I need a new UK bank account. Are there any that provide solid online banking, sensible fraud protection, and multi-currency?
September 14, 2011 3:12 AM   Subscribe

I need a new UK bank account. Are there any that provide solid online banking, sensible fraud protection, and multi-currency?

I'm looking for a solid, sensible bank that looks after its international customers. I travel very frequently for work and make a lot of payments online to overseas retailers, and I'm tired of having to deal with fraud protection who cut my cards off on a very regular basis and exchange fees. When we arrived we opened an account with whoever would have us (Barclays). But I need an account that will suit me better.

I have lived in the UK for 2.5 years and am self-employed. I mostly earn Euros that are paid into my UK account in Sterling. My husband has his UK income paid into the account as well.

I have searched moneysupermarket.com and other rankings but am having trouble finding a bank that would suit me. My criteria are:

- Easy to log in online banking (I have endless problems with device-based login systems eg Pinsentry)
- Can use card in other countries either online or while abroad without fraud protection blocking card constantly (or requiring you to call to register countries before every trip)
- Agreements with international banks to use their ATMs, or own ATMs (saving on currency/ATM fees)
- Usual suite of ISA, savings accounts linked to main account

Would really like to have:
- Multi currency account since I mostly earn in Euros. My income and savings is under the thresholds of the premier accounts so I don't qualify for those
- Credit card
posted by wingless_angel to Work & Money (17 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Easy to login online banking doesn't mix with security unfortunately. Any reasonably secure bank is going to use some form of 2-factor authentication (at least for making payments to new payees) these days.

The interest rates paid by the main UK clearing banks on savings accounts & ISAs are usually pitiful.

HSBC will cover most of your requirements, especially on the multi-currency side although you might have to open an account with their offshore banking bunch, which carries a hefty minimum balance. (Caveat: I last looked at this a couple of years ago so the options have probably all changed again.)

All the banks will apply fraud prevention profiling to all credit card payments, especially those made abroad. You're never going to escape it: the only protection against having your card blocked is to have another one from a different bank with you just in case.

You should trawl the articles at http://moneysavingexpert.com/ for the cheapest way to spend when abroad: generally the last thing you want to use is a credit or debit card from a high street clearing bank.
posted by pharm at 3:50 AM on September 14, 2011

I think HSBC just started using those awful authenticator machines so might not be what you're looking for. First Direct doesn't have them yet but if HSBC has them, I'm sure they will soon - in fact I'm sure all banks will be using them soon enough.
posted by missmagenta at 4:15 AM on September 14, 2011

Best answer: I went with Halifax for similar reasons to yours: I live outside the UK but maintain connections there, so needed an international-friendly UK account.

Halifax don't use pinsentry gadgets for their online banking, and their credit card is one of the very few offered by UK banks that levies no fees or exchange rate "loading" on international transactions (I think the only other bank that offers this is National Savings, i.e. the Post Office). In general you want to avoid using a debit card overseas, but if you pay off every month then a credit card is essentially a debit card. The Halifax card also doesn't charge fees for cash withdrawals overseas (although it does change some interest which ends up being a very nominal amount if you pay off monthly). I don't know if you can have euro current accounts with Halifax though.

As far as I can tell from talking to friends/colleagues, there are no banks that don't require you to register overseas travel before doing it, but the workaround is to call up and say your making a very long trip. Some banks will accept this, e.g. as far as Halifax are concerned, I'm on holiday for three years, and they were fine with that.
posted by caek at 4:29 AM on September 14, 2011 [1 favorite]

p.s. here's the Money Saving Expert list of top travel credit cards.
posted by caek at 4:31 AM on September 14, 2011

Just popping in to say NatWest is most assuredly NOT the bank you are looking for. They issue authenticators (though mainly for setting up new payments online and authenticating large payments, only password and PIN details are needed for logging in), and I've never been abroad when they didn't randomly stop my card, even when I'd been using it in other countries for, say, a week. Letting them know in advance of your travel plans makes no difference, the woman I spoke to on their Helpline about this said it's an automatic detection system they have no individual control over. And their foreign fees, whether cash withdrawal or purchase, are appalling. I now have a rechargeable Visa card from the Post Office that I use for accessing cashpoints in other countries instead.
posted by Cuppatea at 4:33 AM on September 14, 2011 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Thank you for the advice so far! Just a note that it's hard right now to get a card, but I will keep that part in mind for the future. I have just qualified my first credit card with a paltry 260 quid limit. Self employed expats clearly not worth much here. This means I am forced to use my debit card.

caek: Long trip, going everywhere, great idea. Barclays only lets you advise 3 countries at a time which is insane.
posted by wingless_angel at 4:35 AM on September 14, 2011

Scroll down on that MSE link and take a look at the debit card section: "If you can't get a credit card due to a weaker credit rating, or would prefer a bank account with a debit card to spend on abroad, you have a few options...".

