Best International Banks for Expats & Digital Nomads

Discover the seven best international banks with the perfect features for expats.

Updated: May 18, 2024
Matt Crabtree

Written By

Matt Crabtree

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Are you planning to move abroad or become a digital nomad? There is one essential factor you will need to consider before you become an expat:

You will need to set up a bank account overseas to make transactions, exchange money and save your funds.

The process involves first understanding which international bank account options are available and considering their features before finding the best options for you.

Many factors are important for this process, such as considering foreign transaction fees, interest you can gain on the funds you save, account types and credit and debit cards.

We've explored the best international banks to consider if you want to move abroad.

ServiceScoreRegister
1. HSBC★★★★★Click Here
2. Lloyds Bank★★★★★Click Here
3. Santander★★★★★Click Here
4. Citibank★★★★★Click Here
5. Barclays★★★★Click Here
6. Wise★★★★Click Here
7. NatWest★★★★Click Here

What Are Best International Banks?

Best international banks are financial institutions that provide expats with financial services, including loans and bank accounts, foreign exchange services, international money transfers and investment management.

They have offices in foreign locations and function across international borders to simplify worldwide transactions for digital nomads and individuals living overseas, of which there are approximately 5.5 million.

The main difference between international bank accounts and local ones is the features that these banks offer.

Though they typically provide savings and checking accounts, as local banks do, they also provide investment accounts that allow you to take advantage of unique investment opportunities unavailable in the United Kingdom. These advantages broaden your investment portfolio's scope.

International banks provide financial advice and assist business owners with offices across the globe. For example, if you are a business owner, you might benefit from an offshore private bank. 

How Do International Banks Work?

International banks have a network of branches in many countries, which makes it possible for them to serve customers worldwide. They adhere to international banking regulations to offer smooth financial operations and work alongside other banks to complete this.

These banks also have an in-depth knowledge of the local regulations and banking laws and use this knowledge to provide personalised services for their clients. They understand anti-money laundering (AML) regulations and financial reporting standards to protect your interests as a client.

What Are the Key Features of International Banks?

International banks offer a range of specific features. Here we have gathered the main ones to consider when choosing a bank as an expat.

  • Wealth management services — Many international banks provide individuals with personalised wealth management services, making it easier for expats to grow their wealth internationally.
  • Cross-border payments — A fundamental feature international banks offer is cross-border payments. This feature facilitates smooth financial transfers from one country to another. For example, they provide wire transfer features and foreign currency exchange.
  • International tax advice — A few international banks provide expertise and knowledge related to international tax regulations. For instance, they may advise you about the tax implications for earnings across multiple countries and information about tax laws.
  • International credit and debit cards — International banks provide debit and credit cards that you may use globally to purchase items or withdraw cash when working or living abroad. Some of the features of these international cards include contactless payment options, rewards programs and security features to reduce fraud.
  • Online banking services — To make it easier for individuals to manage their finances from anywhere on the globe, international banks provide online banking services. These services allow you to check an account balance, review your transaction history, transfer funds to other banks and arrange automatic payments. These secure platforms require users to complete authentication steps to access them, and experts predict that approximately 2,552 million individuals will use them in 2024.
  • Security features — International banks prioritise security. They implement encryption technology, multifactor authentication, and fraud monitoring systems to protect data transmission, limit account access to the account owner and reduce fraud, respectively.
  • Investment advice — You will find that many international banks provide investment advice from brokers to help you diversify your portfolio. They also provide services in portfolio management and ensure you make informed choices about your investments. Their dedicated teams support assessing risk in line with your financial objectives.
  • Mortgage and loan options — It's possible to receive mortgage and loan services from international banks. Some examples of these loan options include personal loans and business loans. Your international bank will grant these options after reviewing your credit history. Whether you need to start a business abroad, purchase a property overseas or cover personal expenses, you can receive the right support from international banks.
  • Multi-currency accounts — One other feature of international banks is the multi-currency account feature. If you hold a multi-currency account, you can manage and hold several currencies in just one account. It is a convenient way to make transactions internationally and ensures you avoid fees for currency conversion. It's the optimum feature for businesses that need to manage foreign currencies.

International Bank Pros and Cons

Further down, we will explore the best international banks you may consider as an expat or digital nomad, but before this, here are the key benefits and drawbacks of using international banks.

