Best UK bank accounts for British expats

Best UK bank accounts for British expats in Europe

Here we review five of the best UK bank accounts for British expats moving to Europe, perhaps on a quest to get an EU passport.

These accounts have been tried and tested by long-term EU expats, so you can be sure they’ll be a great fit for your new life abroad. 

This article includes affiliate links. We earn a commission if you use these links to buy something, at no extra cost to you. Here’s our full disclosure statement. Thanks for your support! 

Best UK bank accounts for British expats in Europe

These are my top picks as the best UK bank accounts for British expats in Europe living in the EU: 

All of them offer free basic account options, with a variety of paid upgrades available if you want extra features.

I’ll examine them in depth in the rest of the article, including my personal experience with each one.  

NB, if you need a business bank account, check out my new article on the best business bank accounts for digital nomads and expats

Can I keep my UK bank account if I move abroad after Brexit?

But first, some quick background.  

After the Brexit transition period ended in December 2020, UK banks were no longer allowed to serve customers in the EU – unless they had the necessary banking licenses. 

Known as passporting, this licensing system allows banks in the EU to trade freely in any other state in the European Economic Area (EEA), with no additional authorisation.

Keeping your existing UK account after moving abroad can be a grey area. 

For some, having a bank account registered at a permanent UK address (such as that of a relative or trusted friend) is the key to keeping that account active. 

Many UK digital nomads use their family home address. In theory, there’s no reason why a permanent émigré can’t do the same. 

According to research from ExpatMoneyChannel, keeping your UK bank account depends on a number of factors: 

  • Which bank you bank with 
  • How long you’ve banked with them 
  • Whether you still have a UK address 
  • What type of account you have 

Despite having emigrated, perhaps permanently, you might not want to cut all financial ties to the UK. 

Perhaps you’ve got a UK property that’s providing you with rental income to support your EU residency application, e.g. for Portugal’s D7 visa.  

Or perhaps you still have a UK mortgage or student loans to pay off. In such situations, a UK-based bank account is essential.  

Keep reading to find out my top picks for the best UK bank accounts for British expats in Europe.

What are the best UK bank accounts for British expats in Europe?

Several of the digital ‘challenger’ banks are a great fit for UK citizens living in EU countries. 

In the next section, we’ll look at the best UK bank accounts for British expats.  

Best UK bank accounts for British expats living in the EU:

Here, I’ll discuss their pros and cons, so you can decide which one makes the most sense for your individual situation.

I’ve checked that each one will continue serving British customers based in the EU, even after Brexit.

These institutions can make this promise because they have access to a wider array of cross-EU banking licences compared to the more traditional UK banks.

All banks in this article are app-only. None of them have physical branches.

I have accounts with all these banks, and I use them regularly for my personal and business banking needs in the UK and EU. 

I’m confident they represent some of the best UK bank accounts for British expats in the EU.

#1. Monese Instant Account – Best for simplicity & speed

Overview

Created in 2015, Monese has been voted one of the UK’s best challenger banks. It was founded to do away with the cumbersome process of utility bills and credit checks.

One of Monese’s key strengths is its super simple set up process. You don’t even need a utility bill to get started with Monese. Instead, they verify your address by geolocation.

But how does Monese fare among the best UK bank accounts for British expats?

Let’s find out.

Benefits of using the Monese Instant Account

  • Simple setup process – no fixed address or utility bills needed
  • Fast –open a new account in minutes
  • Free MasterCard debit card, which can be used everywhere that accepts MasterCard
  • Excellent exchange rates between GBP and EUR
  • Set up direct debits anywhere in Europe or the UK
  • Convenient, safe prepaid MasterCard for easy cash withdrawals around Europe
  • Borderless – get local accounts in GBP, EUR and RON (Romanian lei)
  • Automatic purchase protection – keep your electronics safe anywhere in Europe
  • Business bank account also available – allows you to receive payments seamlessly between the UK and the EU.

