Mail” was a false economy; it took several weeks for my signed forms to reach Portugal. Pay extra for express shipping if you care about timely execution.

Yes, accounts are available to citizens of 3rd countries.

If you send me a PM, I’ll reply with the next steps. It is not permitted to post contact information in the public forums.

Hi Jeff,

Indeed, I can certainly define “reasonable”.
For each SWIFT payment, a flat fee or percentage fee+capping that results in a total charge of USD 20-40 all included.

I have made a number of SWIFT payments recently and these are the reasonable fees I paid (I found many other quotes above that of course)

As I live in EU I mostly use SEPA scheme of course, when paying in Euros.

When I pay in USD transactions tend to be for large amounts, hence why low flat fees are the winners cost-wise.

And last but not least no fees for maintaining the account.

Hi nevadaandonward,
Thank you again. OK, I will contact you by PM.

Ok. So the problem here might be that Bison is fundamentally a wealth management bank, and so may want a significant minimum balance to do business with you. I don’t really know. We’ve all been using Bison to hold GV funds, which counts as “significant minimum balance” :slight_smile: so the question doesn’t come up.

Their fees for wire transfers outbound don’t appear to meet your definition of reasonable - see page 9 -

Austria is full of private banks , but like the Swiss PWM banks, they’re all going to require balances and committments and fees. I’m guessing you’re not looking to move EUR200-300k of assets to a bank in order to do this.

Why is it that Wise and such don’t work for you?

I would suggest the Swiss cantonal banks. They might seem like a parochial choice, but I was a customer of Berner KB for many years and found it reasonably competent and convenient, til the Swiss kicked all the US citizens out over FACTA. Zuercher KB I think is pretty sophisticated. It used to be you could open online; I can’t speak to now, of course.

Dukascopy I think wants US$50, but there’s some other conditions and crap. I dunno how I feel about them.

Or depending on your citizenship, you might try Interactive Brokers.

But you might be looking for a unicorn.

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Hi Jeff,

Thanks so much for this comprehensive study about the matter.
No, I wouldn’t be looking to park a quarter of a million Euros, for little or no interest.
I suppose you live(d) in Switzerland as you know well that market.
I will explore the options that you are mentioning.

On the other hand, Wise/Revolut and other neo/app based would probably suit me, if you can send a currency using SWIFT and the recipient can receive that currency when their acct is nominated in the same currency.
I am not a customer of neither of those but last time I saw I concluded that they love exchanging currency (well, err…that’s their business after all, isn’t it?).
If this has changed since, and currency can be kept all the journey of your payment, then I should look again. Please let me know if this is the case.

Excuse my ignorance, what are GV funds?

I am Italian.

And then again, why opening a USD account, simple, plain account is so hard in Europe? :hushed:

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Same reason as EUR accounts are not common in the US. Most people most of the time simply don’t have much of a use for one. Since multi-currency accounting screws with a bank’s systems, it’s extra effort, so why do it? And since it is a niche thing, you can expect to pay more in order to do it.

I don’t know if you can do wire transfers with wise/revolut, they aren’t products I know anything about, someone else can answer that. Changing currency is how all these businesses pay the bills, fundamentally, so asking them not to change currencies is asking them to do something for free.

You might ask about business accounts at your favorite banking institutions. And yes you’ll pay for that. But you’re going to pay one way or the other most likely. It’s only going to be the largest banks in the EU that will be able to do SWIFT. Talk to them. One of them might have what you need. If you’re Italian, look in Ticino, that’s an enclave of weirdness that’s Italian-friendly and there’s probably a KB that will work with you there without fuss. But whether any given KB has multi-currency is an open question. You can but look.

You can look at third parties like banks in Georgia (TBC Bank) or Panama (Multibank) in order to establish USD-based accounts, but I don’t imagine SWIFT transfers will come cheap there either.

SWIFT payments are a synonym of international payments.
In the Eurozone, unless you pay to an EU beneficiary, ALL banks use SWIFT scheme for international payments. So it’s not a rarity at all.
And I presume same happens in the US.