Pros

✔️ Access international ATMs — As a client of an international bank, you can access branches and ATMs as part of a larger network to receive convenient banking services, withdraw cash and check your balance in different countries. You may use these services with a debit or credit card that the international bank issues.

✔️ Store multiple currencies — You can store multiple currencies in international bank accounts with multi-currency features. They allow you to send and receive money, as local banks do, but in multiple currencies.

✔️ Security measures — International banks offer enhanced security measures to protect your funds and personal information. Not only do they have dedicated teams to detect and mitigate fraudulent activities, but they also offer secure protocols and multifactor authentication.

✔️ Competitive interest rates — Many international banks offer clients competitive interest rates alongside financial products, including savings accounts. The interest rate you receive will depend on market conditions and the type of account you apply for. Interest rates in the Euro Area, for instance, are increasing and stand at 4.25%, meaning you can potentially earn higher returns on your savings.

Cons

❌️ High fees — As a client, you may notice that international banks have higher fees than local banks. These high fees typically apply to specific services, including international wire transfers or exchanging currency. Every transaction or service you need will have different fees, so you should always review the fees the bank asks for.

❌️ Difficult customer service — Since there may be a language barrier when you use international banks based in foreign countries, you may find dealing with customer services challenging. The documentation international banks provide may also be written in the language of the country you have settled in.

❌️ Time zone differences — When processing transactions, a time zone difference may affect the international bank's processing time. This delayed processing time may mean you receive funds at a delayed speed.

❌️ Exchange rate fluctuations — The fluctuations in exchange rates refer to the variation in rates at which you exchange money from one currency to another. They can increase or decrease, affecting the value of the money you send abroad. The exchange rates depend on interest rates and economic conditions.

Best International Banks in 2024 — Reviews

Considering the advantages and drawbacks of international banks, we reviewed the best options you might look for when moving overseas.

We looked at their features, advantages and disadvantages when reviewing them.

1. HSBC

HSBC International Bank allows you to open an account in more than 30 destinations before you settle in your new home abroad.

It offers currency exchange, financial management, instant money transfers between your foreign currency accounts abroad and your HSBC premier account and many more services.

With this international bank, you can use online banking services to view all your accounts and receive a credit card as an international customer. You can also view your international credit score history, a service HSBC integrates with your credit card application.

Although this credit history service is only available in the United Kingdom and Singapore, HSBC intends to extend this to other countries.

This international bank allows you to send money internationally in more than 60 currencies, and transfers take six seconds if you are transferring to another HSBC bank account.

International investment advice and services are another feature you can use with HSBC International Bank. It makes it easy to diversify your portfolio, minimise risk when investing and manage your investment account online.

Factors to Consider When Opening an HSBC Account Overseas

Before you open an HSBC account overseas, you will require income documents and tax-related information, proof of ID such as your passport and documents that prove your address, such as a bank statement.

Although it costs nothing to open an international bank account as a Premier, Jade or HSBC One customer and have an HSBC mortgage or can maintain minimum monthly deposits, you will have to pay a monthly fee if you don't meet these criteria.

You might also have to pay fees if you open an overseas HSBC account over the phone.

Pros of HSBC

✔️ International tax guidance services

✔️ Financial wealth management services

✔️ Global money account for payment across borders

Cons of HSBC

❌️ Limited presence in some locations

2. Lloyds Bank

Not only does Lloyds Bank offer international accounts that ensure you can access your money when required, but it also offers international savings accounts.

Lloyds Bank's international current accounts are available in euro, pound and US dollar currencies. You can also receive your Visa debit card with these accounts, plus it is easy to access your funds from any location in the world with their internet banking services. A monthly fee for using these accounts is €8 or $10.

This international bank also offers a Premier International Bank Account option.

It requires no monthly fee and offers telephone banking as a priority service. You will receive a Premier banking account manager and the option to use a worldwide travel insurance service.

Lloyds International Bank's many services include foreign exchange features. With this service, you can make international transfers without paying any fees and receive transfers for free. The currency foreign exchange services of Lloyds International Bank work with all major currencies.

Factors to Consider When Opening a Lloyds Bank Account Overseas

To open a Lloyds international account, you will require £50,000 as your sole annual income. If you want to open a Premier international account with Lloyds, you will need £100,000 as a deposit and keep your deposit stored with Lloyds for six months.

