UK expats being frozen out by British banks

Published:  10 May at 6 PM
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British banks are systematically freezing out UK citizens living overseas, causing major inconvenience for thousands of expats
Many UK expats living overseas have valid reasons for wanting to either open an account with a British bank or continue using an already opened facility. For example, some UK-based pensions will not pay into accounts based with foreign banks, and expats who’ve invested in rental property in the UK also find a British account convenient.

Unfortunately, over the past 18 months, UK banking choices for expats have narrowed to almost zero, and even those with long-standing accounts risk having them summarily closed or subject to new restrictions. All major UK high street banks and building societies now refuse to accept deposits from UK expats, stating in their terms and conditions that the service is only available to UK residents.

Last year, Barclays Bank closed the accounts of a number of their long-term customers who had moved overseas. Worse still, the choice of offshore arms of high street banks has also narrowed to just a few.

Typically, banks whose criteria have changed to exclude expats are not offering any valid explanation to their inconvenienced former clients, and several banks have allowed very little time for new arrangements to be made. The real reason is, of course, profits, as years of low interest rates and increased regulatory costs have made service to expats an unattractive option.

UK expats are left with the single choice between offshore banks such as Barclays, Lloyds International and Standard, domiciled in the Channel Islands, the Isle of Man and other such jurisdictions. Financial regulations covering international banks are not as strict as those in the UK, and new account opening criteria can be restrictive as regards expat needs.

An ongoing campaign against British onshore banks is investigating whether UK-based current account customers are getting a bad deal, but at present it doesn’t include problems faced by overseas clients of UK banks either on or offshore. According to the UK’s Competition and Market Authority, reports have been filed which highlight difficulties with the services provided to non-resident British citizens, but state that the issue is outside their scope of investigation.
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