Best International Bank Account

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International bank accounts are an asset not just to businesses with interests outside the UK but also to expats, travellers and even students. If you constantly move around and want reliable access to your funds, an international bank account is your best option.

Different banks have come up with unique services that appeal to different needs since every person has different requirements for their account. Because of this, there are different international bank accounts to choose from depending on your needs, and this guide looks at some of the best options available for you.

What is an International Bank Account

An international bank account is an account that has been optimised for international use. The accounts have varying features that ensure they suit specific customer needs. The accounts receive, hold, send and exchange foreign currency if you choose to go with high-street banks. But those from challenger banks can do more, including spending. These come with linked debit cards for convenience.

Types of International Bank Accounts

Depending on your needs, there are different types of international bank accounts that you can open. The type of account available differs by institution, but most allow you to open the account online or physically at a branch if you opt for a traditional bank.

Some of the types of international accounts you can open include:

International Savings Account

This type of account allows customers to earn interest on their deposits while keeping their funds easily accessible. Institutions offer competitive interest rates and may have minimal or no account maintenance fees. You will mainly find this type of account with high-street banks.

International Business Checking Account

As the name suggests, this account is mainly for businesses that need specialised accounts to manage their financial operations across different countries. The international business checking bank account has special, customised features that suit the business’s needs, such as multiple currency options and efficient cross-border payment capabilities. The exact range of features you get from the account differs depending on the provider.

International Business Savings Account

This is a savings account for businesses that allows them to earn interest on their deposits. This account is mainly used to put the surplus funds while maintaining liquidity and accessibility.

There is also the option of the International Certificate of Deposit (ICD), which is not necessarily a type of account but rather an investment that allows investors to deposit money in foreign currency. This option offers higher interest rates than traditional CDs, but they carry more risk. The process of opening an ICD differs depending on the institution and the interest rate you get.

Benefits of International Bank Accounts

Operating an international bank account has numerous benefits for individuals and businesses. You can take advantage of these accounts’ diverse products and services, which will help you manage currency risk, boost cash flow, and enhance operational efficiency. Other benefits of using an international bank account include:

Global Mobility

With an international bank account, you can easily access your funds in multiple currencies anytime and anywhere. You can send and receive payments across various regions at competitive rates and even spend if you choose an institution offering a debit card.

Professional Image

An international business bank account conveys a sense of credibility and enhances your reputation in the market for businesses. It also helps businesses remain more efficient by allowing them to operate fluidly without the restrictions of using different currencies.

Financial Diversification

An international bank account is an excellent way to mitigate potential financial risks by diversifying your assets across different currencies, countries and financial markets. It also allows you to avoid risks with some currencies losing value, allowing you to concentrate your efforts on more stable currencies to preserve value.

Business Growth

Having a multi-currency account and drastically simplifying international B2B cross-border transactions can spur the business’s growth. The account can encourage the business’s growth by making it easy for the business to transact outside the border.

Enjoy the Benefits of Multi Currency Banking

Keeping your account in one place while operating across different countries is a significant benefit. Having an international account means quickly mitigating and managing the risks associated with forex fluctuations. You can transfer money between accounts quickly at no cost if the accounts are within the same banks and get competitive interest rates if you open an international business savings account.

A multi-currency account means you can cover payments in your home country, settle everyday expenses in the country you’re currently residing in, and still travel quickly and conveniently to other regions without worrying about how you will access the funds. 

With the account, you can maintain balances in different currencies, which means you always know exactly how much of a specific currency you have in hand and that volatile exchange rates won’t impact your bottom line or account balances.

Best International Bank Accounts

The beauty of international bank accounts is you don’t have to rely on traditional banks. There are fintechs that also offer amazing international accounts that allow you to access and spend money wherever you are on the planet. In fact, you will notice from the list that a good number of international bank accounts are offered by challenger banks.

Revolut 

UK-based Revout is one of the leading challenger banks with exceptional features and services for anyone looking for financial services that extend beyond the borders. Revolut offers you unlimited access to your account from a single virtual card or the Revolut debit card.

The Revolut account is also an ideal option, especially for those looking for cost-effective solutions to international transfers than what high street banks offer.

The main reason Revolut is an excellent option for an international bank account is the lower transaction fees. The account provides free international payments up to certain account limits. Once customers exceed their free allowance, Revolut charges a nominal fee of £3 per transaction, which is significantly lower than the fees charged by traditional banks.

When you upgrade to the paid accounts, you incur a monthly fee, which increases the free allowances for local transactions and foreign currency exchanges.

Another reason to consider a Revolut international bank account is that there is no markup on the exchange rates. Being a traveller, a businessman or an expat, you want to spend money in your local currency. It can be expensive, considering the fees attached to foreign exchange. Revolut reduces the sting by allowing users to have a multi-currency account and use a real-time interbank exchange rate without adding any markup, allowing you to make the most out of the transaction.