Alternatively, for the Premier international account, you should have an annual income of at least £100,000 and maintain a balance of £100,000 for six months with Lloyds.

Pros of Lloyds Bank

✔️ Premier banking options with relationship managers are available

✔️ Potential reductions in foreign exchange transaction costs

✔️ Advisors offer international banking support

Cons of Lloyds Bank

❌️ No direct international tax support or advice from Lloyds

3. Santander

Santander offers international banking services to overseas residents. The accounts they offer accept US dollar, sterling and euro currencies, and they also facilitate money exchange with foreign exchange services.

These advantages mean you can make international payments and transfer money in different currencies.

Their online banking services make it easy to manage your international bank account online anywhere. If you deposit a significant sum, you can also receive tailored banking services from professionals to support your requirements.

This international bank also offers current and savings accounts with interest. Some options include fixed deposit contracts, notice and call savings accounts.

While the fixed deposit contract savings account allows you to earn a fixed amount of interest and the notice account requires you to make a written notice to withdraw funds, the call savings account offers you interest each quarter at a variable rate and permits unlimited withdrawals.

Factors to Consider When Opening a Santander Account Overseas

As an international client using a Santander international current account, you must deposit at least £75,000 or your currency equivalent. You have to maintain this amount to be eligible for the account.

Santander also expects you to pay international payment fees, although they do not charge or receive commissions for foreign exchange rates.

Pros of Santander

✔️ Clients can open accounts remotely

✔️ Specialised wealth services available

✔️ Investment solutions available

✔️ No fees to make international money transfers

Cons of Santander

❌️ Limited presence and few ATMs in certain locations

4. Citibank

Citibank offers offshore banking services that you can access anywhere in the world. You can manage your funds in over 21 currencies and make cash accounts that work with sterling, euros or US dollars. With these accounts, you can earn interest if you have a more than $200,000 balance.

With Citibank, you will receive a debit card for withdrawing cash from any ATM or to pay for services and goods.

Online banking services with Citibank provide transactional services and facilitate portfolio management via their Time Deposit and Mutual Funds features. These features allow you to manage your international brokerage account investments online

If you need to transfer funds to overseas locations, Citibank allows you to complete this process. You can send your funds to more than 20 eligible countries without fees for making the transfer. It is also possible to send funds to accounts not belonging to the Citibank network.

Factors to Consider When Opening a Citibank Account Overseas

You will have support and access to a dedicated relationship manager only if you have a balance of $200,000 or your currency equivalent value or pay $150 for this service.

If you are joining Citibank US from the US as a resident, you will need proof of identification. You may use a foreign passport or green card when applying. This bank also requires proof of address and a tax identification number.

Pros of Citibank

✔️ Brokerage account available

✔️ Securely send money to over 60 currencies

✔️ Citibank Global wallet facilitates international purchases

Cons of Citibank

❌️ Accounts unavailable in specific locations

5. Barclays

Barclays International Bank offers clients mortgage, investment, foreign currency savings accounts and banking services. If you need to make payments or exchange currency, you can do this with Barclays' banking services. This bank makes it easy to access your account online.

Your account can be in US dollars, sterling or euros, and if you need customer support, you can get this wherever you are from Barclays. They provide accounts in over 70 countries and allow you to pay in 60 foreign currencies.

With this international bank, you can set up a Treasury Deposit account that provides a fixed interest rate for between three months and five years. Select the currency you want with this account and set the timeframe.

Barclays International's other features include its Notice Deposit account, which locks your money and gives you access to favourable rates to help you grow your funds. To access funds in this account, you must give 35 or 100 days notice.

Tailored investment strategies and solutions, such as portfolio management and advisory services, are some of the specific investment services you can receive as an expat using Barclays.

These services mean a portfolio manager can invest on your behalf and diversify your portfolio to minimise risk. They also mean you can receive portfolio reviews and advice on constructing it.

Factors to Consider When Opening a Barclays Account Overseas

To open a Barclays account overseas, you must make a minimum deposit of £100,000 or the equivalent amount in the country's currency. Barclays international bank account also requires you to provide proof of address, identification documents, tax residency and income details.

