3 Ways to Collect Your Social Security Anywhere in the World


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By Suzan Haskins, International Living,

Thinking about retiring overseas and wondering how you’ll collect any federal benefits owed to you?

Rest easy, because no matter if you are a citizen of or have legally worked in the U.S. or Canada, you are entitled to your benefits no matter where in the world you choose to live.

So forge ahead with those plans to retire to the coast of Costa Rica or Spain…a little hideaway in Italy…or to whatever comfortable, welcoming place appeals to you.

There are a couple of ways you can go about collecting your Social Security once you move overseas.

One option is to open a local bank account in the community of your choice and have your benefits direct-deposited into that account, just as you are likely doing where you live now. You will need a resident visa in the new country to do this.

This means you will need to be fairly certain this is the place you want to retire and that you will be spending time here for the near future. (No, you are not giving up your U.S. or Canadian citizenship and this does not mean you are applying for citizenship in the new country. You are simply seeking official resident status.)

The drawback is that only certain foreign banks are qualified to accept these direct deposits of U.S. or Canada government benefits, so you’ll want to be sure the local bank you choose is eligible.

Another option is to continue to have your benefits direct-deposited into your local bank account as you are likely doing right now. Then you can either transfer those funds to any new local bank account that you might open in your new overseas community and/or you can access your funds anywhere in the world via your debit/ATM card.

Here’s the catch: You could end up paying hefty foreign ATM surcharge fees. So be sure you know what your bank’s policies are in this regard. If their policy is not to refund those charges, it may be time to move to a bank that does. (All this and more is covered in the Dream Retirement Project.)

If you are from the U.S. and you see no need to maintain a U.S. bank account (although if you have associated credit cards, you will want one) here’s another option:

MasterCard’s Direct Express card may make sense if you’re not sure yet where in the world you might want to retire and you want to travel for a few months to check out a few different places. You don’t need any bank account or credit union account or any financial institution account at all, no credit check is required, and there are no sign-up fees, monthly account fees, or minimum balance requirement. Once you enroll, your federal benefits will be automatically deposited to your card account on your payment date.

Your funds will be immediately accessible and you can use your card to make purchases at places that accept Debit MasterCard, to pay your bills online or over the phone, and to withdraw cash from banks and ATMs anywhere in the world.

The downside is that, while you are allowed one free ATM cash withdrawal each month, your free withdrawal can only be in the U.S. (Always a catch.)

In other words, while the card can be extremely convenient if you want to cut ties with U.S. banks, you could end up paying quite a bit each month in surcharge fees.

But it’s always good to have options. And it’s definitely a good idea to understand what the benefits and drawbacks of those options are.

With today’s technological benefits, the world really is your oyster. All you need to do is find the place in it that most appeals to you…and make that place your home. With a few insider tips like these, it’s easy enough to make that happen.

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