Immigration-friendly bank accounts, also known as international bank accounts or a multi-currency bank account, are accounts provided by banks (both legacy and challenger) for individuals who are frequently on the move or permanently living outside their home country. The best international bank account will largely depend on what the individual is looking to achieve, their financial status, and where they are located.The shared commonality across all accounts is the ability to hold multiple currencies and receive foreign exchange payments from abroad. With rising interest rates around the world, we’ll also take a look at the best foreign currency savings accounts, including both dollar savings accounts and euro savings accounts.
Top 4 International Bank Accounts – Legacy Banks & Fintech
Please note that these are the best international bank accounts in UK but not the best bank accounts for international transfers.
#1 HSBC International Bank Account
The HSBC Expat Bank Account (which was temporarily named the International Bank Account) is arguably the most well-known international bank account to be provided by a legacy bank. Current accounts are available in GBP, EUR & USD, with all accounts being held in Jersey (Channel Islands). Savings accounts are available in a further 16 currencies (more on this later). To open an HSBC International Bank Account, applicants are required to inject either a £50,000 deposit into their HSBC account, or show proof of a minimum £100,000 salary.
There are no fees for withdrawing money at an international ATM but a 2.75% FX spread is applied – significantly higher than that of a fintech challenger bank! Payments fees also apply to international payments and the FX spread on these with HSBC is not clear.
#2 Santander International Bank Account
Like HSBC, Santander offers international bank accounts available in GBP, EUR & USD that are held in Jersey. The minimum account balance is £75,000 but the information on interest is outdated and not to be relied on
FX fees can be as high as 3% when using a debit card abroad and SWIFT payments can incur a fee of £20 through online banking and £30 when arranged over the telephone.
#3 Lloyds International Account
You guessed it – the Lloyds International Account allows customers to open current accounts in three currencies – GBP, EUR & USD but their accounts are held in the Isle of Man. The qualification criteria is slightly more generous with Lloyds asking that an applicant’s salary is a minimum of £50,000 or that they have a minimum of £25,000 to deposit into the account. Customers are able to open an overdraft on their GBP accounts.
Lloyds international accounts incur a £7.50 monthly fee. To send a CHAPS payment in the UK a £30 fee is charged. More about Lloyds international payments here.
#4 Starling Bank
Starling Bank, particularly when compared to other traditional GBP current accounts, provides some of the most fair pricing for international card use. Unlike most UK debit cards, Starling won’t charge you for adding money to your card, withdrawing cash from an ATM or for making transactions on your card. Starling uses Mastercard’s exchange rate and doesn’t add anything on top.
The fact there is no cap on the fee-free allowance for international ATM withdrawals makes Starling a great choice for immigrants. We don’t know exactly what spread the Mastercard exchange rate is, though it is thought to be close to the real/interbank exchange rate at the time.
The issue with Starling bank is that Starling Bank’s international payments could be expensive.
#5 Wise: The most “bank-like” account due do its multi-currency debit card
Wise is The Best International Bank Account & Multi-Currency Card
Do you actually need an international bank account?
For most people, an appropriate substitute for an international bank account would simply be a multi-currency account (virtual IBAN account) supplied by a variety of leading money transfer services. These will allow you to save balance in multiple currencies, exchange between balances with great rates and no fees (resulting in much lower international bank transfer costs than with actual banks), and some will allow you to pay with a debit card connected directly to that account (Wise Account). The companies we recommend are supervised under stringent money transfer regulation by the FCA and handle millions of satisfied customers globally with a much better average rating than the ones received by UK’s banks.
(Bank alternatives with dedicated IBAN in multiple currencies that you can use to receive funds locally and make payments)
Fintechs VS actual bank accounts
The best bank accounts with multiple currency support are designed to provide a good interest rate on savings (in multiple currencies), supply a debit card with low FX fees, supply a strong online and mobile banking app, all while reducing the foreign exchange costs associated with international banking. By running through options provided by both major banks and challenger fintechs, this guide will serve two purposes – to determine the best banks for immigrants in the UK and the best UK bank account for Brits living overseas.