Other range of features you can enjoy with a Revolut international bank account include:

  • Accept payment worldwide: Businesses can easily accept payments from around the world and get fast access to their funds wherever they are in the world
  • Smart cards for business: Business can provide their teams with physical and virtual company debit cards to make access to funds easier.
  • Team management: You can control spending and permissions from one dashboard.
  • Accounting integration: You can integrate with software like Xero and Quickbooks for easier financial management.
  • Smart Invoicing: Get paid faster with efficient invoicing.
  • Customizable Business API: Integrate your own tools and automate payments.
  • Advanced security features
  • Card controls
  • Mobile app

Pay iO

Revolut has some impressive features that businesses can take advantage of; however, if you’re looking for a purely business-oriented option that offers the right features to help your business unlock its financial potential within and outside the UK, you should consider Pay iO.

Pay iO is also a challenger bank, but one that is designed for businesses. Unlike other options that add business functions afterwards, Pay iO is built for businesses from the core up – it is made for business.

The challenger bank offers extensive features, allowing small and large businesses to transact easily across borders.

Once you set up the account, the business can get payments directly from their customer and manage their transactions and expenses all in one place.

The business can also send and receive global payments and conveniently manage your account, reducing administrative time and effort.

The account is available on the mobile app and web. You can access it anywhere as long as you have an internet connection.

The digital account you get with Pay iO provides you with dedicated bank details and a business card, all hassle-free and fully online.

Expectedly, operating internationally requires that you change currency and Pay iO has the perfect currency exchange terms for business. Instead of marking up the foreign exchange rate, businesses get the real mid-market rate with a low fee to exchange currencies. This greatly benefits businesses that rely on currency exchange to operate.

Pay iO also offers fast and simple multi-currency bank transfer using their global network meaning you have an account everywhere. You can easily pay your suppliers and partners quickly and with minimal costs.

Unlike Revolut, Pay iO doesn’t have a free account. But it offers tiered options that increase monthly fees and services offered. Businesses can choose the features they need depending on their size and budget.

Other features available on Pay iO international business bank accounts include:

  • Open Banking
  • Rapid onboarding
  • Integration with accounting software
  • Account manager for easy and reliable support

Wise

Wise is one of the biggest names in global fintech and international banking. It allows you to hold over 40 different currencies, making it the one product that comes closest to offering a truly global service. However, most of these focus on personal banking, which is why Wise could be an excellent option for nomads.

There are only about a dozen countries where you cannot use Wise at all and a few more where you cannot get their borderless multi-currency accounts. This makes Wise an excellent option for a person who doesn’t know where their adventure or work will take them next.

You can open a Wise account for free and hold and exchange over 40 currencies. You can use the Wise debit card to spend in over 150 countries, and you can get local bank details in 10 currencies, making it easy to get paid from over 30 countries and send money to 160+ countries using Wise.

Wise’s extensive reach isn’t the only reason it is an excellent international bank account for nomads. It also offers other features that make it a serious contender for personal international bank accounts.

The first of these features is its currency exchange rate. Like Pay iO, Wise uses a mid-market rate for currency exchange. This is the one you usually find on Google. You only pay a low conversion rate that makes currency exchange affordable.

Wise also has a travel card you can order for a one-time low fee. Using the card, you can spend around the world in over 150 countries. If you don’t have the currency you need, you can use the currency exchange feature to convert using the lowest possible fee.

Wise allows you to make international ATM withdrawals when you need cash. The account has limited free withdrawals, after which you pay for each withdrawal.

Wise also has some great features for businesses looking to trade internationally. These include:

  • Business debit cards
  • Batch payments
  • Software Integration

Wise is transparent about its fees, which is critical for people who regularly use the service. While you can get the personal account free, there is a one-time fee for opening a Wise Business account.

Starling Bank

Students might need a bank account for various reasons, such as paying tuition, accommodation and living expenses. Before opening an international bank account, students should consider whether they want a checking or savings account.

Starling offers one of the best international business bank accounts for students with various perks. Starling is not only fully licensed by the UK authorities but also has excellent features, such as zero monthly fees, that make it an excellent choice for students. The account comes complete with a checking account, desktop and mobile banking, a debit card and even a decent interest rate on your personal account balances.

The account is most beneficial for students between the United Kingdom and Europe with no international card transaction fees, so students can keep spending while they are away from the UK.

Its smart budgeting and money management tools are some of the best and come in handy for students looking to get disciplined with their money.

There are minimal requirements for opening the account, which include your passport, university acceptance letter and student housing address. You will also need a smartphone to download the app.

