ACA-Members/SDFCU Account: Description and FAQs
American Citizens Abroad (ACA) and the State Department Federal Credit Union (SDFCU) have come together to provide ACA members with a US Banking solution. This was in response to problems that many overseas Americans have experienced with their US-based banking relationships. To open an SDFCU account you must come through an approved organization. ACA qualifies as an approved organization for SDFCU.
In the wake of changes in US and foreign securities laws and regulations, including the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA) rules, many US banks are pushing away US citizens who reside abroad. US and foreign securities and other regulatory rules make it very difficult for banks to service this market and, frankly, many US banks are not intimately familiar with this type of customer.
ACA teamed up with the State Department Federal Credit Union (SDFCU) to help provide accounts for Americans residing abroad. This is the same account used by US citizens working at US embassies as well as many other people living around the world. You can reside full-time or part-time abroad and still qualify. Many banks require clients to provide a US residential address to open an account. This makes it difficult for Americans living overseas. With SDFCU you can use a foreign address to open your account as long as it is your residential address where you live.
NOTE: ACA does not manage the SDFCU account application or onboarding process. This is done directly by SDFCU. If you have additional questions about SDFCU account features, products and/or questions about the application process, please contact SDFCU directly: firstname.lastname@example.org.
1. HOW DO I APPLY FOR AN ACA-MEMBERS/SDFCU ACCOUNT?
To apply for an ACA-Members/SDFCU Account, you must first be a member of ACA, and you must be a U.S. citizen.
A. IF YOU ARE ALREADY A MEMBER OF ACA, YOU CAN APPLY FOR YOUR ACA-Members/SDFCU account, by going directly to the SDFCU website here and select the green "Join" button*. Proceed to join by choosing American Citizens Abroad (ACA) under the eligibility "I qualify through my relationship with one of your organizational affiliates".
B. IF YOU'RE NOT A MEMBER OF ACA, JOIN ACA by going to "Join ACA Now" on the ACA website (Membership Levels and Benefits are explained there). Once you receive an email confirming your ACA membership you can then apply for an ACA-Members/SDFCU account, go directly to the SDFCU website here and select the green "Join" button*. Proceed to join by choosing American Citizens Abroad (ACA) under the eligibility "I qualify through my relationship with one of your organizational affiliates. Please note that once paid, ACA membership dues are not refundable
2. AM I REQUIRED TO FUND MY ACCOUNT TO COMPLETE MY SDFCU ACCOUNT APPLICATION?
No, during the application process, you will have three options for funding:
- Not Funding At This Time*
- Credit Card (max $500.00)
- Transfer from SDFCU or another financial institution
*If you have a check needing to be deposited, we suggest choosing the Not Funding At This Time option. Once your SDFCU account is open, you can mobile deposit your check using the SDFCU phone app or visiting the SDFCU website through your phone’s web browser.
3. WHAT INFORMATION DO I NEED TO PROVIDE SDFCU TO OPEN AN ACCOUNT?
The information that will be required includes:
- ACA membership - A current membership in ACA (verified by ACA to SDFCU via email).
- US Passport - A color copy of the applicant’s unexpired US passport
- Proof of residency - A color copy of a document which provides proof of residence, such as a lease agreement or utility bill in the applicant's name (foreign address accepted). Examples of a residency document could be:
- Deed/Deed of Trust o Mortgage statement (no more than 60 days old)
- Real Estate Property Tax bill or Tax Assessment (current year)
- Valid residential rental/lease agreement
- Utility bill showing the same mailing and service address (no more than 60 days old). Acceptable utility bill - water, electric, gas, cable and landline phone bill
- US Social Security Card - A color copy of the applicant's signed Social Security Card*
All documents provided must be original, unaltered and unexpired. Providing the requested documents will not guarantee an applicant to be approved for an account. SDFCU reserves the right to further request supporting documents to verify the information provided.
**If you don’t have a physical copy of your U.S Social Security Card, you can apply for a duplicate through U.S. Social Security. The SSA-1099 (Social Security Benefit Statement) is the only other acceptable form of verification we can accept in lieu of the signed color copy of an applicant’s social security card.