Personal experience of using Monese

I was pleasantly surprised at how easy it was to set up a new Monese account. The simplicity and speed is one of its main strengths.

The geolocation verification feature is extremely convenient, especially if you don’t yet have a fixed address in your new EU country.

Transfer speeds between GBP and EUR are fast, and the app is extremely simple to manage.

I haven’t had chance yet to use the Monese customer support, but will report back once I’ve got an update on that.

All in all, Monese is an excellent choice for those who need maximum simplicity in managing their money between the UK and the EU.

#2. Wise Personal Account – Best for multiple currencies

best UK bank accounts for British expats

Overview

Wise (formerly TransferWise) started life as a money exchange provider, but quickly became one of the most trusted names around.  

In 2017, Wise moved into online banking with the launch of its new multi-currency personal account and debit card. 

The account works alongside Wise’s regular money transfer and exchange services, offering the same low fees and exchange rates.  

Here we’ll take a look at the Wise account from a digital émigré’s perspective, so you can decide if it’s right for you. 

Benefits of using the Wise Personal Multi-Currency Account:

  • Free MasterCard debit card, which can be used everywhere that accepts MasterCard.
  • Use your debit card to pay in foreign currencies, with much lower fees than your regular bank. E.g. HSBC marks up the exchange rate by 2.75% when you pay with your card in a foreign currency. In contrast, Wise charges just 0.35% for major currencies like the euro, US dollar, or Swiss franc.
  • ATM withdrawals are free for the first £200/$250 every month, with a 2% fee thereafter.
  • Get your own international bank details to receive money like a local from over 30 countries, including the whole EU, without paying any fees.
  • Hold over 40 currencies in your account and easily switch between them whenever you need to
  • Wise Business Multi-currency Account is also available. If you’re planning to receive USD payments from US clients, this account is essential. It allows them to pay you with US local bank details – creating a streamlined experience for your clients. It also gives you access to many other currencies.

Check out my detailed comparison of Wise vs Revolut

Personal experience of using Wise

I’ve had a Wise business account now for around two years.  

I originally opened it to accommodate a US client who needed to pay me ‘like a local’ in US dollars. Wise was the only provider that offered local US bank details, without charging a monthly fee for a USD account.  

I’ve since received all my USD payments into my Wise account without any problems or delays. I also use the account to easily exchange business funds between USD, EUR, and GBP.

I’ve been impressed with the exchange rates and the speed of transfer – instant, in most cases.  

All in all, Wise offers one of the best bank accounts for British expats in the EU – especially if you need access to multiple global currencies.

#3. Revolut Standard Account – Best for extra features, incl. crypto trading

best UK bank accounts for British expats

Overview

UPDATE: Revolut is currently offering a free £10 top up for new customers. Grab it here.

Founded in 2015, Revolut began life as a prepaid card and smartphone app, offering foreign exchange for travelers at cheap rates. 

Since then, Revolut has become the banking app of choice among digital nomads and crypto enthusiasts. It’s an excellent choice for digital émigrés too, especially Brits moving to the EU.  

You can hold GBP in your Revolut account free of charge, along with EUR, USD and loads of other currencies. 

The Revolut account is free to open and great for foreign exchange. The Revolut team have recently made some major upgrades to the app, and it’s now a very fast and pleasant user experience.

I’d recommend Revolut for everyday use in the EU, especially if you’re into crypto trading, investing or commodities trading.

Check out my detailed comparison of Wise vs Revolut

Benefits of using a Revolut Account: 

  • Open a current account in GBP or EUR with no paperwork, credit checks or proof of address – perfect for digital émigrés in the EU. (Revolut verifies your account once it’s open by asking you to top it up from another account held in your name) 
  • Rapid account opening – do it in 60 seconds via the app 
  • Set up direct debits to organizations in the eurozone, such as gyms 
  • Instant in-app spending notifications 
  • Transfer money abroad in over 30 currencies at the Interbank exchange rate (transfers are fee-free up to £1000 per month, then 0.5%) 
  • Fee-free spending abroad without hidden fees (limits apply) 
  • Earn interest on your money using the Vaults feature 
  • Buy stocks, cryptocurrency, and commodities from within the app  

Personal experience of using Revolut 

Revolut has been invaluable for me during my relocation to Portugal. Opening a bank account in Portugal can be a hassle, as they usually ask for a lot of documentation. 

