British banks closing accounts held by expats with no UK address

Published:  14 Oct at 6 PM
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The recent move by British banks to close down long-standing current accounts owned by UK expats is causing major problems in overseas retirement destinations.

A number of British banks, including Santander and Lloyds, have recently closed down the current bank accounts of expats living overseas, giving them little time to rearrange their finances and causing problems with pension payments, overseas withdrawals and purchases in the host country. The majority of destinations popular with UK expat retirees and those working on contract offer no secure banking alternatives for savings or regular payments and withdrawals.

Leaving aside the facts that many of the banks’ clients have held their UK accounts for a number of years and that the banks involved gave little advance warning of the closures, what should affected expats do? Opening a new bank account without a UK residential address is tricky, to say the least, and many private pension companies will not remit to overseas banks.

One alternative is to bank offshore, with the Isle of Man and the Channel Islands a source of several bank branches including Lloyds International and the South Africa registered Standard Bank. However, capital protection in both jurisdictions tops out at £50,000, less than in the UK.

Onshore, it may be possible to take advantage of Lloyds’ new offering, the oddly-named ‘New to the UK’ account. The HSBC Basic Bank Account also accepts those without proof of a UK address, and gives a debit card and chequebook, although cheques are rarely accepted in farther-flung overseas expat destinations such as Thailand and the Far East.

An HSBC spokesperson stated that applicants who are not already customers must attend a UK branch to open the account due to identification and verification requirements. Long-standing clients can open the account from an overseas destination, but this facility will be dependent on ID and other documentation already held by the bank.
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