USA Patriot Act – Important Information About Opening A New Account – To help the government fight the funding of terrorism and money laundering activities, Federal law requires all financial institutions to obtain, verify and record information that identifies each person who opens an account.
4. HOW WILL SDFCU COMMUNICATE WITH ME DURING THE APPLICATION PROCESS? HOW LONG IS THE APPLICATION PROCESS?
SDFCU will communicate to you via email email@example.com or after you apply via our secured messaging portal within your membership application. SDFCU will provide an application status to you via our secured messaging portal within 3-5 business days.
5. IS MY PERSONAL FINANCIAL INFORMATION DISCLOSED TO ACA?
No. As an account holder, your financial information is not disclosed to ACA. ACA is introducing you to SDFCU. Once you apply for an account with SDFCU you will work directly with SDFCU on all aspects of the account opening and management without any further involvement by ACA, deal with the details of opening and maintaining your account. The only information that ACA transmits to SDFCU is a confirmation of your status as an ACA member. SDFCU does not transmit information about an SDFCU member/account holder to any unaffiliated third party. Detailed information about privacy can be found on the SDFCU website.
6. CAN I OPEN AN ACCOUNT AT SDFCU EVEN IF I LIVE ABROAD?
Yes, this is one of the greatest advantages of ACA working with SDFCU. SDFCU is one of the few credit unions in the United States which accepts members who live outside the country. Dues-paying members of American Citizens Abroad, Inc. are able to take advantage of this because ACA has been approved as an associated group by SDFCU and by the relevant supervisory body, the National Credit Union Administration.
7. CAN MY NON-US SPOUSE or partner OPEN AN ACCOUNT, OR BE A JOINT OWNER OF MY ACCOUNT? CAN I OPEN AN ACCOUNT FOR MY CHILDREN?
A non-US citizen spouse can be a joint owner of the account of the American member but cannot hold his or her own account. A child 17 or older can open his or her own account. SDFCU also has custodian and minor accounts available for children. Non-US citizens must be added to an account after the account is opened and not at the time of account opening.
8. WHAT CAN I DO WITH MY ACCOUNT?
- Pay electronically federal and state taxes – requires setting up an account with the IRS first and then you provide the IRS with your SDFCU account and routing number
- Receive electronically tax refunds – requires setting up an account with the IRS and then you provide the IRS with your SDFCU account and routing information
- Deposit Economic Impact Payments (EIP) checks (COVID-19 stimulus checks) and other US dollar-based checks.
- Receive electronically Social Security payments – you must provide Social Security with your SDFCU account and routing number
- With the debit card or credit card, make funds available to minor children or students; and monitor activity 24/7
- Maintain cash balances while getting most favorable returns
- Set up automatic bill pay with your US service providers
- Credit card bills,
- Utility bills,
- Payments with respect to property,
- Payments for elderly relative,
- Payments for school fees or tuition
- Finance purchase of a car – even one garaged overseas
- Transfer funds between SDFCU and foreign banks using wire transfer at some of the lowest, competitive pricing.
9. CAN I TRANSFER FUNDS IN MY SDFCU ACCOUNT TO MY FOREIGN BANK ACCOUNT?
Yes, SDFCU has a SWIFT code to accommodate this. Instructions are on the SDFCU website (https://www.sdfcu.org/banking-services). SDFCU's fee is very low by industry standards to transfer funds to a foreign bank, and SDFCU does not charge a fee to process incoming wires from a foreign bank.
10. IS MY SDFCU ACCOUNT REPORTED TO U.S. CREDIT AGENCIES? CAN IT HELP ME BUILD A U.S. CREDIT RECORD?
Yes, if you apply for and use a SDFCU credit card or other loan product.
11. DOES SDFCU PROVIDE FINANCIAL COUNSELING AND CAN I USE MY OWN INVESTMENT ADVISOR?
SDFCU offers the opportunity to work with a certified financial counselor, if you like. This is a free service and you can find more information here www.sdfcufs.org.