HSBC Global Money Account

The HSBC Global Money Account is less flexible than the challenger bank options, considering it only offers 7 currencies. However, it is still quite efficient considering it allows you to hold significant currencies such as the USD, Pound Sterling, Canadian Dollar, Hong Kong Dollar, Singapore Dollar and the Euro.

Unfortunately, like many other high-street accounts, this can’t be used directly for spending and doesn’t come with a travel card. It is only designed to hold a balance and send global payments in support currencies.

What Makes a Good International Bank Account?

Institutions have crafted international accounts to fit the specific needs of the user. However, you have to take time to find an account that fits and can work with your needs. With multiple options available, you only need to understand your priorities to pick an account that best serves you. Some of the considerations to have in mind include:

Identify the Type of Account You Need

You’ve seen there are different types of international accounts. You must start your search by considering the type of account you need to fit your goals. This will help you narrow down your options.

You should consider if you want to streamline your B2B cross-border operations or have an account that allows you to spend while abroad. Your preferences will determine the account that works best for you. You should also consider if you want the account to hold your excess funds while keeping them within reach when needed.

Investigate the Options Available and Compare Your Findings

You can work with online challengers or high-street banks when opening an account. Both options offer unique features, some more than others. This is why you should take note of the essential features and those of less importance to your business and narrow your choices to three or five options that meet your requirements.

Some of the features you should consider include:

  • Account features
  • Type of solutions
  • Monthly maintenance fee
  • Transaction fees
  • Minimum balance requirements
  • Limits on monthly transactions
  • Benefits of your operations
  • Convenience and friendly interface
  • Customer support
  • How easy it is to open the account

Engage the Leading Contenders

If you have any questions or concerns whose answers you don’t find on the website or other online resources provided by your provider banking provider, you should contact them directly for answers. This can be done by sending them an email, calling them or visiting their physical location where possible.

You can also use this opportunity to ask specific questions about the industry and business objectives, which could reveal unadvertised incentives or offers to open an account.

This interaction will also give you an idea of how responsive their customer support is and what kind of support to expect in the future should you have challenges with the account.

Settle on a Financial Institution

After going through your shortlisted options through research and consultation, it’s time to make an informed decision and inquire about the details and documents you need to open an international bank account so that you can prepare them in advance.

Remember that if you want an account that allows you to spend money in an international account, challenger banks are the better option because most high street banks don’t provide you with a debit card linked to the account.

How To Open an International Bank Account?

Opening an international bank account is easy. In many cases, there is no unique process or requirements between the different vendors, regardless of whether you choose to go with a challenger or high-street bank. The only difference could be with the latter. You have to visit their physical location.

However, opening the account’s requirements and process might differ from one jurisdiction to another. For instance, if you choose to open an account in Hong Kong, the process might differ from opening in the UK, especially if you go with a traditional bank.

However, in many cases, most international banks will have similar processes. It is the required documents that might differ.

Proof of Identity and Residency

Proof of identity and residency are the two documents that are universally required to open an international bank account. These are necessary regardless of the country or jurisdiction. Both online and physical banks will require proof of your current and permanent residence.

Additional Documentation

The additional documentation required will depend on the terms of the account. If you’re applying for an international bank account as an international student, you may need to prove this by including a student visa or a university acceptance letter from the institution where you will be studying.

Opening Deposit

After opening the account, some institutions will also need you to make an initial deposit. Due to international financial laws, you may also need to provide proof of how and when you acquired those funds. It may seem unnecessary, but most banks must comply with AML and CTF laws to prevent financial crime.

How to Reduce International Bank Account Costs

International bank accounts carry various costs depending on the range of features available on the account. Although the costs seem minimal, they can add up and become significant, especially during travel.

Some of the simple ways you can keep costs down when operating an international bank account include:

  • Go for an option that reimburses ATM fees: When operating an international bank account, withdrawing cash abroad, where you face non-network ATMS fees and foreign transaction costs, can be expensive. You can counter this by going for a bank that reimburses all ATM fees, allowing you to save on such costs.
  • Use a bank that doesn’t change out-of-network ATM fees: You should consider going for a bank that doesn’t charge out-of-network ATM fees. It may not reimburse other banks’ charges, but it drastically lowers banking costs abroad.
  • Pay in the Local Currency: Pay in the local currency when travelling abroad. You will still pay the exchange rate to convert your funds but avoid other excessive banking fees. 

Final Thoughts

An international bank account can benefit globe-trotting individuals and globally operating businesses. With the right account and partner, you can seamlessly access funds and spend no matter where you are. The account allows you to access funds from one account instead of operating accounts in every country you visit or do business with. You can open an account at home where you are confident with the banking processes and industry and more confident about the safety and security of your funds.

With this guide, opening an international bank account should be easier and less concerning. You have everything you need to know, including a list of the best banks to open your international bank account.

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