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  #1  
Old 12-23-2007
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Best bank for long-term cruisers

I realize that the number of currently active cruisers posting here is small, but before I join the SSCA, etc., I would like an idea of what is the most "cruiser-friendly" bank in the world. By "cruiser-friendly", I mean either an internet based bank or a bank with international branches (or associations with other banks) that can deal with someone without a fixed address and with frequent needs for small amounts of many different foreign currencies, interspersed with large amounts (for repairs, or provisioning).

I realize this is a rapidly changing area, and that debit cards, ATMs and other "non-local" means of payment are getting increasingly common, but I am starting to establish accounts and knowledge well in advance of cruising. Suggestions are welcome.
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Old 12-23-2007
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good question. I'll ask my bro what he did, but i'm sure others will chime in.
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Old 12-23-2007
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I have seen this subject come up at the SSCA site. You may want to do a search there.
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Old 12-23-2007
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Though I'm only "coastal" crusing, I use the bank I had before moving aboard. The manager was a friend, now since promoted, and I am only a phone call away from getting any help I need from them. I have checks mailed directly to the bank, where they are deposited, and they have on-line access, so I can keep track of my account.
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Old 12-23-2007
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We used Citibank for entirely electronic banking/bill paying and brokerage access for our 6 years out cruising. They are great at that and have lots of world-wide branches as well. I'm sure others are as good but we've never had a problem and they are responsive to my needs.
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Old 12-24-2007
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Val,

I've spent about 13 years abroad in 5 countries. Africa, Caribbean and Europe. Different banks in each country. Some more bureaucratic and frustrating than others. Having a friendly banker in Canada was the best "defence" and a phone call would take care of the Canadian end pretty quick(this was before e-banking). Like Cam says, electronic banking takes care of most needs, but I'm not sure you can make friends with a Citibank Banker in Canada...

In the Caribbean, Scotia Bank is a good bet. I've seen Barklays and Standard Chartered all over Africa and understand they are all over Asia as well....
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Old 12-24-2007
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Since I travel the four corners of world for a living here is my thoughts on the subject.
First, I bank with an obscure little bank in Chicago. One office that is it. My personnel relationship with the bank is the best. One phone call and I get what ever I want. Furthermore, my ATM card , Cirrus (Visa), works everywhere I go. I might have to hunt to find a place that accepts it but I have never had a problem yet.
My point here is there are about 4-5 debit card clearing houses, one for each type of credit card companies; Master Card, Visa, etc. When we walk up to the ATM machine, we all see the symbols on the side to see if our debit card is accept there. My recommendation would be to carry two debit cards, one from Master Card (Plus) and one from Visa(Cirrus). These are good for small sums. The huge problem with debit cards when cruising is when one needs large sums of cash to pay for those expenses and a credit card won't do. For example, cruising permits and fees when entering a country.
A person has two choices. Call your bank at home and have it wired to a bank where one is at or go to a branch where one banks to extract money. The first option can get expensive. International phone call, plus the wire transfer fee and the wait time to make such transfers. But all doable in most areas. The second option is the best if one is fortunate to have an account at a bank at the dinky dock. The large central banks of the world are everywhere for this option. Citibank, HSBC, Barkley's, First Boston, etc. I would give a head nod to HSBC has to having the most branches worldwide. I would always have a personnel relationship in your bank of choice no matter whether one is cruising or not. As they say "It's your money!" Anyone holding my money, I need to trust and be able to move or get funds at any moment when needed. I know my bank manager, loan officer and one telephone clerk well at my bank.
Case in point. While on a business trip in Mexico, two of my crew members got arrested by one of the local cops for doing some extra circular activities on the beach with a couple of the local girls. At 5 in the morning I get this banging on my door and it was one of the cops saying I need to come downstairs. Long story short, they want a bribe to get my crew members free to the tune of $1000. We settle on a lesser sum. I told the cops I needed to wait until the banks opened up. I called my bank when they opened up and had the money wired to a local bank they had an affiliation with. No fees and the bank accept the phone charges. The money was there when I arrived.
For credit cards, there is a security issue when traveling. I also have a relationship with my credit card company. I always tell them what country I am traveling too. I also have an agreement with them about purchases over $2000. It requires a phone call or email message for anything over that amount. Not all credit card companies will do this, so one needs to shop around. Capitalone credit card for example doesn't do this while USAA does. While one is protected by fraudulent purchases, it is extremely tough to get another credit card mailed while one is overseas. Some won't even do it. Another reason to maybe have a credit card by one of the large central banks. I hope this helps in making a intelligent choice.

Last edited by Melrna; 12-24-2007 at 10:24 AM.
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Old 12-24-2007
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Yes, it does, thank you very much. I am not in love with my current Canadian bank, but I do have a relationship of sorts with the woman who's handled my mortgage, its retirement, and its subsequent re-establishment for the purposes of large boat purchasing...she's happy to get my repeat business. She has also set up a U.S. dollar account for me, and has encouraged me to simply deal with her on the phone...so the precedent has been established.

I was debating over opening an HSBC account, or even Scotiabank, but your suggestions are good ones. Next to dirty fuel, unco-operative banks seem the bane of long-term cruisers.
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