Which International Multi-Currency Bank Account is for me?
Legacy banks tend to have high minimum deposit or salary requirements, whilst challenger banks tend to be open to all. Personally, we prefer the later approach – we believe financial services should be accessible to everyone – no matter their income. They also prove cheaper than traditional banks too.
When considering the best currency bank account for you, you’ll want to ask:
- What currencies can I hold balances in?
- What are the foreign exchange fees associated with the account?
- Are there ATM withdrawals fees when using my debit card abroad?
- Do I need traditional banking services, i.e. the ability to deposit cheques?
- How easy is it to manage funds on the move, i.e. online and over the app?
- Is customer support available in my timezone? Would I prefer online or telephone support?
Which Type of Client Are You
When you searched for the best international bank accounts in UK or best international bank account for immigrants, what were you looking for?
I mainly need my international bank account to send and receive payments in multiple currencies 💸
– No international money transfer wire fees
– Best exchange rates for large transfers
– Professional and courteous staff, bespoke helpful guidance
– Rated 96% by its past customers over its 20+ years of operation
Challenger Banks / Fintechs #1: Wise
I mainly need my international bank account to enjoy savings account in multiple currencies and set up direct debits 🏦
– Current accounts in GBP, USD and EUR held in Jersey
– Saving accounts in 16 currencies
– 4% interest rate offer
– Winner of international bank account awards for years
Traditional bank accounts #1: HSBC
Additional Selection of UK Bank Accounts
If you require traditional banking services, such as paying in cheques and interest-bearing savings accounts, then it might be that a legacy bank provides the best multi-currency bank account for you. Though it’s worth pointing out that even immigrant bank accounts provided by the likes of HSBC will not be eligible for overdrafts in foreign currencies, e.g. USD. And because the accounts are held in the UK it would not be possible to set up Direct Debits on currency accounts either, such as those processed via ACH in the US.
Unless you have a specific requirement to open a Jersey based account, we can’t understand the benefits in selecting an immigrant bank account provided by traditional banks. The high minimum deposit seems unnecessary and some of the FX charges, whilst better than that on standard current accounts from traditional banks, are still higher than those provided by dedicated international banking providers.
For Immigrants Wanting to Save on Foreign Exchange Fees
If you want to get the lowest foreign exchange and payment fees possible then a challenger bank/fintech (i.e. multi-currency account such as Wise Account) is almost certainly going to be your best option. For this reason, we divide the international bank accounts for internationals into two categories – traditional banks and fintech challenger banks – with three international bank accounts to choose from each.
Legacy Retail Banks (e.g. Lloyds/HSBC)
Fintechs (e.g. Wise/Revolut)
- Can provide interest on foreign account balances.
- Will accept cheques in major currencies like GBP, EUR & USD.
- Aggregated balances are covered by FSCS up to £85,000
- Can have high minimum balance requirements/account fees.
- FX spreads applied to currency exchange usually moderate to high
- ATM fees apply on all withdrawals and are usually high
- Accounts held in the UK (often Jersey)
- Low FX spreads for currency conversion (0.5% and below)
- Free to open, no management fees or minimum balance requirements
- Some currency accounts held local to the country, e.g. Wise USD account in New York comes with routing number and US account details
- Monthly allowance for free ATM withdrawals or lower ATM fees than traditional banks
- Does not accept cheques
- Account balances not covered by FSCS*
*It’s worth discussing how your funds are protected in digital bank accounts with your provider. Depending on the bank that provider uses to open accounts and the country this is in, funds may be protected under other schemes. Money transfer providers are regulated too, in the UK by the FCA.
** It’s increasingly difficult to open a foreign bank account before you have a permanent address as you can see on our guide on how to open a US bank account without residency.
Banking Overview from MoneyTransferComparison
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Top 2 Banking – Challenger / Fintech Focused on Bank Exchange Rate
#1 Wise Multi-Currency Account
The Wise multi-currency account is specifically for frequent travellers, immigrants, and nomads. Allowing users to hold balances in 54 foreign currencies, with 10 of these actually local to the country they represent. A USD account for example is held in New York. This drastically improves the ease to which transfers can be made to and from friends and businesses in the country you live in and ensures payments remain local. The Wise debit card can be used in over 200 countries worldwide.