Pros of Barclays

✔️ Relationship manager available after depositing £250,000

✔️ International bank cards available

✔️ Secure international payments available

✔️ Diversified portfolio investment solutions are available

Cons of Barclays

❌️ £40 monthly fee if savings drop below £100,000

6. Wise

Wise states that it is not a bank. However, it offers an international account that you can use to hold and exchange money globally. The Wise multi-currency account caters to 40 different currencies, so you can send funds to bank accounts worldwide.

If you send money from one account to another in the same currency, your transaction will be free with the Wise international account. Receiving transfers to a foreign bank account is also easy with this account.

Wise offers a debit card that you can use internationally without incurring fees. The ATM fees you pay with the Wise card are low and only apply after withdrawing £200 monthly.

With this international bank, you can earn interest returns on your funds when you invest in funds that have government assets. Interest rates follow the Bank of England rate and a few other factors, so visit the Wise website to learn more about growing your money.

Factors to Consider When Opening a Wise Account Overseas

You will need identity verification to get started with an international Wise account. You must provide photo identification and a document proving your address. Wise will also request that you provide a photo of yourself holding the proof of address.

It takes approximately two working days for Wise to verify your identity, after which they will open your account. You can then log in and complete the steps to fully set up your account.

Pros of Wise

✔️ Supports more than 80 currencies

✔️ Worldwide authorities regulate Wise

✔️ Two-factor authentication enhances security

Cons of Wise

❌️ Higher transfer fees than other international bank accounts

7. NatWest

NatWest International Bank offers international accounts, cash accounts and savings account features to expats living abroad. Its international accounts have mobile banking features, enabling you to manage your funds on the go. There are monthly fees of £8 with this account.

With their cash accounts, you can manage your savings in multiple currencies. It allows you to withdraw your savings whenever needed and replenish them by easily transferring money between currencies.

You can receive these services without paying a monthly fee and earn interest on your savings (which varies between currencies).

It's possible to save in sterling or other currencies using NatWest's international savings account. This provider offers instant and premium savings accounts and savings builder accounts.

The instant savings account is ideal for expats who want to earn interest on their balance, even once they make withdrawals. You may use the premium savings account if you have a balance between £25,000 and £1,000,000.

Alternatively, the Savings Builder international account works if you have a growing balance of between £50 and £25,000.

Factors to Consider When Opening a NatWest Account Overseas

Eligibility for a NatWest account overseas requires you to be 18 and over and living in an eligible location. You must have a minimum balance of £25,000 and an income of at least £40,000. NatWest will offer you the chance to open an international select and cash management account simultaneously when you apply.

Pros of Natwest

✔️ NatWest's app makes currency management easy

✔️ Greater security by debit card locking feature

✔️ No monthly fee for cash account holders

Cons of Natwest

❌️ Not every product and service is available in all jurisdictions

Best International Banks for Expats & Digital Nomads — The Verdict

International banks for expats and digital nomads have plenty of beneficial features, but choosing one that matches your requirements can be challenging. By looking at the features of the banks our experts have gathered here, you can choose from the best banks suitable for expats.

Whether you need to make international payments, invest, or send money abroad with an international bank, make sure you compare your options before you make a choice.

Related Guides:

FAQs

Which Is the Best International Bank?

What Is the Strongest Bank in Europe?

Is it Possible for Me to Open an International Bank Account?

Which UK Banks Have International Accounts

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About Barclays Bank Barclays is a British multinational investment bank and financial services company. It was founded in 1690 and is headquartered in London. Barclays originated...
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About HSBC Bank HSBC is a British banking and financial services company. It is the largest bank in Europe and the seventh largest bank in the world. The bank originated in Hong Kong...
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About Lloyds Bank Lloyds Bank is a British retail and commercial bank. One of the ‘Big Four’ clearing banks, it was founded in Birmingham in 1765. It is the largest retail bank...
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NatWest, or National Westminster, is a retail and commercial bank based in the United Kingdom. It is one of the ‘Big Four’ UK clearing banks and has more than 7.5million personal banking...
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About Santander Santander UK is a British bank. Though it is a British company and autonomously managed, it is entirely owned by the Spanish Santander Group. Santander is one...
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Transferring money was traditionally a long, arduous, and expensive process. Sending funds overseas often required you to wait until the perfect moment, when exchange rates were...
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