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Expat with Barclays? Here are your options if your account is being closed

Expats who bank with Barclays face having their UK accounts closed following a "strategic review" by the bank, leaving some customers worried about the alternatives available to them.

Below we take you through what's happening and your options.

Barclays is closing expats' UK accounts – here's who's affected

Most Barclays current and savings account holders with registered addresses outside of the UK will have their accounts closed. Barclays' UK personal savings and current accounts will, however, remain available to those based in so-called 'Crown Dependencies' (Guernsey, Jersey, and the Isle of Man). 

The shake-up follows a strategic review, which began in 2020, with the bank beginning to inform impacted customers in 2021. This process is still underway and affected customers will be given at least six months' notice. 

It's a blow to those who may prefer to have a UK-based bank account to receive UK-based payments into, such as benefits and the state pension. This is typically done to avoid fees, which may apply when such payments are paid into foreign accounts. 

The decision will also impact some with Barclays loans and cash ISAs. With loans, you will be able to keep the loan and continue making monthly repayments. However, you will not be able to get a new loan in future.

With cash ISAs, you will need to transfer your savings elsewhere or close the account if your registered address is in Estonia, Italy, the Netherlands or Slovakia. Your cash ISA will remain open if you live in any other country.

You can see Barclays' website for further information, including answers to frequently asked questions.

First check if you can stick with your existing Barclays current account

Check if you can keep your existing Barclays current account by changing your address to a UK-registered one, or if you're one of the limited exceptions to the rule: 

  • Change your registered address to a suitable UK one if this is possible. Barclays says an acceptable UK address includes one based in England, Northern Ireland, Scotland, or Wales. 

  • There are also some limited exceptions to the closures. For example, if you are a 'Crown employee' – which typically includes members of the UK armed forces, civil servants and diplomats – or the spouse of one. Or if the address registered outside of the UK belongs to someone else, for example, if the account is controlled by a power of attorney who lives outside of the UK.  

Your options if you can't keep your existing Barclays current account

Here you have three main options: 

1. See if you qualify for a specialist expat account – though you'll need a fairly high income or a large amount in savings.  

Although some banks allow customers to retain existing accounts when they move abroad, none allow new customers to open standard accounts with a non-UK address.

However, some providers, including Barclays, offer specialised products for international customers, which you can qualify for from pretty much anywhere in the world, though they're harder to get and may also incur monthly fees. For example:

  • Barclays International requires a £100,000 deposit to be maintained across its savings and/or investments accounts. Fail to do so for four consecutive months, and you will be charged £40 a month.

  • HSBC Expat has no monthly fee, but you'll need a minimum income of £100,000, or a £50,000 deposit, or to be an existing HSBC Premier customer. 

  • Lloyds International has a £7.50 a month fee, plus you need a minimum income of £50,000 or a £25,000 deposit. Lloyds also has a Premier current account with no fee, but you need to deposit £100,000 within six months of opening the account or have an annual income of at least £100,000 and deposit £100,000 within 12 months. 
2. Don't meet the eligibility criteria for a traditional bank? Consider a multi-currency account.
These accounts can be opened by residents in a number of countries globally, allowing users to send and receive money abroad. They also come with debit cards for spending.
Crucially, however, these are not banks and you won’t get the full £85,000 Financial Services Compensation Scheme protection from the UK Government that you would with a UK-based bank account.

Instead, both Revolut and Wise – which we cover below – aim to protect customers' money by holding some of it in ring-fenced accounts with major financial institutions (the rest will be invested). The bank your money will be held with depends on which country you opened the account from – see Revolut and Wise's websites for more info. If you're happy to proceed on this basis, here's more info on how Revolut and Wise work: 
  • Revolut's standard plan. This account is free and comes with a debit card. You can open it as a resident of a number of countries (see Revolut's website for a full list). You can hold multiple currencies and there are no fees for exchanging currency Monday to Friday (there's a 1% fee at weekends). Charges do, however, apply if you withdraw £200-plus in cash each month, or if you make five-plus withdrawals each month. 

  • Wise's multi-currency account. This account is free to open and it comes with a debit card, though there is a £7 one-off card delivery fee. You can get it in most of Europe, North America and more (see Wise's website for a full list). When converting currencies, it charges an exchange fee of at least 0.43% (the exact rate depends on the currency) and you can make two fee-free cash withdrawals of up to £200 each month. Withdraw more than £200 in cash each month and charges will apply.  

For more on these accounts, see our Top prepaid travel cards guide.

3. Get a bank account in your place of residence.

If your main need for a UK account is for pension payments, including the UK state pension, it's usually possible to get this paid into a foreign bank account anywhere in the world.

With a foreign bank account you will be able to send and receive money to and from the UK using your account's 'International Bank Account Number (IBAN)' or equivalent. You can set this up with your bank, though you may have to pay a fee. It's also possible to use one of these accounts together with one of the free multi-currency accounts listed above.

Other banks have also shut some expats' accounts

Barclays isn't the only financial institution to have closed expats' accounts in recent years. For example, Bank of Scotland, Halifax and Lloyds announced they would close around 13,000 expat accounts back in 2020 – though this was mostly in select European countries following the UK's exit from the European Union.

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