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Temporary European banking
July 24, 2014 8:50 AM   Subscribe

I'm going to the UK and Italy for 5 months for work and am having trouble getting the banking situation worked out.

My wife and I are very excited to be about to embark on a 5-month stint in Europe, spending August and September in London and October through December in Italy. I'll be working for my employer's London office the whole time, getting paid in pounds sterling.

I think we need both
- A pounds-denominated bank account into which I can deposit my pay, and
- Some kind of credit card that will help us minimize the extra cost of being paid in pounds and spending in pounds while we're in London and in Euros while we're in Italy

All we have now is our US bank accounts (through Wells Fargo, which doesn't seem to have a European presence at all) and credit card.

It seems that because we won't be UK residents given that we're only in the UK for 2 months, the major UK banks won't offer us UK bank accounts, so I believe we have to get a pounds-denominated account that's located somewhere other than the UK.

I've read past questions (including this one) but haven't had any luck (even with ABN AMRO, who that user went with) finding any account like that that doesn't have a large minimum required balance, which we're not going to be able to meet.

Does anyone have any idea where normal people who don't qualify for the wealthy-individual type expat services (like this or this) can get an account to deposit pounds into?

I'm hoping that whoever is able to offer me that kind of account can also help out with getting a credit card that I can pay in pounds but will charge minimal fees when we use it in Italy. Any ideas on that front? (I know there are US-based credit cards that offer low-fee international transactions but that would require converting my payment back into dollars which I'd rather not have to do more than necessary.)

Thanks everyone!
posted by rustcellar to Work & Money (14 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
 
HSBC offers international banking, and have a presence in the UK. They have no presence in Italy, but that might not be a problem to you if you will be getting paid in pounds and in the UK. They pride themselves on meeting the needs of the international retail customer. They also have an internet presence. Give them a call?

HSBC certainly offers credit cards, but my experience with them was that there were substantial charges for foreign use.
posted by ubiquity at 9:06 AM on July 24


As a person who has lived in Europe off and on (more "on" recently) I think you will find it somewhat difficult unless you have a relatively stable (not permanent) residence. I am here 6 months a year and have opened an Irish checking account using my US address as my permanent address and my Irish one for reference. I am not sure what you consider wealthy but i do think your chances of getting an account are increased if you deposit a modest amount over and above your ongoing income. I would go to the bank indicate your willingness to deposit discretionary funds, give than a local phone number, a letter from your employer and verification of an stable address from your landlord in the UK
posted by rmhsinc at 9:10 AM on July 24


Maybe Barclays? I've seen a few of their branches here in Rome.
posted by romakimmy at 9:48 AM on July 24


I'll be working for my employer's London office the whole time, getting paid in pounds sterling.

Have you asked your employer? Large employers, especially international ones with London offices, usually have something worked out with one of the UK banks to enable their employees to do just this.

Any UK bank card will work fine in Italy. You'll also be given the choice when you pay of having your UK/Euro conversion immediately by a local bank or processed by your UK bank.
posted by vacapinta at 9:52 AM on July 24


I'm hoping that whoever is able to offer me that kind of account can also help out with getting a credit card that I can pay in pounds but will charge minimal fees when we use it in Italy.

You'll probably use a debit card and no "fees" are allowed within the European Union for using your card in a different country.
posted by vacapinta at 10:01 AM on July 24


The Money Advice Service may be able to help - give them a call.

And yes, ask your employer.
posted by mdonley at 10:06 AM on July 24


Seconding Vacapinta that your employer should handle this for you. When I relocated from the UK to France, the relocation service used by my employer opened a bank account at HSBC with me and avoided the question of an immediate permanent address.
posted by ellieBOA at 10:20 AM on July 24


Thanks for all the answers so far. My employer has a relationship with Citi, but they (Citi) have told me they can't open a UK account because my stay is too short, and GBP accounts they offer in Jersey have a ~$100,000 minimum balance. I'm pressing my employer to see if maybe there's some misunderstanding.

Any UK bank card will work fine in Italy. You'll also be given the choice when you pay of having your UK/Euro conversion immediately by a local bank or processed by your UK bank.

You'll probably use a debit card and no "fees" are allowed within the European Union for using your card in a different country.


In the US I put most charges on our credit card in the (perhaps mistaken?) view that if that number is stolen or otherwise compromised, we're more protected than if someone got access to our actual bank account (since we won't have actually lost the money yet), which is why I guess I would prefer to get a credit card rather than simply spend on the bank card associated with whatever account I get. Is that an unnecessary concern?
posted by rustcellar at 10:37 AM on July 24


It is up to you as to debit or credit. Debit is much more common here probably because there is a chargeback scheme.

But also to use your card a thief needs your card and your PIN. Things don't work by mere signature in Europe. The number isn't enough for most transactions since all cards here have an embedded chip as well. If they use it online, there is both an access code (on the card) and a bank password scheme as well (both different than the PIN) so this is good enough for most people I guess.
posted by vacapinta at 11:40 AM on July 24 [1 favorite]


You do not want, nor will you qualify for, nor will you get, a UK credit card. You will get a debit card, which will work in Italy. It has chip and pin and is vastly more secure than US cards.

Barclays has an account that will work for you and I believe you can set it up from abroad. I would not use the word "temporary" -- it's none of their business and will just make things much harder. For the purposes of opening a bank account, you are relocating.
posted by DarlingBri at 2:19 PM on July 24 [1 favorite]


If you're a US citizen most banks (all?) in Europe will not do business with you because of onerous IRS reporting requirements. Arrange for your employer to directly deposit your pay in your US-domiciled account.

Your employer should have experience arranging this with other US citizens.
posted by dfriedman at 3:22 PM on July 24


If you're a US citizen most banks (all?) in Europe will not do business with you because of onerous IRS reporting requirements.

Unless this is something that began after 2007 then I'm not sure it's correct, as up until that time I had 3 separate bank accounts in Europe, 2 spanish banks plus Deutschebank. I did not have citizenship or legal residency in any Euro country at any time.

OP, it is possible that Deutschebank will meet your needs as I believe they have branches in both Italy and the UK.
posted by elizardbits at 8:41 PM on July 24


The US IRS FATCA reporting requirements are new in 2014. OP must get advice from their employer on how this will impact them.
posted by monotreme at 9:42 PM on July 24 [1 favorite]


If you're a US citizen most banks (all?) in Europe will not do business with you because of onerous IRS reporting requirements.

There have been various "scare" stories in the media, but this is simply not true.

The US IRS FATCA reporting requirements are new in 2014. OP must get advice from their employer on how this will impact them.

FBAR and FATCA reporting, as well as IRS filing for foreign tax credits, is between you and the IRS. I'm not sure how it relates to the employer. Since the OP will be working for the London office, they will be paid in pounds and subject to PAYE. This should all be done automatically.
posted by vacapinta at 2:18 AM on July 25


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