I lived many years in the UK and almost every high street bank offers USD accounts. Not a niche. Fees and changes vary widely though depending on the bank.

I still have many British accounts.
But on this occasion the sender cannot wire to the UK.
Hence why I am looking elsewhere in EU.

On a separate note, those neo’s sometimes allow you to withdraw to your own bank account only, or else pay to others but if they are also registered with the neo bank. Those awkward rules they have aplenty, oh yes.

Alright, I will sit and compare options later today.

Thank you again.

That’s not actually true in the US. There aren’t that many banks that participate in SWIFT. They work through “correspondent banks” - the regional bank does a transfer to a major bank, and the major bank does the transfer on the regional bank’s behalf. So yes all banks can do international transfers but not all banks are actually part of SWIFT, and an international wire transfer inbound to the US can be a fraught experience. Just ask the average US citizen for an IBAN for their account. :slight_smile:

I could see where the EU would be different, for legacy reasons, because all of the countries were different financial systems before the EU/ECB and therefore had to use SWIFT just to shuffle money around within Europe, and indeed still do for the non-EUR countries. But the logic remains - most people in Europe use EUR (or their local currency) so who needs USD accounts on the whole? That said, I have no meaningful experience with retail banking on the continent.

I would agree that for the UK it’s not a niche. I would say that the UK itself is a niche, standing as it does sort of in between the EU and the US and the UK’s history and role in international finance, much like HK - HK banks do USD accounts too. Something like HSBC Expat could work for you, since it’s not the UK per se, it’s Jersey, but the fees are still probably relatively high - just maybe not infinitely so.

Oh. Jyske Bank in Denmark comes to mind too.

Yes, the UK always sooo peculiar, :slight_smile:
Mind you, in Europe the so called “SWIFT payments” work exactly the same as you described for the US: 95% of times there is a correspondent bank involved (intermediary bank as called here).
Hence why they most times tell you when you are editing the payment that there are those extra fees that go to the intermediary. And those fees are unknown to then beforehand, or some banks cap it and in the long run they break even.
Swift details are made of SWIFT/BIC code + Account number
SWIFT/BIC code: indicates country, bank and branch.
Account number is IBAN only for EU countries, otherwise it’s the account number assigned internally by the bank.

Have you looked into banks in Switzerland?

I’m using Swissquote and they provide a multi-currency IBAN that supports USD/EUR/CHF. You can make international SWIFT transfers and also local SEPA/SIC transfers. Although Swissquote is primarily a brokerage platform, it also functions as a bank. There may be other banks in Switzerland that offer similar services that may be worth looking in to.

Banks in the Channel Islands such as HSBC Expat, Barclays, Lloyds, RBS, etc can also be an option as I believe all of them support SWIFT transfers with USD.

IBAN isn’t just for EU. In theory you can encode any account/bank combination with it, assuming the bank has a BIC - the IBAN itself is effectively BIC+bank-account-#+checksum, like a CC number. There’s an online thing for encoding an account+bank into an IBAN. My lawyer in Costa Rica provides an IBAN for her account at Banco de Costa Rica. Perth Mint provides an IBAN. But asking someone in the US for their IBAN… “huh?” :slight_smile:

Hahaha. You are right.
I think my confusion came about in that I believe that if you make a SWIFT payment to a European you must enter an IBAN in the account field. But who knows, maybe entering the internal account number also works, I would not dare trying.
Cheers!

Hello Louis,
Very interesting suggestions.
I will explore these too and let you know my findings.
Thank you!

The systems I see want you to put in everything, even if theoretically all you ever need is an IBAN. I think it’s a validation - type all the things in, make sure they all agree, makes typos easier to catch. Given the overall fragility of SWIFT anyway - I mean, sheesh, transfer a million bux to someone hoping someone typed the numbers right? - it makes sense. I generally “waste” money on any wire xfer to a new recipient by making a tiny transfer first and making sure it got to the other end, before I commit to anything.

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I transfer money from my US account to my Euro account several times a year using Wise. They can also set up an account so you can instantly pay in the denomination that you choose.