Open UK Bank Account from Abroad?
August 1, 2008 6:30 AM   Subscribe

Is it possible for an American to open a UK bank account from outside the UK without a UK address?

I am working over the internet and am sent paychecks in Sterling. My bank takes over 4 weeks and charges $50 to deposit them. I was hoping maybe I could open up a UK account to make this easier. So far all the places I have looked at require a UK address.
posted by pivko to Work & Money (13 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
AFAIK the short answer is no.

The banks here have very strict regulations and in order to open an account you need all sorts of id including proof of address which is in the UK.
posted by twistedonion at 6:39 AM on August 1, 2008

There seem to be some around.
How about this one? Or this one?
posted by le morte de bea arthur at 6:41 AM on August 1, 2008

Actually I'm probably wrong with those, although they're not doing much to be clear about the matter.
posted by le morte de bea arthur at 6:43 AM on August 1, 2008

TwistedOnion has it.

I am an Australian who is working in the UK. I had to provide proof I had a UK address, and a letter of introduction from my employer before I could open an account.

If it was this difficult for a UK resident (albeit as a non-citizen), then I would imagine it would be nigh on impossible for someone living overseas.
posted by TheOtherGuy at 7:01 AM on August 1, 2008

Could you ask your employer to pay you via PayPal? You will be charged a fee for retrieving money from your account, but it may be less than $50.
posted by essexjan at 7:09 AM on August 1, 2008

Does it really need to be in the UK? There are banks in the US, such as HSBC and Citi which support multi-currency accounts.
posted by vacapinta at 7:10 AM on August 1, 2008

I was going to suggest something along the lines of vacapinta comment - specifically the offsure bank that are local to the UK (such as those in Jersey) will be able to open up Sterling accounts. You will still have to negotiate a number of checks to be able to do this - but residency in the UK will not be one of them. Ongoing fees for management may by higher to the extent that you would be better off coping with your existing charges and delays.

I take it there is no possibility of your arranging to be paid via something like a Paypal account?
posted by rongorongo at 7:54 AM on August 1, 2008

citibank definitely allow you to have US / UK accounts from the UK end, and I'm not sure why it would be any different the other way around. Then you would simply pay into citibank, or give them the details to pay direct to the citibank UK funded account. I believe HSBC do the same, but you might want to check out citibank first as I believe its more of an american account.

Otherwise you could ask them to wire transfer the money (but check the charges wouldn't be less - it used to cost about £20 to send the money from the UK , I'm not sure of the amount taken off at the other end, you would need to check - but you could point out to them that it's only fair that they live with the charges their end, you live with them your end. Alternatively paypal is definitely a best option if they will go for it.
posted by nunoidia at 9:57 AM on August 1, 2008

I'm sorry, I love PayPal, but PayPal is never the best option for money you depend on to keep a roof over your head and food on your table. They have a habit of reacting to large or unusual transactions by freezing your account as an anti-fraud measure. This takes time to sort out.

Additionally, you would need a business account with PayPal for these payments, which adds to the fees. Your PP fees and currency conversion fees would be considerably in excess of $50.

If you cannot open a sterling account with Citi or HSBC, you want payment via a wire transfer. Optimally they would pay for it on their end and wire directly to your US account. Otherwise, use an international money transfer specialist like HiFX. Your employer pays them in sterling into their UK sterling account, and you get the money in US$ your US account 2 days later. The fee is very low and you get a much better rate on the exchange than your bank or PayPal will give you.

We used them to move 1/2 of a house worth of money from UK sterling to our Irish euro account, and while I was completely convinced we were never going to see that money again, it turned up right as rain exactly on schedule. Plus we saved the vast sum of money our banks on both ends wanted to charge us. Bastards.
posted by DarlingBri at 12:17 PM on August 1, 2008

You can certainly open an account with HSBC offshore as a non-UK resident.

I've never heard of HiFX (DarlingBri's comment above) but it sounds like a great idea however.
posted by NailsTheCat at 3:57 PM on August 1, 2008

Response by poster: Thanks for all the great answers. HiFX looks very interesting though I think it might be a problem that my monthly checks vary in amount. I would prefer just to do a wire transfer to my US account but the company I am working with only does BACS transfer.
I think the best option would be to set up an offshore account in Jersey or Isle of Man. So far I have not been able to find a simple relatively cheap current account at these banks. Most of the accounts are saving accounts with high minimums and limited withdrawals. For example the citibank offshore current account requires a $50,000 minimum.
I will call HSBC and Citibank here in the US to see what they suggest.
posted by pivko at 8:03 AM on August 2, 2008

Different monthly amounts are not a problem with HiFX; they'll just run them all as one-off transactions instead of a monthly standing order. The reason I am re-suggesting this is that when you pay HiFX, you pay them by BACS so it sounds like exactly what you need. I'd at least call them.

I'm not particularly shilling for HiFX; I'm sure there are other currency transfer companies out there. I've just used this one so I am 97% confident they are not a bunch of crooks.
posted by DarlingBri at 11:45 AM on August 2, 2008

Response by poster: I tried HiFX but unfortunately they cannot except money from an account I don't own (like my employer). To set up with HiFX they require being able to access the money from the account which the company sending the checks would never agree to.
posted by pivko at 9:14 AM on August 9, 2008

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