FX fees can be as low as 0.35% and generally hover around the 0.5% mark. The only downside is that the ATM withdrawal fee-free allowance is capped at £200 per month – beyond this ATM withdrawals incur a 1.75% fee. Though if you add their minimal FX fee to this it still works out better than the 2.75%+ charged by traditional banks.
Before Revolut launched a whole bunch of alternative financial services, it shot to fame for its smart multi-currency account and international currency card. International payments from the UK are charged a 0.3% fee which is capped at £5. That means no matter how much you send internationally, the real exchange rate can be achieved and you won’t have to pay more than £5.
ATM withdrawals attract the real exchange rate but a 2% fee is charged above certain limits depending on your account. Standard plan users have a £200 fee-free limit per month, premium users a £400 fee-free limit and metal users a £800 fee-free limit per month. Users can spend abroad with their Revolut card in over 150 currencies and enjoy the real exchange rate.
Both Wise & Revolut provide extensive payment capabilities to hundreds of countries worldwide. Rather than having a traditionally domestic focus like most legacy banks, these firms were built with international customers in mind. Moneycorp will be your option of choice if you are managing a business from abroad.
Best International Bank ccount for Businsses
Moneycorp is MoneyTransferComparison’s best international money transfer service for business FX. As Moneycorp is a currency brokerage, when you sign up with Moneycorp you will receive a dedicated currency expert that will escort your business in all FX-related challenges, gain access to complex currency hedging tools and similarly to Wise’s solution – get virtual IBAN in multiple countries and currencies to receive funds into. Moneycorp’s solution is more holistic than others for business owners, but it is also an excellent fintech solution for High Net Worth internationals.
Bottom line: Best International Bank Account
Now that we’ve run through the options, let’s take a look at our reasoning and recommendation for the best bank for immigrants in the UK (i.e. people arriving into the UK) and the best UK bank account for British internationals (i.e. Brits emigrating abroad).
Best in UK Upon Arrival – Wise Multi-Currency Account
As the largest fintech provider of immigrant banking, Wise provides the most flexibility for internationals to register for a Wise multi-currency account prior to arriving in the UK. The Wise multi-currency account is available to residents in the US, Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, Japan, Switzerland and EEA. Meaning individuals who plan on emigrating from these countries to the UK can already establish digital bank accounts in over 50 currencies and receive a corresponding debit card to spend their balances around the world. The Wise GBP account is based in London and has its own UK sort code, account number, and IBAN. Making it easy to make and receive payments within the UK. If you’re moving for work, for example, those first few salary payments can easily be paid into a Wise GBP account until you register for a standard UK currency account.
Best in UK Upon Living at a UK Address – HSBC
Not only is HSBC one of the big four UK banks (found on most UK high streets), it has branches in over 80 countries. So it’s a good choice for immigrants given its global reach, particularly immigrants arriving from Asia. HSBC will also allow part-opening of the account ahead of arriving in the UK. Simply supply your ID at a UK branch on arrival to complete the account opening. It’s easier if you’re an existing HSBC customer but new-to-bank customers can also apply if they have valid proof of residency, visa and identification documents.
MTC top tip – Opt for a standard current account with HSBC that you run alongside a specialist immigrants banking provider like Wise. HSBC will be best used for domestic purposes whilst Wise will almost certainly prove a cheaper option for holidays abroad and sending money home. Should you wish, you can always upgrade your HSBC account to an HSBC International Bank Account if you have a minimum £50,000 deposit or £100,000 salary.
UK immigrants Emigrating to Europe – Starling Bank
Starling’s euro account is a full current account with its own unique IBAN, meaning total Starling deposits are covered up to £85,000 by the Financial Services Compensation Scheme. It’s easy to convert euros into pounds and vice versa. Simply convert money between Starling accounts for a very reasonable 0.4% conversion fee. There are no hidden commissions or unknown extra charges. What’s more, Starling charges zero ATM fees, regardless of how much is withdrawn internationally. Through the app, users can easily switch between whether the debit card deducts from GBP balances or EUR balances.
