Best banking solution for being paid in pounds, but living on euros?
August 24, 2013 1:17 PM   Subscribe

For the next three years, I will be paid in sterling pounds as an UK employee. However, I will be living in the Netherlands for the next 1-3 years (so, potentially during the whole contract). What is the best solution for a bank account that takes in pounds, but allows me to spend euros? I would like a Dutch, euro bank account for the time that I am in the Netherlands. I want to try to avoid transferring all of my salary to euros, as I may move to the UK soon... and transferring pounds to euros and back to pounds seems like a waste of money.

Other issues:
-Getting an account in the UK appears to be incredibly difficult, as I am not a British citizen.
-I will have less than 10,000 euros in the account, which limits some international banking options.
-I would prefer to stay away from the huge banking conglomerates (Citibank, HSBC, ect.). If there are no other options, is it easy to set up an account with them?
-My other banks are a local credit union in the United States and a German bank account.
-I have talked with the big three Dutch banks in my area (ING, Rabobank, and ABN-AMRO), and they all don't know what to do with me.

I realize that an ideal solution might not be possible. But, what is the closest that I can get to?

posted by Peter Petridish to Work & Money (9 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Since no one's answered and I was curious, I had a look on google, and it looks like Barclays have an account with a £5,000 minimum and a £10/month fee, if that would be feasible. It looks like you don't have to be in the UK to open one. Citibank's and HSBC's minimums seem to be even more than £10,000, but I may have missed something.

It looks like the thing to google, at least in English, is 'multi-currency account'.
posted by hoyland at 3:43 PM on August 24, 2013

If you can persuade Citibank UK to open an account for you, their current account, which can have bins of money denominated in euros, dollars and pounds, is £8/month (or free if you deposit a largish UK salary, and pay two UK bills each month). I'm British and I just moved from Germany to the US, so I've been looking closely at this account myself, although I haven't opened one yet.

You'd have your salary paid in pounds into the account, move only what you need into the euro bin, and use the Visa card to make purchases and withdraw cash in the Netherlands. Another useful feature of this account for you is that, if you open a Checking account in the US with Citibank NA, you can transfer money between the UK and US accounts instantly without fees. The downside is that you may still need a "domestic" Dutch account to pay bills like rent and utilities. That would certainly be the case in Germany, which is the only other country I know.

There's no law against non-British citizens opening current accounts. The only difficulty is that the amount of paperwork required to prove your identity is a little onerous in comparison to US banks. Citbank in particular are used to international customers (their UK branches are all in the financial district of London, and I get the impression most of their customers are Americans living in the UK), and they should be able to somehow work around the fact that you are not even a UK resident, never mind a citizen. Give them a call. You may even be able to do it without visiting one of their London branches.
posted by caek at 4:28 PM on August 24, 2013

if you're a US citizen, don't forget that all those currency conversions are taxable events. if there's gain, its taxable.
posted by jpe at 5:07 PM on August 24, 2013

It seems that accounts with usurous fees will end up being expensive as would converting your money into Euros to keep in a bank account.

I would expect that the "best" solution would be to find a way to open a Halifax UK account denominated in GBP and spend Euros using that card with real-time exchange rate calculations at the best possible rate.
posted by turkeyphant at 6:28 PM on August 24, 2013

Getting an account in the UK appears to be incredibly difficult, as I am not a British citizen.

I'm not a British citizen either, though I am a resident.
My UK bank account was sponsored by the company that is paying me in pounds sterling. I don't know the details of your situation but perhaps your employer could do the same?

-I will have less than 10,000 euros in the account, which limits some international banking options.