You can appoint your own investment advisor, using a power of attorney. What this costs is a matter for you and your investment advisor to agree.
12. CAN I HAVE AN IRA OR ROTH IRA ACCOUNT OR A 401(K) ACCOUNT?
SDFCU does offer IRA accounts. SDFCU does not offer 401(k) accounts but does have financial consultants available to discuss retirement options through a partnership with Securities America.
13. CAN I DO ONLINE AND MOBILE BANKING WITH SDFCU FROM MY RESIDENCE OUTSIDE OF THE UNITED STATES?
Yes, you can do online banking at www.sdfcu.org and also by downloading the SDFCU mobile app. Checks can be deposited using the mobile app, or by using online banking. If using a smartphone, tablet, or a computer with a camera, you can capture the image within the application using the camera. If using a computer laptop without a camera, you can capture the image using a scanner. Online banking and the mobile app are available once you open your SDFCU account, however, there is a 30-day waiting period for the check deposit feature within both online banking and the mobile app. Members can access their accounts through online banking and the mobile app from outside the U.S. in most cases, unless the country is blocked for security reasons*.
*Countries blocked for online banking – Cuba, North Korea, Iran, Crimea Syria
*Countries blocked for mobile app - Cuba, North Korea, Iran, Crimea, Syria, Russia, South Korea, United Arab Emirates, Palestine, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Serbia, Czech Republic, Belarus, Pakistan
14. DOES SDFCU ISSUE CREDIT AND DEBIT CARDS? WILL MY SDFCU CREDIT OR DEBIT CARD BE ACCEPTED OUTSIDE OF THE UNITED STATES?
SDFCU issues both credit and debit cards. The cards are accepted anywhere that accepts VISA outside of the United States. SDFCU credit cards have no annual fees and no foreign transaction fees.
15. CAN I GET A MORTGAGE FROM SDFCU TO BUY A PROPERTY? CAN THE PROPERTY BE OVERSEAS?
SDFCU provides mortgages to buy property, but the property must be in the United States. As a member of SDFCU through ACA, you may be able to qualify your home in the United States as a primary residence even if you live overseas and are not currently occupying the property. This qualifies you for better terms on the loan, but there are regulatory restrictions so not everyone may qualify. SDFCU will help you understand your ability to qualify based on individual circumstances. In addition, SDFCU offers mortgages on second properties, again in the US, at the same rate as first properties, rather than a higher investment property rate.
16. CAN I GET A LOAN FROM SDFCU TO PAY FOR MY CHILDREN’S COLLEGE EXPENSES?
Yes, SDFCU offers personal loans that may be used for educational costs. These are not run through any federal loan program.
17. IS SDFCU CONSIDERED A FOREIGN ACCOUNT OR A U.S. ACCOUNT FOR FATCA AND FBAR REPORTING?
SDFCU accounts are not included in your Foreign Bank Account Report (FBAR/FinCEN Form 1124) or Form 8938 (Statement of Foreign Financial Assets, which is attached to your regular Form 1040). It is U.S. dollar denominated. You can “marry it up” with your financial planning including savings, retirement and college/school fees planning. Study the free information and consult your advisors. But remember, this account is a new thing and he or she may need to do a little homework.
SDFCU will introduce you to a financial counselor if you like or you can appoint your own financial advisor or investment manager. You do not have to say goodbye to your existing advisor/manager.
Many people will want to keep their local bank account wherever they live. The drycleaner in London may still want to debit your British Pound-denominated bank account down the street.
18. CAN I HOLD ACCOUNTS WITH SDFCU IN CURRENCIES OTHER THAN US DOLLARS?
No, SDFCU offers accounts denominated only in US dollars.
19. ARE FEES AND LOAN RATES THE SAME AT A CREDIT UNION AS THOSE CHARGED BY BANKS?
Because credit unions are non-profit organizations, they charge fees and loan rates which are generally lower than those charged by banks, and they pay deposit rates which are generally slightly higher than those in banks. Checking is free. Credit cards currently have no annual fees.
