Evicted by E*Trade

Aug 15, 2013 by

Uncle SamPermit me please to devote a post to a personal money challenge.

As I’ve written about before, Ms. Money Counselor and I—both U.S. citizens—moved to Canada in 2009. I know our move greatly offends certain FOX News-watching ‘Mare-kins (including certain members of my family) who think believe only traitors would choose to live outside of the U.S. when they could instead live in God’s greatest gift to humanity: the USA. But increasingly I feel like the Congress and President are ticked off at us too, because they’re making our financial lives increasingly challenging, bordering on impossible.

We’ve Been Kicked Out of E*Trade

For years—including many before we moved to Canada—we’ve maintained most of our IRA account money with E*Trade. But recently I got a phone call from E*Trade customer service. The very clear message: We’ve got 60 days to move our accounts out, or else. I’m not sure what the “or else” would be, and I’m tempted to find out by simply ignoring E*Trade’s ultimatum.

The reason for our eviction? Though it’s been handling our accounts for over four years since we moved to Canada, E*Trade’s evidently now decided that all of its clients (or maybe it’s just those with account values below seven figures) must have a U.S. residential address. Or maybe E*Trade’s clients cannot have a Canadian residential address, I’m unclear on that point. I gather this has something to do with the onerous requirements of the Patriot Act and other regulation, including Canadian regulation. Being a U.S. citizen isn’t good enough—we must provide E*Trade with a U.S. residential address or take our money elsewhere.

I’m speculating here, but I believe E*Trade simply does not want to spend the money or accept certain legal liabilities it perceives as associated with doing business with suspicious characters. And in modern America, everyone who lives outside of the USA is more suspicious than everyone who lives in the USA, a sadly ignorant and dangerous prejudice.

I should say here that I’m not talking about a piddly (in E*Trade’s world) $10,000 IRA account. All of our E*Trade IRA accounts combined total less than $1 million, but on a good day push well into six figures. Apparently business of this size isn’t much valued by E*Trade. I guess the company’s recovered from its brush with vaporization during the 2008-09 meltdown. It’s all too bad because I like E*Trade and have no reason of my own to take our business elsewhere. But I’m not sufficiently knowledgeable about E*Trade’s business to critique its internal business decisions, so I’ll just quietly (except for this post) move on.

I’ve wondered about the ramifications—on both sides of the border—of using, say, a brother’s address for our E*Trade accounts. But the issue is too complex for me to risk that approach. I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t like living in Guantanamo, nor do I care to be kicked out of Canada and back into the costly and inhumane catacombs of the U.S.’ health insurance plutocracy.

Searching for a place—any place—where we could transfer our IRA accounts, I got the same story from TD Ameritrade: a U.S. residential address is required.

At last I found Charles Schwab International. A VP there has told me that Schwab International will accept our account transfer. I do have to buy him a new car though. 🙂

Though it looks like the Schwab option will work, I wonder if one day soon the toxic mix of America’s dimwitted lawmakers and Wall Street’s fatcat lawyers will eliminate all options for Americans without U.S. residential addresses to have IRA accounts. If so, then what? I guess all we expatriates will be moving in, on paper, with a U.S.-residing relative, consequences be damned!

Our Second and Unsolved Challenge: Opening a U.S. Bank Account

For years, and again dating back to well before we moved to Canada, we’ve had an account at EverBank. So far we haven’t been told to get out, and I sure hope this post doesn’t attract the bank’s attention. But EverBank keeps cutting our interest rate, and I’d like to open another account at, say, Ally Bank or CIT because each pays a relatively high rate these days. But I get the same story from both: we must have a U.S. residential address to open an account.

Here’s Where I Need Your Suggestions

I’d really like to open a second bank account at some U.S. bank besides EverBank. Does anyone out there know of a U.S. bank or credit union that accepts account applications from people like us: U.S. citizens living full time outside of the U.S.? My friends at DepositAccounts.com have suggested that smaller institutions may be more open to making exceptions in the application process, and that I should talk directly to a branch manager. A welcome suggestion, but one that may cost me another new car. 🙁

Any other ideas?

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