Update: Since this post was first published, I’ve opened a Portuguese bank account with ActivoBank, one of the best options in Portugal for foreigners. I’ll write a review of my experience soon. 

During my first few months in Lisbon, my Revolut debit card bridged the gap nicely. 

I could easily convert GBP to EUR, and make everyday transactions, such as setting up a direct debit for my Lisbon gym. 

Customer service is delivered via in-app chat only, which can sometimes be frustrating when you’re dealing with a tricky problem.  

Revolut is a convenient way to manage your money on arrival in the EU, without the hassle of opening a local account.

Revolut is currently offering a free £10 top up for all new customers.

#4. Starling Personal Account – Best for customer support

best UK bank accounts for British expats

Overview

A key player in the UK challenger bank scene, Starling launched its first account in 2017.

Since then, Starling has received great reviews for its ease of use and wide range of features, making it one of the best UK bank accounts for British expats and émigrés in the EU.   

Starling’s mission is to provide all the essentials for convenient 21st century banking, with none of the unnecessary stuff – such as physical branches.  

Benefits of using a Starling Personal Account: 

  • Fee-free personal and joint current accounts in GBP and EUR 
  • Free business account (GBP) 
  • Business account in EUR (£2 per month fee) 
  • Business account in USD (£5 per month fee) 
  • All eligible deposits covered to £85,000 (or equivalent) by the Financial Services Compensation Scheme 
  • Free cash withdrawals abroad 
  • International fund transfers 
  • Paperless statements – access them within the app and as PDFs (convenient when you’re moving countries and between addresses) 
  • No transaction fees – spend money abroad without extra charges or an exchange markup fee. 
  • Desktop access. Sick of squinting at your phone? You can access your Starling account from your laptop. 

To open a Starling account, you’ll need proof of a UK address, so it makes sense to set the account up before leaving the UK.  

You could open the account using the address of a trusted friend or relative, as long as you have proof of address that ties your name to that address (e.g., driving licence, utility bill, bank statement). Pro tip: Your UK family home is often a good bet. 

Personal experience of using Starling 

I’ve been using Starling as my main GBP business bank account since late 2019.

So far, I’ve had a great experience. The app works smoothly and efficiently, giving real-time notifications of money coming and going.  

Also, it’s easy to export statements to send to my accountant. When contacting customer service, I’ve always had quick and efficient help from a real person, rather than just a chatbot. 

As Starling only offers its GBP business account free of charge (it also has EUR and USD for a fee), I’m currently using the Wise business account to handle my EUR and USD transactions. 

If you need a business bank account in EUR or USD, and don’t mind paying a monthly fee, then Starling has one of the best UK business bank accounts for British expats and émigrés in the EU. 

#5. N26 Standard Current Account – Best EUR-only account

best UK bank accounts for British expats

Overview

Launched in Germany in 2015, N26 is one of the original app-based online banks. It previously had a presence in the UK, but closed operations in 2018, thanks to (yup) Brexit. 

N26 is now only available to EU residents and the only currency it uses is EUR.  

Nevertheless, N26 is still an excellent choice for people already resident in one of the EU 27 countries, which is why I’m including it in this roundup. It’s my primary bank account, which I use every day while living in Portugal. 

To open an N26 account, you’ll need an EU address where they can send the card. I opened mine in the Netherlands, using a friend’s address.

It’s quick and easy to open a free account, either via the app or on the website. 

If you use the website, you’ll need your smartphone to complete the setup process.

N26 asks for details including your first and last name, date of birth, your country of residence and your address. 

