Moving abroad: Banking

If you are planning on moving abroad and want to keep a UK account open, there are several options available to you. You can keep your current account in the UK. You can switch your account to one that is specifically designed for expats - usually operated through banks' offshore branches located in Jersey or the Isle of Man.

KEEP YOUR ACCOUNT

Accessing your money for free in Europe using your normal current account is made markedly easier if you still have financial interests in the UK, for example, you still own property here. A Nationwide current account is a popular choice for regular travellers because it does not charge for using overseas ATMs, and it does not hide commission in a loaded exchange rate, as most other banks do.

HSBC also offers some accounts with fee-free European ATM access but there are many conditions attached, including having an HSBC mortgage. These accounts are available only to people who are UK residents, so they're not a good option if you won't be back.

OPEN AN OFFSHORE ACCOUNT

If you are selling up and moving overseas permanently you can open an offshore account with a High Street bank and several building societies. These accounts are designed for people who are living away from their country of residence for an extended period. Customers will not normally pay tax to the UK Government on any interest earned. However, they may be required to pay tax in the country where you are now resident.

Property abroad

Offshore accounts, by definition, are registered outside the UK in places such as Jersey, which have different tax rules. All the major banks offer offshore accounts. The best thing about them is that you can often run them using dual currency – sterling and euros. For instance, if you are living in France you could open an account that gives you a euro chequebook and debit card, but still have the ease of paying UK bills in sterling. They also mean you can get around the awkward stage of being unable to maintain accounts in Britain (if you are no longer resident) and being unable to open a local bank account.

There are strings attached. This is Money spoke to the major High Street banks (2006) and asked them what their best account was for people who are living in Europe. They mostly require you to maintain a large minimum balance and have an annual fee:

Lloyds TSB - Overseas club account
Minimum balance - £100/€100/$100
Fees and charges: - £7.50 monthly charge (£90 pa), £4 for each ATM withdrawal.
Pros -Ability to apply for an international mortgage, No charges for point-of-sale purchases (you may pay an exchange fee)
Cons - You must have an income, eg salary, paid into the account
Contact: www.lloydstsb-offshore.com

Abbey - Gold account
Minimum balance: €7,500, $7,500, £5,000
Fees and charges: - No monthly fee if your balance stays above £5,000
Pros - Fewer charges if your balance is high, Debit card in euros
Cons- No euro cheque book or credit card
www.abbeyinternational.com

NatWest/RBS - Advantage international
Minimum opening balance - £25,000 or £75,000 in annual income
Fees and charges Annual fee of £150, 2.25% ATM fee to a max of £4, 2.65% exchange rate fee if you, for example, pay a euro bill with sterling. Does not apply if you pay for goods and services in the same currency
Pros - Can have separate 'pots' of money in your account in sterling, euros and US dollars, allowing you to pay UK bills in sterling, European bills in euros. Free travel insurance
Cons - No euro cheque book
www.natwestinternational.com

HSBC - Offshore account
Minimum balance - Opening balance of at least £5,000
Fees and charges: 1.5.% or a minimum of £1.75 for withdrawing cash at an overseas ATM, £15 per month account fee (from January 2006), £7.50 for transferring money online to an HSBC account that is not in your name, Up to £35 for other online transfers
Pros - International credit card and cheque book
Cons - You will be charged for moving money online between your sterling and euro account
www.offshore.hsbc.com

Barclays
Barclays has accounts designed for people who are relocating to Europe. But it has failed to respond to our requests for information. Contact the bank for more information.