expat network

5 Essential Financial Moves For Expats Before Moving Abroad

Heading out to become an expatriate? Moving abroad is thrilling, offering a fresh slate and new experiences. However, before you start exploring your new home and indulging in the local culture, there’s a critical aspect you need to square away—your finances. Finding your financial footing in a foreign country can be challenging, but taking the proper steps can make the transition smooth and secure.

This article breaks down five essential financial moves every expat should make before boarding their flight, from choosing the proper international bank account to understanding global credit card rewards.

Build a Financial Safety Net Before Your Move

Before you pack your bags, you need a solid financial cushion. Consider all those initial costs—security deposits, the first month’s rent, and the money needed to set up your new home can add up quickly. But don’t stop there. Having a few months’ living expenses in your pocket is crucial, especially if you’re job hunting after the move.

You may ask why you need to have so much savings. The reason is that life abroad can throw some curveballs—visa fees, unexpected legal costs, or, in extreme cases, a sudden need to fly back home.

Extra savings means you’re ready for whatever comes your way without having to scramble or stress about money.

Create and Adapt Your Budget for the Expat Lifestyle

After you’ve saved up as much cash as possible, it’s time to do some budgeting. Remember that your budget is your financial blueprint abroad, so it needs to be as detailed as possible.

Do your research on the cost of living in your new city. What’s the average price of rent? What about utilities? Will you need a car in the first few months or use the train? How much will you spend on a night out?

Your whole plan should involve something other than trying to survive in another country. You should enjoy your life abroad without breaking the bank.

Come to terms with the fact that your budget might need improvement. Be ready to adjust as you settle in. You may find a gym that’s pricier than you planned or discover you can save on groceries at a local market.

You should monitor your spending closely in the first few months and tweak your budget as needed.

Select the Right Banking and Credit Solutions

Using the proper banking setup can make your financial life abroad much smoother. Search for banks that offer favorable terms for expats like yourself, like being able to open an account before you move.

Having a bank abroad doesn’t mean you should close your local bank account. Maintaining a bank account in your home country for local transactions or as a financial link to your past and future transactions that require a domestic banking presence is wise.

But take note of the fees! International transfers and foreign transactions can cost a pretty penny when you factor in charges.

To avoid this, opt for a credit card that waives these fees and offers benefits that match your new lifestyle, like travel insurance or cash back on international purchases. An example of such benefits is the Capital One Quicksilver cash rewards.

Since we’re discussing credit cards, we need to discuss credit, too. Establishing credit in a new country can be challenging. Start building your credit history as soon as possible, even if it means starting with a secured credit card or a small local loan. A good credit score will be invaluable for future loans, rental agreements, or mobile phone contracts.

Understand and Manage Your Tax Obligations

After saving and budgeting, you must know how tax is managed in your new country.

Understanding your tax responsibilities is vital whether you’re from the United States or any other country that taxes global income. For example, in America, you must file annual tax returns with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) on worldwide income even after you move abroad.

In some countries, you don’t have to pay certain taxes; in some cases, you even collect a tax refund. For instance, the Foreign Earned Income Exclusion (FEIE) might allow you to exclude a chunk of your overseas earnings from U.S. taxes.

That’s why it’s essential to understand tax treaties and exclusions, as they can save you significant money.

You should do extensive research, but feel free to ask an expert for guidance. A tax advisor familiar with expat issues can be worth their weight in gold. They can help you navigate the intricacies of dual-taxation laws and ensure you’re only paying what you need to.

Prioritize Long-term Financial Goals and Retirement Planning

Your future self will thank you for monitoring long-term financial goals, including retirement. Living abroad can offer exciting investment opportunities, but losing sight of your retirement savings can also take time and effort.

If you’re working for a local employer, inquire about pension plans or retirement saving schemes available to you. For those from countries with social security agreements, understand how your time abroad will impact your benefits.

Moreover, continue making contributions to your retirement accounts back home whenever possible. Tools like IRAs (Individual Retirement Accounts) and pensions are still accessible to expats, and in some cases, contributing can offer tax advantages on your current income.


As you try to understand these financial steps, remember that proper preparation is vital to enjoying a stress-free expat life.

By saving diligently, planning your budget, understanding your tax obligations, choosing the right banking and insurance solutions, and keeping an eye on long-term financial health, you’re setting yourself up for a successful and fulfilling experience abroad.

Transitioning to life in a new country is undoubtedly a complex process with many moving parts. Still, tackling these financial tasks with care and foresight can help ensure a smooth and enjoyable expat journey.

Welcome to your new adventure, equipped with suitcases and a robust financial plan to support your global lifestyle.