N26 is a proper banking institution headquartered in Germany. Your money is protected by Germany’s deposit protection scheme up to the value of €100,000.  

You can feel just as confident holding large sums in your N26 account as with any of the traditional UK banks. 

Benefits of using an N26 account: 

  • Fully-fledged bank with Germany’s deposit protection up to €100,000. 
  • 100% mobile banking 
  • Offers direct debits and standing orders 
  • Choice of Mastercard or Maestro debit cards (the latter is useful in certain EU countries, like the Netherlands, where Mastercard is less commonly accepted). 
  • Free and unlimited card payments worldwide, in any currency  
  • Excellent customer support, via in-app chat 
  • Instant notifications when money goes in or out of your account. 

N26 now offers a range of account options, with different benefits. N26 Smart, for €4.90/month, N26 You, for €9.90/month, and N26 Metal, for €16.90/month. 

(N26 Standard is still totally free to open and use) 

The Smart option offers sub-accounts for better budgeting, the option to share sub-accounts with other users, purchase roundups to help you save, and a dedicated phone support hotline.  

The You option adds on a range of travel insurance policies, including pandemic travel coverage.  

The costlier Metal option comes with an eye-catching metal debit card (it’s heavy!) plus a dedicated support line just for Metal customers. It offers the same travel insurance policies as N26 You, with several added options. 

N26 You: Travel and Lifestyle Insurance 

  • Medical travel insurance: Cover of up to €1,000,000 for you, your partner and kids, including dental emergencies 
  • Trip insurance: Up to €10,000 compensation in case of trip cancelation or curtailment (if the event is covered)  
  • Pandemic travel coverage: Cover for medical emergencies and trip cancellation or curtailment due to COVID-19  
  • Flight insurance: Claim compensation of up to €500 for flight delays over 4 hours  
  • Luggage coverage: Claim compensation of up to €500 for baggage delays over 12 hours, and up to €2,000 if it goes missing 
  • Mobility insurance (for shared vehicles) 
  • Winter sport insurance 

N26 Metal: Extra Insurance Options (and a fancy card!)

All the same options as above, plus: 

  • Car rental insurance: Cover for rental car hires abroad and further away from home for up to €20,000 
  • Phone insurance: Cover up to €1,000 for mobile theft and damage (if the event and phone are eligible) 

Using N26 You or Metal to replace a range of your existing travel and lifestyle insurance policies would be well worth the monthly fee. The metal card is very striking too! 

Personal experience of using N26 in the EU 

I originally opened at my N26 account in the Netherlands. I now use it as my main account in Portugal.  

I’ve also got a local Portuguese account with ActivoBank, which gives me access to Portugal’s internal banking network, MBWay.  

Moving to Portugal? Check out this guide to opening a bank account in Portugal

But I find N26 much easier to use, so I keep the ActivoBank card for situations where MasterCard isn’t accepted, such as in small shops, restaurants, or salons.  

I still use Wise and Revolut as backup accounts, mainly to exchange currencies.

Conclusion

  • Monese offers the best GBP/EUR account in terms of simplicity and easy setup
  • Wise is the best choice if you need to hold funds in numerous global currencies 
  • Revolut is the best choice for buying stocks, crypto, or commodities, as well as offering good currency exchange rates.
  • Starling has a great interface and is a solid UK bank, with GBP and EUR options. It also offers an excellent free business bank account.
  • N26 is the best EUR-only account for daily use in Europe. The premium accounts include useful insurance options, such as pandemic travel coverage. 

Having one of these accounts will give you peace of mind while living in the EU, even if you just use it as a backup alongside your existing account. 

If you need a business bank account, check out my new article on the best business bank accounts for digital nomads and expats


Need expert advice on moving to Europe?

Join the Digital Émigré newsletter for tips on making your big move.

1 thought on “Best UK bank accounts for British expats in Europe”

  1. Pingback: The Brexit Moving Abroad Guide - Digital Émigré

Comments are closed.