👋 Hey expats, this is Dexter. Welcome to a new edition of Money Abroad, my weekly newsletter where I bring you fresh tips on building wealth while living abroad.
Today in 10 minutes or less, you’ll learn:
- 🧰 Popular personal finance tools for expats
- 😯 Surprising use cases
- 🔥 Quick tips & hacks
🧰 Expat Personal Finance Toolkit
🗺️ Top Expat Hubs
We are going to cover tools for the top subscriber regions:
- Hong Kong
- United States
- United Kingdom
- Low or minimal fees
- Fast, easy-to-use UX
- Accessible for foreigners (and Americans)
- Responsive customer service
🧮 Track and manage money
Lunch Money (paid: $10 USD / month)
Lunch Money is a simple personal finance tool with bank integrations across 17 countries, crypto wallet integrations, budgeting, and trend visualizations.
Who is it for: Expats that want an easy-to-use budgeting tool that works across currencies and importing crypto & supported bank accounts
Surprising use case: “It was super easy to label all the expenses related to our wedding to figure out at the end exactly how much it cost / the breakdown of different categories for it” - Canadian expat
Tip: Try the Rules Engine to auto or manually create rules to automatically categorize your transactions and trigger notifications.
Pocketsmith (paid: $9.95 USD / month and up)
Pocketsmith is a more comprehensive personal finance tool with auto bank integrations across 49 countries (rarity!), budgeting, and cashflow management features.
Who is it for: Expats that want max coverage with automatic bank imports and more sophisticated analysis features
Surprising use case: “I use it as a searchable archive since bank statements go into the ether after 90 days.” - German expat in US
Tip: Tap into the cashflow reporting tool to project out your future budgets.
- Janky bank connections. Multiple Singapore & HK banks are labeled ‘Experimental’. I personally tried linking my DBS Singapore account, hit an error, and couldn’t proceed further.
- Outdated design. ”UI and mobile are kinda old”
Expat Money Review (free)
Expat Money Review is a simple Google Sheet template for tracking net worth, income, and expenses across currencies as an expat couple or individual. (My fiance and I currently use this tracker.)
Who is it for: Expat couples or individuals that want a free solution to consolidating their assets and liabilities across multiple currencies
Surprising use case: I track unpaid taxes using the net worth tracker, so we keep enough cash buffer to avoid nasty surprises during tax season.
Tips & hacks: Calculate your “guilt-free spend” using the Income & Expenses tab. Then setup automated transfers so the remaining balance in your bank account is always yours to spend on whatever you want.
🌱 Save & invest
Foreigner-friendly local bank account (DBS in Singapore, HSBC in HK, Monzo in UK, Schwab in US)
Banks with expat features like ATM fee refunds, no foreign exchange fees (normally ~3%), and multi-currency accounts. (I use DBS.)
Why local: Sadly, no global bank (that I’m aware of) is consistently great in availability, UX, customer service, and security ie deposit insurance across all 4 expat hubs. Please DM me and prove me wrong!
Alternative: For temporary needs, go to the Wise section to learn more about how to quickly create local bank account details.
Interactive Brokers (also Saxo in SG/HK/UK, Schwab in US)
IB is an online trading services with access to global markets, multi-currency support, low fees, and breadth of financial products. (I don’t actively use IB since I maintain my US investment accounts.)
Who is it for: Expats who plan to invest from multiple countries, but want to consolidate to a single brokerage account
Surprising use cases:
- Get low FX rates. FX fees at 0.002% with a $2 USD minimum. “I now just use [IB] to transfer GBP to USD” - American expat in UK
- Moving countries. Most brokers are tied to a local country. For IB, you can keep your account open when you move.
Tips & hacks:
- Prepare to swap currency. “You might have to convert the currency within the platform to USD if you're buying US equities and you topped up in SGD.” - Romanian expat in Singapore
- Americans should use US brokerage to trade US funds. “In my opinion, Interactive Brokers is the best, but only if you can open a US account. Since I opened a UK account (unknowingly) it only allowed me to trade UK funds which are more expensive, so I stuck to Fidelity US.” - American expat in UK
🌎️ Send money abroad
Wise is an online money transfer app with low-fees and 50+ currencies. Revolut also offers free transfers under certain conditions, but has more limited coverage. (I use both Wise & Revolut for money transfers)
Who is it for: Individuals or small business owners that wants to send or receive money from a person or business in another country.
Surprising use case:
- Get local bank account details from anywhere. “A lesser known feature is that Wise is also a global account. You can issue yourself local account details globally, so that you can receive like a local in multiple currencies.” - Vinay Palathinkal, Regional Head @ Wise Platform
- Automating your transfers. Setup recurring transfers to automate your expat money system across 2+ countries.
Tips & hacks:
- Investing in foreign assets. “A great hack is using Wise to fund investments in foreign-domiciled assets. I love Robinhood - been a (not-so-successful) trader on the platform since 2016. After I returned to Singapore, I remained a fan, and Wise has helped me with my funding experience. Wise has a Plaid integration that directly links deposits from my Wise balance, so you can fund directly from your Wise balance to Robhinhood, which is cool.” - Vinay
- Setup rate alerts for cheaper rates. Wise can automatically send you an email alert when the exchange rate drops below your preferred threshold.
(Caveat: Wise is not a bank itself and works with bank partners, so your funds are not regulated under bank deposit insurance schemes.)
📅 File taxes
Greenback is a one-stop shop online tax service for American expats. 4.8 Trustpilot rating. (I used Greenback for my 2020 & 2021 US tax returns and had a positive experience.)
Who is it for: Americans living overseas with standard tax filing needs
Surprising use case: Reporting your foreign assets across an alphabet soup of required compliance forms (FBAR, FATCA, PFIC…) & avoiding huge fines!
Tips & hacks: Send your tax accountant your questions regarding upcoming tax events like a stock secondary sale so they can help to strategize on how to optimize taxable income.
🛡️ Protect yourself
World Nomads is a travel insurance that covers people from 130+ countries, medical and evacuation activities, and adventure activities. (I used World Nomads in 2019 and had a good experience.)
Who is it for: Expats who are frequently traveling for work and play or without emergency coverage outside of their host country
Surprising use case: Many travel insurance policies DO NOT cover adventure sports like scuba diving, free diving, or outdoor rock climbing. World Nomad covers these and more.
Tip: Call their 24-hour emergency assistance hotline if you’re feeling ill while traveling.
Heard any juicy expat money tips recently? Reply or DM me links.