Barclays, one of the UK’s largest banks, has announced that it will no longer offer personal current or savings accounts to customers who have an address registered with them outside of the UK. This means that expats who live abroad and still have financial ties to the UK will have to find alternative banking solutions or risk losing access to their money.
Why is Barclays closing expat accounts?
Barclays told Which? that it changed its policy in 2021 and since then it has been writing to customers and giving them a six-month warning before closing their accounts. The bank said that the decision was based on a number of factors, including the cost and complexity of providing services to customers in different countries, the regulatory requirements and risks involved, and the customer demand and usage of the accounts.
Barclays also said that the change only applies to Barclays UK products and services, and does not affect any account, product or service provided by another part of the Barclays Group, such as Barclays International Banking. Barclays will not close mortgages or loans of existing Barclays UK customers living outside of the UK.
What are the options for expats affected by Barclays’ decision?
If you are a Barclays customer living overseas and you receive a letter from the bank informing you that your account will be closed, you will need to follow the instructions you receive and take action as soon as possible. You may be able to keep using your account without a UK address if:
- You are a Crown Employee serving overseas
- The address on the account is for someone who manages the account on your behalf
- You are living outside the UK for six months or less, in which case you should inform Barclays when you return so it can update the details
If none of these apply to you, you will have to find another way to manage your money overseas. Some of the options you may consider are:
- Opening an international bank account with another provider, such as HSBC, Citibank, or Lloyds Bank. These accounts may allow you to hold multiple currencies, access online banking and telephone support, and avoid foreign transaction or ATM fees. However, they may also require a high minimum deposit, a monthly or annual fee, or a minimum income threshold.
- Opening a local bank account in the country where you live. This may be the most convenient and cost-effective option, especially if you receive income or pay bills in the local currency. However, you may face challenges such as language barriers, documentation requirements, or limited access to online banking or ATMs. You may also have to pay taxes or fees on your account, depending on the local regulations.
- Opening an online foreign exchange account with a company such as Wise, Revolut, or Starling. These accounts may allow you to send and receive money in different currencies, exchange money at the mid-market rate, and use a debit card or app to make payments or withdrawals. However, they may not offer the same level of protection or customer service as a traditional bank, and they may have limits or fees on some transactions or services.
How to choose the best bank account for expats?
The best bank account for expats depends on your personal circumstances, preferences, and needs. Some of the factors you may want to consider are:
- The availability and accessibility of the bank in the country where you live or travel
- The fees and charges associated with the account, such as maintenance, transaction, currency conversion, or ATM fees
- The interest rates and benefits offered by the account, such as cashback, rewards, or overdraft facilities
- The security and protection of the account, such as deposit insurance, fraud prevention, or dispute resolution
- The customer service and support of the bank, such as online banking, telephone helpline, or branch network
You may want to compare different options and read reviews from other expats before making a decision. You may also want to seek professional advice from a financial planner or a tax specialist to understand the implications of opening or closing a bank account abroad.