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Banking as an expat – Can I open a UK bank account while living abroad?

Do you need a UK bank account as an expat?

The answer is, as you might expect, not a cut and dried yes or no. For many expats, the thought of having their entire cash savings in one place overseas is disconcerting. A UK bank account, backed by the Financial Services Compensation Scheme (FSCS), will protect individual savings up to £85,000 and joint accounts up to £170,000.

If your cash deposits are greater in value, you should perhaps shop around for another account (if you wish to keep your savings liquid, that is) or you could invest some of your wealth.

As an expat without a UK address, opening new UK bank and building society accounts can be tricky and, once you are abroad, if your salary or pension is paid into a UK account or your savings are in a British bank or building society, the cost of currency conversions and transfer charges can soon mount up and negate what little interest you may be earning.

Can I keep my UK bank account if I move abroad?

Brexit makes things a little bit more complicated for UK expats. While the full extent of the changes have yet to be felt, Brexit has ended ‘passporting’, which allowed UK banks to provide their services to customers in the EU without needing additional authorisation. Passporting has been replaced by some limited equivalent measures, while the UK and the EU discuss finding a way forward for further financial regulation. This led to some banks closing expat bank accounts. If you move abroad, being able to keep your UK bank account will depend on which European country you live in and who you bank with.

More options for expat banking

The answer could be international or offshore banking.

Some banks can offer an international expat bank account to help you manage your money and foreign currency more effectively while living abroad, but they often come with fees attached. These accounts can provide peace of mind that you will always be able to deal with people and correspondence in your native language and that they will be backed by the FSCS, but the rates of interest are likely to remain low, so your money won’t be growing.

Offshore banking represents a good option if confidentiality and favourable tax conditions are important to you. Although you may have to prove your income and pay fees for the added security, there are other benefits, such as having a chequebook in a local currency.

Thinking of changing your domicile? A local bank account could help

You could, of course, open a bank account in your country of residence, and this can not only help to reduce currency conversion and money transfer fees, but it also brings you closer to the community.

Yes, you will need good foreign language skills, but it can make local monetary transactions a lot simpler. And, if you are planning to change your country of domicile, closing UK bank accounts in favour of local institutions shows an enhanced commitment to your country of residence.

Opening a UK bank account from abroad

Opening an expat bank account in the UK when you’re not a resident can be tricky. Some banks, like Halifax, won’t allow non-residents to open a bank account – but there are plenty of others, like Natwest and Lloyds, who do offer this service. If you’re not sure how to go about opening a UK bank account from abroad, speak to a financial expert here at Blacktower – as the rules around Brexit and passporting can be complicated, it’s good to get expert advice when you’re talking about your savings.

Speak to an expat financial adviser in your area

Of course, local advice is probably the easiest way to understand what would be right for you and your particular financial circumstances, so why not talk to Blacktower? Many of our international financial advisers are expats themselves and have already asked themselves the same sorts of questions you are now faced with. 

We can help with advice about expat banking, including expat bank accounts and advice about opening a UK bank account from abroad. With offices in locations all across the world and throughout Europe, contact Blacktower today and get peace of mind about your expat banking.

Disclaimer: The above information was correct at the time of preparation and does not constitute investment advice. You should seek advice from a professional regulated adviser before embarking on any financial planning activity.

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