In the meantime I would recommend applying for the Halifax credit card asap and using it as much as possible. After six months you should get an limit increase.
posted by caek at 4:39 AM on September 14, 2011

You may also want to look at prepaid travel credit cards, although they are obviously a bit of a pain.
posted by caek at 4:41 AM on September 14, 2011

Response by poster: caek: Thanks for the suggestions. Just tried Halifax, and was instantly declined.

All the more frustrating is that my Australian accounts don't have any of these problems, but the cost of transferring money back there to pay cards off would negate the benefits.
posted by wingless_angel at 4:56 AM on September 14, 2011

It might be worth calling into a branch, explaining your situation. Maybe they have some discretion the website doesn't have, or maybe they'll tell you to open and use their current account asap to build up a relationship with them. Good luck!
posted by caek at 5:02 AM on September 14, 2011

Yeah just get used to 2 factor authentication. I use HSBC for multi-currency stuff. The minimum balance is around AUD 1000, but I think there are ways around it.
posted by singingfish at 5:43 AM on September 14, 2011

Best answer: I'm just here to give my opinion on a few things:

1) Pin entry 2 factor authentication is such a pain, but it's worth it. A year ago, I used Mozilla Firefox to access my current account with NatWest. I used the correct URL, typed in the correct address. I have all the antivirus programs in the world AND the free antivirus/ malware checker thingy provided by NatWest. The page that appeared looked exactly like Natwest's page, and the URL in the address bar was natwest.com. The only reason why I suspected that I wasn't on Natwest's website was that they asked for my full password, and not 3 random letters from my password. It was lucky that I didn't go any further. Anyway, I was so glad for the 2 factor authentication because it meant that should they have access to my online account, they could not have transferred any money out to theirs. Nowadays, I split my money between different banks with different passwords on each, to decrease the risk of someone gaining illegal access to all my money and transferring everything out.

2) I don't have opinions on current accounts (am not sure whether you will be able to find one that fits all your needs), but I will give props to Halifax Clarity Credit Card, with no foreign transaction charges and an exchange rate close to the interbank rate (i.e. very good FX rates). I also use prepaid Travelex for free cash withdrawals abroad (their exchange rate can't beat Halifax's card though).

3) I think Natwest ISAs and Halifax easy access web savings accounts are pretty good for what they are.
posted by moiraine at 6:20 AM on September 14, 2011

Best answer: Citibank UK offer Euro and US Dollar current accounts that accept payments in Euros etc.
posted by almostwitty at 7:35 AM on September 14, 2011

Just FYI, HSBC is now using 'those awful machines', but I haven't found it particularly unpleasant.
posted by Logophiliac at 8:08 AM on September 14, 2011

I'd assumed that HSBC started with the PIN device because they wanted people to leave as part of their strategy to leave the less-profitable bits of UK retail banking.
posted by cromagnon at 11:18 AM on September 14, 2011

Best answer: Have a look at post office international payments. That's how I transfer money back to the UK from Switzerland. Not sure it works the other way but it may be a cost effective way for you to transfer money to Australia. Does your Australian bank have any links with a UK bank? That would also be an option to explore in terms of transaction cost.

Also, do use the credit card with the tiny limit to build up your credit rating in the UK - I bet lack of history.with your UK bank is one of the reasons you're having so many problems.

Finally, HSBC have never blocked any overseas transactions and I only ever advise them when I'm travelling for a while and know I'll be hammering my cards.
posted by koahiatamadl at 3:10 PM on September 14, 2011

Response by poster: Thank you all - I am going to call into HSBC and Halifax to start, and the post office. Australian banks have no links in the UK - so for now I will probably leave those funds parked.
posted by wingless_angel at 6:50 AM on September 15, 2011

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