14 August 2013

Expat banking - 5 Lessons Learned

I have just had a bad experience with Westpac Bank. This is a bank that claims to be "Proudly supporting Australians for over 196 years"...if you live in Australia that is, and you are not an expat anywhere...if you can contact them during Sydney hours of operation...if you can be contacted on an Australian number.

If you would like to know details about what happened to me to prompt this post, stay tuned. I raised a complaint with Westpac yesterday morning and they have just under 24 hours remaining to respond. I will be posting the full story tomorrow. In the meantime, here are some sage expat banking advice and tips i learned due to this incident.

Expat banking - 5 Lessons Learned

1 - If you are going to be an expat or will be travelling for a long period of time and would like take your credit card from home with you, make sure your bank has the support infrastructure in place. For example, check the customer support times, if the international support number is different to regular local support etc.

2 - As much as you like your bank, it is worthwhile taking out another secondary credit card just in case you run into issues with your main one. Your loyalty and clean credit history will, apparently, mean nothing to the banks so there is no reason to not have an alternative.

3 - Review the bank's support, a simple Google search will show if anyone has encountered any issues with support while living/travelling in another country. I'm sure I'm not the only one to write about my negative experience.

4 - Make sure your account details are up to date and that your international number is your primary number. If this cant be done, make sure there is a note on your account to ask all communications go to your international number.

5 - Find out about your bank's policies in various scenarios. Not only will this tell you if they have good support, it gives you an understanding of what you need to do if disaster strikes.

If you have any other expat banking tips, I'd love to hear them, drop me an email, comment or tweet me :)


  1. This is the part that worries me the most! I actually talked to my bank already and they told me that I MUST call them every 3 months to tell them that I am still overseas, as they will cancel my card if they feel that it's been stolen or tampered with!!
    They have frozen my card once when I was in London, I'm glad my mom called me as they left message with her, so I was saved any embarrassment! When In London I prefer to just take money from the ATM and not worry about using my card, I don't know if I would be able to even open an account in the UK, unless I get a job there, and that's very far on the horizon, I plan to travel on a voluntary visa for awhile. Why must this be so hard eh?
    Thanks for the tips, and I love the photo :)

    1. It is a very unplesant side to being an expat. Usually while travelling I just use ATMs too but even then banks will aske you to LIST where you are going just to they dont block your card - but thats fine really. I just think people need to be extra careful of the support available in case of emergency, waiting for office hours to get something sorted is not good enough in an emergency.

      Then again, if all else fails...this is where good travel insurance will come in handy ;)