Home Wire Transfers Best International Bank For Expats

Best International Bank For Expats

Expat bank accounts are designed specifically for people living an international lifestyle. For people travelling abroad only once or twice a year for a holiday, the expensive wire transfer fees and poor exchange rates often associated with banks may not be the biggest problem – but for expats, frequent travellers, and digital nomads, you could be losing thousands of your hard-earned dollars every year simply by accessing your own money.

Updated: 03/06/2021
Read time: 7 minutes
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Some banks offer international bank accounts that are specifically for people living away from their home country, while other non-bank institutions offer a digital approach to wiring money internationally that means fewer fees and more versatility with moving your money across borders.

In this guide, we’ve reviewed some of the best international banks for expats as well as a few major considerations to keep in mind when picking the best account for you.

Things to consider when finding the best international bank for you

Before diving into our top bank recommendations for expats, here are a few questions to consider when making your choice:

  • Will you keep your bank account in your home country and withdraw money overseas?

If this is the case for you, you will want to find a bank account that has the lowest transfer fees and most favourable exchange rates to avoid losing your money to your bank. Multi-currency accounts may also be worth considering, although this would involve opening a new bank account rather than sticking with your existing bank.

  • Will you be receiving a salary from a foreign employer (in another currency)?

If you are receiving payments from a foreign employer, for example, if you’re a freelancer working with international clients, you’ll want to make sure your bank account will accommodate multiple currencies.

  • What currency(/ies) will you be holding in your account?

Make sure that whatever international bank account you are looking at, it supports the currencies you need to hold in your account.

Best International Bank Accounts for Expats

Below are some of the best international bank accounts for expats living and working abroad. A few key things to bear in mind when considering the best account for you is:

  • Can you have your account in multiple currencies?
  • Will you be charged foreign transaction fees?
  • Are foreign ATM withdrawals free?
  • Are you eligible for this account when living abroad?
  • Are transaction safe and secure? Learn more about safe bank transfers in our guide: are bank transfers safe?

HSBC Expat Account

The HSBC Expat Account is available in pound sterling, dollars, or euros, and includes a debit card, foreign exchange app, and 24/7 phone access to your account. This account is most suitable for people who already bank with HSBC and regularly move countries or regularly make international payments.

To have this account, you must be 18 years or over, currently live in an eligible country or region, and hold a minimum with £50,000 with HSBC, be qualified already for HSBC Premier in another country, or have a sole salary of £100,000.

Pros
You can hold multiple currencies at once
You can open additional savings accounts in up to 16 countries
Visa debit available in either sterling or dollars
24/7 telephone support plus a mobile app and online banking
Cons
May not be accessible to everyone
There are monthly fees for this account
International transfers still come with fees

Lloyds International Account

The Lloyds International Bank account is also available in pound sterling, dollars, or euros, and offers fee free international transfers (although charges from the recipient bank may apply).

To be eligible you need a gross annual income of £50,000 (or currency equivalent), or have £25,000 available to save or invest with Lloyds Bank international banking services. You will also need to make an initial deposit into your account within 30 days of opening your account. This account has fees of £7.50/€8/$10USD per month.

Pros
Possible to hold multiple currencies
No fees for sending international payments
24/7 worldwide access
Visa debits available in sterling, dollars, and euros
Cons
There are monthly charges for this account
Eligibility requirements may not be accessible for everyone
Lloyds are unable to offer an account to EU residents (excluding UK)

Wise Borderless Account

Wise has a borderless account that is specifically aimed towards frequent travellers, expats, and freelancers. Supporting 50 foreign currencies, the account comes with a debit card for making local payments and free foreign ATM withdrawals (up to £200/month)

The major plus points of a Wise borderless account is that it has low fees and is accessible to almost everyone (there may be some country limitations), and is ideal for students studying abroad, expats that travel frequently, and freelancers sending and receiving payments in multiple currencies. The downside is that the Wise account is not an official bank account. This could be a problem if you need to receive payments in the form of direct deposit, as this account does not support this time of payment for many countries. For some people, this borderless account may be a good supplement to an existing bank account instead. You can learn more about making direct deposits in our direct deposit vs wire transfer guide.

Pros
You can hold more than 50 currencies at once
MasterCard debit card to spend in local currency
Easy-to-use app for 24/7 access
Zero foreign transaction fees
Cons
Not classed as an official bank account
£200 monthly limit on fee-free ATM withdrawals
Not as much access to services you have with a traditional bank

Capital One 360

The Capital One 360 account is ideal for expats looking to avoid foreign transaction fees and high interest rates, and who frequently make purchases online from other countries. When using your Capital One 360 card overseas, the bank charges no foreign transaction fees, which is a big draw for many people.

Pros
No charge for foreign ATM withdrawals
Easy online access to manage your account
No fee for receiving transfers
No account fees
Cons
You must retain a mailing address in the US to be eligible
You must be a US resident and have a Social Security Number to open your account online

Charles Schwab

To open your bank account with Charles Schwab, you do need to be a resident of the US. The account is popular for those looking to avoid foreign transaction fees and service fees for foreign purchases, and also pays rebates on ATM charges which is a big bonus if you’re a frequent traveller.

US expats living in the UK or Europe may want to be aware that Brexit will affect how Charles Schwab operates – find out your options if this applies to you.

Pros
Pays rebates on all ATM charges
Foreign transactions are processed at no charge
No service fees
Can be linked to Apple Pay for added convenience
Cons
US expats living in the Europe may be affected by Brexit changes to the account
Charles Schwab branches are not as accessible as others

Alternatives to expat bank accounts

Beyond using a bank account, there are also alternative methods to help you manage your money between borders. These include:

Multi-currency accounts

Multi-currency accounts are often offered by virtual banks, allowing you to hold multiple currencies in your account to save money when sending/receiving money, paying for foreign transactions, and moving money across borders.

These accounts can be particularly useful for freelancers who receive and send payments in foreign currencies on a regular basis, while frequent travellers may also benefit from a multi-currency account. For expats settled in one location, an expat account may offer more benefits, however.

Money transfer providers

For sending money back home, meeting regular payments in your home country, or sending funds to a person or organisation, you may find that using a money transfer provider such as WorldRemit or Azimo is a more cost-effective way of moving your money abroad than a traditional bank.

Money transfer providers benefit from:

  • Lower fees (learn more about making a free wire transfer in our guide)
  • More competitive exchange rates
  • Faster transfer times
  • More payment/payout methods

If you are an expat sending money back home to family on a regular basis, for example, you may choose to register a free account with a money transfer provider to send money via bank transfer or paying by debit/credit card on a regular basis for lower fees than you would get with your traditional bank. Likewise, some money transfer providers have the added benefit of cash pickups, which are often near-instant for your recipient on the other end.

Take a look at our review of the top 10 money transfer providers to find the best service for you.

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Yasmin Purnell

Yasmin is the content writer for MoneyTransfers.com. With an English degree from the University of Nottingham and over 5 years’ experience freelancing in the personal finance niche, Yasmin joined the team with a mission to make international money transfers accessible and easy to understand for all. When she’s not writing, you’ll find Yasmin on her yoga mat or planning her next escape to the mountains.

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