Anywhere banking

With remittance levels going up to $200,000, a non-rupee account makes sense if you want to take advantage of overseas investments.

Narayan Krishnamurthy with Tanvi Varma | Print Edition: January 10, 2008

The world is quite literally your oyster when it comes to financial products and services. You can, for instance, buy and sell mutual funds that are available in the US, or trade in the UK equities— all from your home in India. And the best way to do this is through a non-rupee (or offshore) bank account, which gives you access to a host of products and services not available in India.

While it is possible for you to visit the country of your choice and open an account there, it’s far easier and usually more convenient to open an account from within India. This makes for greater ease of operation, and gives you more control in case of any problem.

Getting started. So, what do you need to do to open such an account? You need a passport or any official document that proves your status as a residential Indian. Select branches of some banks such as Citibank, HSBC and Deutsche Bank allow you to open foreign remittances and non-rupee accounts.

All you need is to produce your latest income tax return. The Know Your Customer norms that all Indian banks follow have overseas equivalents, and you might have to fulfil those requirements as well.


Minimum amount to open a nonrupee account: $10,000.
Access to: Personal advisory, online banking, phone banking and select branches.
Basic services: Account statement, debit/bank card, card-card transfer, direct debit, cheque book, advisory.
Get SWIFT: With a Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunications System (SWIFT) code, transfering funds between different accounts (say, a local and a foreign account) becomes faster.
Aditya Samant, senior vicepresident, ING Financial Planning, Hong Kong, says: “To bank with us, all you need is a copy of your passport and money that you can transfer to open an account. The amount needed to open an account can be as little as $10,000.” Remember that you not only need to have the money, you should be clear about your investment objective before you open an offshore account.

If you simply want a non-rupee account for snob value, it’s quite pointless. If, however, you want to invest in overseas funds and equities in order to add diversification to your portfolio, such an account makes sense.

Why offshore? Sitting in India, you have access to a foreign bank’s banking products and services, which may not be available in the country.

Even better, you can open a non-rupee account with companies such as Merrill Lynch, which do not have banking operations in India. Says Pradeep Dokania, managing director and head, GPC-India, DSP Merrill Lynch: “We offer our clients a global platform that allows them to invest abroad…Once you are on the Merrill Lynch platform, you have access to practically any existing product that is available on the platform and though there are costs associated with them, you do not have any restrictions on access.”

When deciding on a bank, look for one that will allow you easy access to your savings and investments. Apart from the basic services like provision of a chequebook and regular statements, find out what extra services are being offered and what they will cost. Ensure that you know the International Bank Account Numbers (IBAN), which is needed, as this is the standard identification of bank accounts.



CountryInterest rates (%)
Indicative annual interest rates deposit accounts earn

The IBAN is used to instruct your bank or broker to remit funds to your overseas bank account. There are many banks that have started to offer offshore banking from India through the private banking channels. Just make sure you are aware of the legalities of transactions in the country of your choice.

For instance, find out if there’s any limit on how much you can invest or withdraw at any point, or if there’s a minimum holding period. If you want lower costs, you could opt for an “online only” bank such as CompuBank or Swissquote.

With fewer overheads, these online providers are more competitive, often offering higher returns on investments as well as low transfer costs. However, the associated risks could offset the cheap service.

What you pay. Offshore accounts are registered outside India and implement different standards of minimum transactions, services and charges depending on the country.

For instance, an account in Dubai can be opened for an equivalent of $500, but in Singapore, the minimum is about $25,000. Such accounts also fall under the rules and regulations of the host country. “Such an account is definitely only for those who have substantial funds in India and are looking at exploiting the global markets,” says Dokania.

That’s one reason why not everyone has an offshore account. The other deterring factor could be the high fees. But if the cost is not a constraint, and if your investment objectives are clear, you will find that offshore banks are easy to deal with and provide an excellent range of services.



Open an account with a bank that lets you route investments through it and not impose high balance to maintain

Always choose a bank with good Internet and phone banking, you can’t just walk into a branch when you need to

Make sure the country where your bank account resides is easy for you to access just in case you need to

Do not be perturbed by minor currency fluctuations because unlike a trader you are an investor. But watch out for the exchange rate

Consider costs on closure of account and the time it will take to come into effect

  • Print
A    A   A