UK immigrants Emigrating to Rest of World – Wise Multi Currency Account
For the same reasons that Wise proves a great option for immigrants arriving into the UK, Wise is also the best bank for immigrants leaving the UK. Brits can easily register for a Wise multi-currency account ahead of emigration and will be able to open local bank accounts in 10 countries around the world including Europe, USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and Singapore. Truth be told, Wise is also a brilliant option for UK internationals emigrating to Europe too but the fact that Starling Bank provides a fully fledged euro bank account meant it just pipped Wise. Really, you couldn’t go wrong with either. Wise exchange rates and fees speak for themselves.
Best International Savings Account – Wise Currency Account
By comparing interest rates on USD savings accounts, GBP savings accounts and euro savings accounts, we can ultimately determine the best international savings account based on the rate of return you can achieve.
It’s worth noting the accounts provided by HSBC, Santander and Lloyds are similar in that they are UK Island accounts. The accounts provided by Starling are held in the UK, whilst the Wise Currency account holds its GBP account in the UK, EUR in Germany and USD in the US.
The following foreign currency savings account rates are as of 16 June 2023 and apply to instant access accounts where money can be withdrawn at any time.
|HSBC Premier Online Savings Account
|Santander International Bank Account
|Lloyds International Bonus Saver Account
|Starling Current Account
|Wise Currency Account
|0.85% or 2.36% with bonus gross*
|0.00% – Outdated
|0.00% or 0.02%*
|0.00% – Outdated
|1% or 2.77%*
|0.00% – Outdated
*Earn the bonus gross interest when you do not make a withdrawal in any given month
**An additional bonus interest is available to customers within the first 12 months of account opening with Lloyds International Bank Accounts. This ranges between 0.45% – 1.05% on GBP, 0.25% – 1.00% on EUR and 0.6% – 1.55% on USD, depending on the amount held in the account (over 1 million of the relevant currency to access the highest return).
At an initial glance, Santander provides the worst rates of all, but the interest rates for the GBP and USD Santander International Bank Accounts have not been updated since 2016 and 2017 respectively, whilst interest rates on their euro savings account have not been updated since 2022. We think it’s frankly astonishing that a bank at the scale of Santander can have such outdated information on its website.
Of the accounts with current information, HSBC provides the worst return on euro savings account interest rates by quite some way. To access a better rate of return on EUR with HSBC you have to opt for one of their fixed-term deposits. HSBC also provides a less favourable rate on GBP and USD if you regularly need to access your savings. The bonus gross rate is only applied to the months where you do not make a withdrawal. Should you access funds in any given month, you’ll only qualify for the lower rate.
The Lloyds interest rates are higher in the first 12 months of opening an account but after this they drop off substantially. After the initial welcome period, the sterling and dollar savings account earn the same 1.25%. Substantially below what’s available elsewhere.
The Wise Account provides by far the best rates of return. Amazingly, the best international high yield savings account is in fact a current account! There are no commitments and you’re free to spend your balances whenever you like, whether by bank transfer or by debit card.
However, if you’re looking specifically for an ‘overseas savings account’, i.e. one which is ‘offshore’ or ‘island based’ then you’d probably want to opt for HSBC if you know that you don’t need to access the account on a regular basis.
Final Words on Finding the Best International Bank Account
If you’re living and working abroad you’ll find that as well as retaining your bank account in your home country and perhaps opening a new account in the country you have settled, a digital bank account offered by the new breed of international challenger banks is more than likely going to have you well covered. Traditional immigrant bank accounts have expensive fees and high minimum deposit requirements, which is precisely why there was room for new fintechs to take the market by storm. The best international bank for immigrants will depend on each immigrant’s requirements, but for inclusivity and low fees we recommend giving these new fintechs a go. Leading fintech Wise even provides better interest rates on its foreign savings account than the mainstream banks. We think you’ll soon discover they can operate as your sole international banking provider around the world, or at the very least run alongside your domestic bank account.
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