A few ideas on opening a UK bank account from France, money transfers and more as they occurred to me when writing this article!
But first the small print: Nothing in this article should be read as financial advice or a financial recommendation. The content is based on the experiences of the author and is not endorsed by the Bordeaux British Community Association.
UK Bank Account closures for French Residents
Post Brexit, there have been reports of UK banks closing the accounts of French residents if the accounts were initially opened prior to Brexit and indeed some of us have experienced this. The result is that in some cases it becomes impossible to receive payments made in UK£ from some UK institutions or just more expensive due to currency conversion charges. Similarly different ways must be found to efficiently make a UK£ payment to a UK based organisation.
Opening a new UK Bank Account by a French Resident
Most of the major UK domestic banks do not allow a French resident to open a UK bank account because typically new UK based bank accounts can only be opened by UK residents with a UK address. Definition of ‘resident’ is a topic for another time! However, frustratingly, there is a lack of consistency. For example, HSBC is offering an online application process to French residents to open a new UK account, but reports indicate that sometimes the new application is accepted by HSBC and sometimes initially refused. Looks like Brexit is still not yet quite done!
Is there another way for a French resident to open a new UK bank account?
The quick answer is ‘yes’ and it is very easy. With the increased use of the internet and mobile phone apps more and more of our daily life is conducted via the internet. E.g., shopping, navigation, tax returns, bill payments, messaging, doctors’ appointments and much more have all become our new ‘internet norm’.
The ‘internet norm’ has encouraged financial companies to announce mobile phone-based banking apps, some of which are now well established. Names such as Revolut, Wise, N26, Monzo, Starling and others are banking applications which are now getting visibility in the press and wider so you may have heard or read about some of them. The companies publishing these banking apps are collectively referred to as Neo Banks. Trust the IT world to invent another, dare I say, confusing name!
Some of the apps allow a French resident to open a UK bank account complete with a UK account number and a UK Sort Code. As French residents, having a UK bank account number and UK sort code allows us to receive and make UK£ payments to and from our new UK bank account.
How do I pay or receive Euros?
In addition, these apps also provide an EU IBAN number and allow the total account balance to be split and held in several currencies. Now we can also pay and receive Euros and UK£ into and out of the same account without incurring unnecessary currency conversion charges.
At any time, some, or all of the UK£ balance may be converted from within the app into euros or vice versa. The currency conversion rates are very attractive when compared to banks and are often better than some of the specialiAst currency brokers. Also, very useful for travel as the single bank card handles multiple currencies avoiding a currency conversion every time the card is used in the UK or France and beyond.
Points to note are that the deposits in the account up to a certain level are secured by a central bank guarantee according to the HQ country of the Neobank. Also note that there is no cheque book with any of these accounts as all transactions are electronic via the internet.
Which app should I use?
Recommendations are often biased by familiarity with one product only versus the alternatives but also please remember the small print above at the start of this article!
Due to my interests in technology, I started experimenting with four of these Neo Bank apps several years ago. My positive personal experiences are with Revolut and Wise and I regularly use both for receipts and payments in UK£ and euros. They both provide both a UK bank account number and sort code. Revolut provides a French IBAN. Wise provides a Belgian IBAN and both provide multiple currency balances without paying a subscription. I also have positive experiences with N26 but N26 is restricted to euro transactions only.
Neo Bank apps usually have several subscription levels which unlock more facilities but even at the no-charge basic level, much more is provided over and above that outlined above. However, this is all probably better left to another article or seminar if members would find this beneficial as this article is specifically only about opening a UK bank account by a French resident and how to get advantageous currency transfer rates.
I must stop now because I need to catch up on the news of the PM’s resignation. I refrained from typing the PM’s name as it might be out of date when the next BBC newsletter is published!
Seriously though, I hope you find this article useful and if I can answer any questions, please feel free to contact me, Ian Couper at firstname.lastname@example.org
Ian Couper – Association Member