BankFilter: what's a good stealth checking account for a woman overseas?
June 29, 2017 11:21 PM   Subscribe

My family member is a woman who needs her own money (separate from her husband who controls her money). Complication factors: she lives overseas, but spends in the USA when home on visits. 100% of the money she is able to save is in cash. I am based in the USA and willing to help.

My close family member lives overseas and her husband controls all of her finances. She is given no money of her own. Sometimes friends who visit give her cash as a gift, and sometimes she's able to save money of her own through savvy shopping, and buying household goods under budget. All of the money she's able to save is in cash. So, right now, she just keeps her meager life savings in cash on her at all times.

She'd like to have a bank account of her own, but her husband won't allow it, and I want to help her have this financial independence. Here are her needs:

— She needs some way to deposit cash to the account. An online account would be preferred, but if the only way to do this is in person, branch locations she'd visit would include Texas, Washington State or New York.
— She needs not to receive any snailmail for the account. Her registered US address is the husband's mother's house, and she can't receive mail about this account there. I am willing to be her mailing address for the account.
— She needs no fees for low balances, as she generally has between $500-$1000 at any given time and can't count on a balance.
— I, and other family members, would like to send her money without the husband's knowledge. So we'd like to be able to wire transfer to her.

Any recommendations on a great online account for this?
posted by amoeba to Work & Money (12 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
If you are willing to help her, is it feasible to just open an account in your name, or a joint account? That way maybe you could side-step the no fees thing, at least.

I'm sorry, I can't help with specific bank recs.
posted by vignettist at 12:03 AM on June 30, 2017 [2 favorites]

i'm seconding the joint account idea.

in any case capital one has an internet bank called capital one 360. it seems to tick almost all your checkboxes.

- you can use a regular capital one branch/atm to make deposits. there's tons in ny and tx. there's technically not one in washington but in seattle they have this weird "branch" that's actually just a cafe. it has an atm but i dunno if it accepts cash deposits.

- i find it hard to believe there is an internet bank that doesn't send you some kind of confirmation through the mail, but i think you figured that problem out.

- their checking account has no min. balance fees

- there's umpteen ways to 'wire transfer' to any bank account now. square cash is the easiest for me. you just need a debit card and an email address and that's it. the transfer is nearly instant. i guess she can use secret email address if the husband likes to peek at that stuff.

- another bonus is that the the bank doesn't charge atm fees for 3rd party banks (tho the other bank might). also when she is outside the united states, there is no foreign transaction fee for debit card purchases.
posted by sammich at 12:51 AM on June 30, 2017 [2 favorites]

Does she have a secure way to access the transactions - a burner sim card in a smartphone or a computer that she knows doesn't have keylogging software etc. If he suspects she has a secret financial account, she needs to be able to still check her bank account and do transactions when he goes through her phone and email.
posted by dorothyisunderwood at 12:54 AM on June 30, 2017 [3 favorites]

Schwab Bank High Yield Investor Checking Account®

Best if you're her physical mailing address, and best if she sets up a Google Voice number and gets a VPN beforehand for phone stuff. No physical branches, but somehow someone is gonna have to receive the debit card/checks/paperwork to her. Or if she doesn't have to hold that, someone needs to get images/numbers to her and safekeep the physical objects.

But this is essentially exactly what I do. In theory I live in the US at the address I listed, in actuality not, and I have the card I schlep around the world, and they're very, very, very good about not locking down the card when you go from country to country.
posted by saysthis at 12:55 AM on June 30, 2017 [2 favorites]

Assuming she has a secure phone/computer, the website is accessible anywhere in incognito mode, and the phone app can be reinstalled & deleted at will, and uses the online login/pw. As long as she can keep those two pieces of info secure, she can get to it anywhere she can find a secure machine.
posted by saysthis at 12:58 AM on June 30, 2017 [3 favorites]

Also as asked, no fees/min balance/other bs.
posted by saysthis at 1:00 AM on June 30, 2017

re: my last comment about seattle capital one cafes. i looked it up and i guess they're not officially open yet. but it's supposed to be soon!
posted by sammich at 1:01 AM on June 30, 2017 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I love CapitalOne360 and it checks most of your boxes but depositing cash is the absolute hardest thing to do with it. They have a lot of ATMs in Target stores now where you can deposit cash, and there are the "cafe" branches, but overall it's still kind of difficult. If she has someone she trusts who she could give cash and have them write her a check (which she could deposit on her phone via the CapitalOne app) that would be a relatively easy way to do it.

Depositing cash in one country (is the cash in USD?) and withdrawing it in another is not the easiest thing to do without fees.
posted by mskyle at 7:28 AM on June 30, 2017

So she needs to make deposits in another country, but have access to it in the U.S.?

If you are willing to help, maybe you can open a joint U.S. account and she can send you money orders/Western Union and you deposit them for her. I think that may be the least traceable while still allowing her to get money into the account.
posted by Vaike at 9:59 AM on June 30, 2017

USAA has infrastructure for people who are overseas. I don't know if they'll work in this particular situation, but they have good customer service if you give them a call. They're based in Texas.
posted by The corpse in the library at 3:06 PM on June 30, 2017

I would be concerned about what computers she accesses the accounts from. A partner as controlling as her husband is exact kind of person who spys on their partner's computer use. And even if he hasn't installed spyware, it's pretty hard to erase all your tracks on a computer at this point, especially for non-technical people.

I think it's great that you are helping your friend gain some independence.
posted by ethical_caligula at 5:05 PM on June 30, 2017 [2 favorites]

Schwab Bank High Yield Investor Checking Account®

This is a poor choice if she'll be primarily depositing cash, since the only way to do so is at a branch (of which there are very few) or by mail (maybe?), at least as of a year ago. I have an account with them and it's great, refunds all atm fees etc, but I wouldn't use it if I frequently needed to deposit cash and didn't live near a branch.
posted by matildatakesovertheworld at 7:21 PM on June 30, 2017 [1 favorite]

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