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More UK banks to shut British expat accounts – what to do if yours is closed

More UK banks to shut British expat accounts – what to do if yours is closed

At least 10 banks, building societies and credit card firms have now decided to close accounts held by Brits living abroad in Europe as a result of Brexit, MoneySavingExpert.com has found – with Nationwide and Co-op Bank among the latest to announce closures. We've full info below on what banks are doing, plus help on what to do if you're affected.

We first asked banks in September whether they planned to close accounts for customers living in the European Economic Area (EEA) – which is the European Union plus Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway. At the time, just five told us they had plans to do so, but two months down the line, more have followed suit, while others are continuing to monitor the situation and haven't ruled out closing accounts in future.

See our table below, showing the latest on who's doing what. If your account is closed, you may still be able to open another with a different UK bank or with a bank in the country you're in instead. We've more help below – for info on how else Brexit will affect your finances and consumer rights, see our 21 Brexit need-to-knows.

Which banks are closing expat accounts? 

We've rounded up below the latest info from all the major banks, plus some smaller players such as Cynergy and Danske Bank that have now confirmed they're closing accounts. 

We don't know how many expats will be affected by the closures, though Lloyds, Halifax and Bank of Scotland said in September they planned to close 13,000 accounts in total. As other banks to announce closures haven't given figures, it's likely the total number affected will be significantly higher, and 100,000s of Brits are known to currently live in Europe.

What's happening to expat accounts?

Bank, building society or credit card firm Is it closing expats' accounts? Date of closure
Amex Waiting to hear Waiting to hear
Bank of Scotland Yes – for Brits in Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Portugal, Republic of Ireland & Slovakia From Nov – exact date depends on country & account
Barclaycard Yes – for Brits in EEA countries who hadn't linked accounts to a UK address 16 Nov
Barclays Yes – for Brits in Belgium, Estonia, Italy & Slovakia who don't have a UK address Exact date varies – you'll be given two months' notice
Co-op Bank Yes – for Brits in the Netherlands 31 Dec
Coutts Yes – for all Brits living in the EEA TBC
Cynergy Yes – for Brits living in the EU 29 Dec (personal bond accounts will stay open but won't be renewed on maturity from 1 Jan) 
Danske Bank Yes – for Brits in the EU. Those in Republic of Ireland, Denmark, Finland, Norway & Sweden aren't affected 31 Dec
First Direct No current plans, but monitoring the situation N/A
Halifax Yes – for Brits living in Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Portugal, Republic of Ireland & Slovakia  From Nov – exact date depends on country & account
HSBC No current plans, but monitoring the situation N/A
Lloyds Yes – for Brits living in Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Portugal, Republic of Ireland & Slovakia  From Nov – exact date depends on country & account
Nationwide Yes – for Brits living in Italy & the Netherlands. Taking legal advice on other EU countries 31 Nov for the Netherlands & 26 Jan for Italy
NatWest/RBS No current plans & no intention to "unless we absolutely have to" N/A
Santander No current plans, but monitoring the situation N/A
TSB No current plans, but "may find that in some EEA countries we do not feel able to continue providing certain TSB banking services" N/A

Why are accounts being closed?

Most UK banks are closing accounts now because of how Brexit is likely to change so-called 'passporting' arrangements at the end of this year. Passporting is when banks are allowed to provide services to customers in other states in the EEA without having to get direct authorisation in those states.

Current passporting rules are set to end on Thursday 31 December unless a new agreement is reached with the EU. What that means in practice is that, as things stand, from Friday 1 January each UK bank will need to have separate authorisation in every EEA country it wants to operate in – and different countries will have their own laws and regulations which could affect banks' ability to trade there.  

As a result, some banks have decided to close accounts in countries where they no longer wish to operate. The banks that gave us detail on their decision, including Barclays and Nationwide, said that account closures will go ahead regardless of whether the UK reaches a deal with the EU – so if you're told your account is closing, it's important to make arrangements now.  

The UK regulator the Financial Conduct Authority says it's written to banks to remind them of their obligations to customers if they choose to close accounts, including giving at least two months' notice before closing current accounts that are in credit. 

What should I do if my account's being closed?

British expats often choose to keep a UK account open if they receive a pension, salary or other income in pounds, as many non-UK accounts have fees or poor exchange rates for converting pounds into local currency.

If your bank's told you it's closing your account and you want to keep it, there are a few things you can try:

  • Check with your current bank if there's any way of appealing the closure. In most cases, this won't be possible as you'll need a UK residential address to keep the account and it's likely this will need to be your main residential address. But it may be worth checking with the bank what, if any, options you have, depending on your circumstances – for instance, if you do have a suitable UK address that meets the bank's requirements, which might be a solution.

  • Switch to another UK bank instead (though this comes with a risk). It's worth checking which other UK banks are still operating in the country you live in – some may let you open a new UK account without needing to go into a branch in the UK.

    The big warning here is that even if you can open a new account with another UK bank, it is always possible it could later decide to close expat accounts – none of those we've checked with has ruled out doing so in future. But if you need a UK bank account and can't keep your own, this may still be your best option. For more on how to switch a bank account, see our Best Bank Accounts guide. 

  • See if you can use a local bank. An alternative may be to open an account with a bank in the country you live in, though you'll need to check if you can still receive payments you were getting into your UK account and also factor in fees. A UK state pension, for example, can be paid into an overseas bank account, but the money you get will be subject to currency conversion.

    If you're legally living in the country, as a minimum, banks there have to let you open a basic bank account. These come with most of the features of a standard current account, except for overdrafts, though you may be charged fees for using them.

'A frustrating situation for many'

Steve Nowottny, news and investigations editor at MoneySavingExpert.com, said: "As the end of the Brexit transition period nears, it seems banks are increasingly deciding that they must simply close accounts held by those living overseas.

"Those who live abroad and have a UK bank account often keep it for a very specific reason, such as receiving regular income, so this is undoubtedly a frustrating situation for many of those who are affected. We've heard from a number of MoneySavers who've been told their accounts are being closed and are scrambling to work out what to do.

"While ultimately it's up to banks whether they continue to provide accounts for those living overseas, it's crucial that banks give as much notice as possible of any changes so that customers have time to make alternative arrangements, particularly at this very uncertain time."

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