What makes you think that? I opened a NatWest International off-shore account with less than that - though it has more than that now.
The offshore account also supports simultaneous multi-currency acounts - an account in sterling and an account in euros for example. Transfer between the two can be done by the bank using any rules you specify. Anyways, the key term is multi-currency.
posted by vacapinta at 1:04 AM on August 25, 2013

Apologies for the UK's jingoistic banking system. My suggestion, from what I have heard about them, is that Handelsbanken, a Swedish bank who's a fairly recent entrant to the UK retail market, and I think similarly recent in the Netherlands, are a highly delegated bank where you could make an appointment with a local manager and they'd be able to set things up for you so that this would work out reasonably. It is all branch based, so I don't know if they'd have a branch by you bases in the UK and the Netherlands.
posted by ambrosen at 2:55 AM on August 25, 2013

Response by poster: I have tried looking up "multi-currency account", and I get hits for mainly offshore accounts with high (> 10,000 euro) minimal balances. This has been a barrier for quite a few banks that offer multi-currency accounts, but only for premium customers. I will investigate NatWest, though.

Opening an account in they UK is going to be hopeless, as my boss (as a non-UK citizen and professor for a UK university) was rejected from 6 out of 7 banks.

Handelsbanken replied that they do not have multi-currency accounts at any branch in the Netherlands.
posted by Peter Petridish at 3:01 PM on August 27, 2013

Opening an account in they UK is going to be hopeless, as my boss (as a non-UK citizen and professor for a UK university) was rejected from 6 out of 7 banks.
I have helped a couple of visiting academic friends open current accounts in the UK. I appreciate that, compared to the US, it can seem like an ordeal. But like you say, your boss did open an account, so it's obviously not hopeless (or actually illegal, which you seem to think it might be). It's just a case of finding the right bank.

The problem is not just that the UK has relatively strict identification requirements (although it does). It's more that few current accounts don't offer at least some kind of interest-free overdraft facility. This means they're effectively lending you money for free, whether you want it or not, which makes them wary of non-resident non-citizens.

Citibank doesn't offer an overdraft as far as I can tell, and they only have like four branches, all in the City of London, so you won't be the first international customer they've dealt with. Also, because they are a tiny retail operation in the UK, it's not going to be quite the awful Big Bank experience you get with them in the US. I've called the 0800 number a few times, and more often than not, the same (very helpful) woman answers the phone.

So, seriously, at the risk of repeating myself, phone Citibank UK and ask them.
posted by caek at 9:31 AM on August 28, 2013

Response by poster: Here is what I ended up doing, with what worked, what did not work, and how to make the process go smoother for others.

I found that banks fell into 3 categories. Ones that would charge huge transfer fees for pounds to euros each month (ING and Rabobank; ING wanted to charge me 50 euros per transfer, so 100 euros off of each month's pay), offshore accounts that require 10,000+ euros, and ABN-AMRO. I wanted a Dutch bank (so, no Citibank) so that some options, like iDeal payments, were available.

ABN-AMRO has a non-resident account option with a sterling pound option. My local branch knew nothing about this account, so ignore them and call the international / expat department directly. The website says that you will need at least 10,000 euros to open this account. This is only partially true — you need 10,000 euros in the account or be transferring at least 1,500 euros every month into the account (for example, a salary). I visited my local branch 3-4 times trying to explain this, with no effect.

Call the expat department, and ask them to send you the form required to open a non-resident account. Fill this out, and take it with your passport (for ID), working contract (to prove that you make 1,500 euros / month), Burgerservicenummber (for taxes) to the local branch, where they will look at the forms, make copies, and send it off to the expat office of ABN-AMRO. After 1-2 weeks, congratulations! You now have a euro account.

But, we wanted a euro account and a sterling pound account.

Contact the expat department once again, ask for an additional sterling pound account. It cost me an extra 40 euros (one-time fee), plus 3-4 euros extra per month. The result is two separate bank account numbers: one for euros and one for pounds.

The agents at the ABN-AMRO expat office were super helpful, friendly, and they can get stuff done. My local branch was the exact opposite, which is why it took me weeks to get this set up. Results at your local branch may vary.
posted by Peter Petridish at 3:36 AM on November 2, 2013 [1 favorite]

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