Expats moving to reside, work, or study in the United Kingdom must open a bank account upon arrival. Choosing the appropriate account facilitates money management while travelling abroad. 

This guide outlines the features to search for and the best banks that offer expat-specific accounts.

Identifying a Bank Account That Meets Your Needs

Consider, as an expat, what you require from a UK bank account:

  • Online/mobile banking enables remote account management. Important for international travel.
  • Make purchases and withdrawals in the UK and abroad with a debit card.
  • Avoid monthly fees and search for free or discounted international transactions.
  • Currency exchange – Easily convert one currency to another.
  • Send and receive international money transfers affordably.
  • Get assistance in your native language if necessary.
  • Address verification – Open a bank account without UK residence records.
  • In-person locations – Obtain assistance while in the United Kingdom. Video banking is also beneficial.

Compare accounts from major banks to discover one that meets your needs. Read the fine print regarding fees, requirements, and services.

Top British Banks for Expats

Several of the largest banks in the United Kingdom cater specifically to expatriates. Here are some excellent options:

  • The HSBC ExpatWith branches worldwide, HSBC provides English support 24 hours a day through the Internet and mobile devices. Premier accounts require £50,000 or more deposits and include a linked savings account, travel insurance, and international transfers.
  • Barclays Worldwide BankingBarclays provides an online hub for expat assistance. The Migrate account provides debit card access, mobile app access, and money transfers. The minimum account balance is £100.
  • The CitibankCitibank UK offers deposit accounts in both sterling and the euro. You can establish accounts before arrival and transfer funds through their global network. Digital banking is available, but no physical branches exist in the United Kingdom.
  • Lloyds IntercontinentalLloyds provides expatriates with English-speaking phone support and access to more than 1,800 UK branches. Their Classic account is free if you deposit £1000 or more per month or maintain a £5000 balance.
  • MonzoThis digital-only bank offers multi-currency accounts, low-cost international remittances, and commission-free ATM withdrawals abroad. Excellent mobile app and customer service.

Can you open a UK bank account when travelling on a visa?

Individuals in the United Kingdom on a tourist visa can establish a bank account by visiting a branch and providing their passport. It can be more difficult to establish a UK bank account if you do not intend to reside in the United Kingdom. Typically, you will need to contact a local bank with international connections to a UK bank.

Remote Account Activation

As an expat, you can establish an account with several leading banks in the United Kingdom before arrival. You can offer:

  • Passport for identification verification: Scan pages or send photos from your mobile device.
  • Use your current overseas address; a UK address is not required.
  • Submit a recent pay receipt or bank statement as proof of income.
  • Use a video call to affirm your identity, if necessary.

This facilitates your relocation by granting you immediate account access upon arrival, allowing you to deposit funds and initiate transactions.

Essential Account Features in the UK

In addition to a current/checking account, consider the following:

  • UK mobile number – For banking communication and security credentials.
  • Use a debit card to make purchases and withdraw currency from ATMs.
  • Earn interest on your deposits; suitable for longer-term funds.
  • Credit card: Build credit score in the UK; beneficial for large purchases and emergencies.
  • Foreign currency accounts – Hold funds in various currencies to save on currency exchange fees.

Transferring and Trading Money

You will need to transfer funds from your foreign accounts at home to your new UK account:

  • Banks can send significant sums of money directly to one another via wire transfer.
  • Peer-to-peer transfer: Wise offers more favourable currency exchange rates and reduced fees.
  • Utilise your domestic bank card to withdraw funds from UK ATMs.
  • Cash delivery: Some companies transport cash across international frontiers.

Your bank in the United Kingdom can recommend the optimal method based on the transfer quantity and country of origin.

Choosing the appropriate expat bank account in the United Kingdom facilitates financial management while residing abroad. Find one that meets your individual requirements and banking routines.

When leaving your native country as an expat, close your financial accounts and tie up any loose ends. Cancel all direct debits and credits from accounts you intend to close. Inform your employer or pension provider of your new account information in the United Kingdom to ensure uninterrupted payments.

If you switch your principal account, you should update your billing information with your service providers. Before departing your home country, settle delinquent taxes, loans, or bills. Invest in long-term assets and maintain retirement accounts for continued growth.

Establishing a respectable credit history in the United Kingdom also facilitates future access to loans and mortgages. Using a credit card responsibly and making monthly payments helps develop a credit score in the UK. Avoid defaulting on payments or obligations. You may request a credit report to determine your credit score.

Daily budgeting, saving for objectives, and financial planning are also essential. Limit frivolous spending by keeping track of your expenditures. Pay off debts with high-interest rates with vigour. Annually review bank account fees and interest rates; transfer accounts for better deals if necessary. Register for financial monitoring applications. Consult a financial advisor with expat experience for advice.

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