20. HOW CAN I SET UP DIRECT DEPOSIT FOR TAX PAYMENTS, REFUNDS AND RECEIPT OF SOCIAL SECURITY BENEFITS?
With an SDFCU account, ACA members can set up direct deposit with the IRS, it’s easy all you need is your SDFCU account and routing number information. To take advantage just select direct deposit as your refund method through your tax software or tell your tax preparer you want to use direct deposit. You can even use direct deposition if you are still filing by paper. See the full IRS instructions on this here: https://www.irs.gov/refunds/get-your-refund-faster-tell-irs-to-direct-deposit-your-refund-to-one-two-or-three-accounts. This is the same system that can be used for direct deposit of Social Security payments. The same electronic transfer system is used to deposit nearly 98% of all Social Security and Veterans Affairs benefits to millions of Americans
21. HOW DID SDFCU GET STARTED?
SDFCU was chartered independently in 1935 by a group of eight State Department employees. By 1945, SDFCU had only 975 members. Thanks to the steady growth in membership and the addition of associated member groups, such as, American Citizens Abroad, SDFCU now has over 88,000 members worldwide.
22. IS SDFCU CREDIT UNION MANAGED BY OR PART OF THE U.S. STATE DEPARTMENT OF U.S. GOVERNMENT?
No. The financial institution is the State Department Federal Credit Union. This is entirely separate from the US Department of State. The credit union is not owned by the U.S. Government. It is owned by its members/account owners – including you when you join. It just so happens that its origins trace back to the need to provide banking services for State Department employees strewn around the world, who have the same problems as many Americans overseas. Moreover, the SDFCU, while including in its name the term “Federal,” is not run by the Government or limited to Government employees. Simply put, it has opted to organize itself under federal credit union regulations instead of state banking laws.
23. WHAT IS A CREDIT UNION? WHAT’S THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN A CREDIT UNION AND A BANK?
In the United States, a credit union is a not-for-profit organization which is organized in order to provide financial services to its members. Banks, especially those quoted on a stock exchange, are by definition entities which aim to maximize corporate profits. Conversely, credit unions reinvest their "profits" in their member-owners through better dividend and loan rates. There are nearly 100 million members of credit unions in the United States. SDFCU alone has over 88,000 members worldwide. What makes SDFCU the perfect “partner” is that it is accustomed to dealing with account owners around the world, from developed countries like Germany, France and Switzerland to less-developed, less well-known countries.
24. WHAT “BANKING-LIKE” FINANCIAL SERVICES DOES A CREDIT UNION PROVIDE?
Credit unions provide a full suite of financial products and services including: checking and savings accounts, credit and debit cards, money market and share certificates, mortgage and personal loans, online and mobile banking.
25. IS MONEY IN AN ACA-MEMBERS/SDFCU ACCOUNT AS SAFE AS IT IS IN A BANK?
Yes. Member savings are federally insured to at least $250,000 and backed by the United States Government. SDFCU like other federally chartered credit unions in the United States, is regulated and supervised by the National Credit Union Administration, an independent federal agency.
STILL HAVE QUESTIONS?
Contact SDFCU at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
IF YOU ARE ALREADY A MEMBER OF ACA, YOU CAN APPLY FOR YOUR ACA-Members/SDFCU account, by going directly to the SDFCU website here and select the green "Join" button*. Proceed to join by choosing American Citizens Abroad (ACA) under the eligibility "I qualify through my relationship with one of your organizational affiliates".
IF YOU'RE NOT A MEMBER OF ACA, JOIN ACA by going to "Join ACA Now" on the ACA website (Membership Levels and Benefits are explained there). Once you receive an email confirming your ACA membership you can then apply for an ACA-Members/SDFCU account, go directly to the SDFCU website here and select the green "Join" button*. Proceed to join by choosing American Citizens Abroad (ACA) under the eligibility "I qualify through my relationship with one of your organizational affiliates.
*Please note that once paid, ACA membership dues are not refundable. Joining ACA does not guarantee you an SDFCU account. SDFCU is solely responsible for the SDFCU application process and applicants must meet SDFCU requirements in order to qualify.