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International Bank Accounts: Any use?


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Hi All

This is my first post on the forum.  Hope my question isn't too idiotic!

I'm moving to France in December having got a job in Switzerland (my wife is French so is keen to move back home) so the the move will be permanent.

I was just wondering how you guys deal with your UK bank accounts?  After a forum search I understand that it's best to keep your UK accounts open & change your home address to your new French one.  I currently bank with First Direct and Halifax and hope this won't be a problem.

I also have a lot in Cash ISA's which I guess I'll have to close once I'm no longer tax resident.  Can anyone recommend a UK savings account open to non-residents to store my savings in until I need them?  I'm loathe to transfer anything at the moment due to the poor exchange rate.

Alternatively, should I open an International account as offered by lloyds, HSBC etc?

Many thanks for any help you can offer.  This will be no doubt the first of many posts!


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You should also consider selling your ISA investments and repurchasing them before you get to France as the profit on disposal for capitalgains is calculated from the purchase date even if that is before you become french resident. So if you realise any profit while still in the uk it will be free of capital gains and you can reinvest while still covered by ISA.

rgds jfb

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  • 4 weeks later...
I suggest that the first question to ask yourself is about currency.  If you are moving permanently to France, most of your expenses and obligations will (presumably) be denominated in euros.  If you leave most of your assets in sterling, you will in effect be taking a gamble on the exchange rate.

Of course, if you have income that's denominated in sterling (e.g. a state pension) you can't avoid the exchange rate risk on that.  But you can avoid it on your existing savings, by switching to euros.

Many people don't, and I'm not suggesting that you must, but it's something to be considered.  

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[quote user="FiercelyFuzzy"]

Cheers guys.  The info on the ISAs was a revelation.  I'll also have a lump sum from a redundancy payout to squirrel away so I've been looking at offshore accounts.


It is certainly a revelation to me as well. As soon as we changed our address the bank made us close our ISAs.

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Q. What happens if I go abroad?

A. You can only open an ISA if you are resident and

ordinarily resident in the UK for tax purposes (ask your Tax Office if

you are in any doubt about this).

Crown employees, such as diplomats or members of the armed forces, who

are working overseas and paid by the government are eligible to open an

ISA. Their spouses or civil partners can also open an ISA.

If you start an ISA in the UK and then go abroad, you cannot continue

putting money into the ISA (unless you are a Crown employee working overseas

or the spouse or civil partner of a Crown employee working overseas).

However, you can keep your ISA and you will still get tax relief on investments

held in the ISA. When you return, you can start putting money in again

(subject to the normal annual limits).

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If your move is to be permanant then what real need have you of UK or offshore bank accounts ?

As for holding out for a better rate, this is a mugs game which many have long played, and were playing, when it was sitting at 1.2 until recently but have since seen it drop to the current 1.15 so have lost out. My advice would be to bite the bullet and convert to Euros and be done with it. Sadly it's a fact of life that there are only 2 perfect times to exchange currency - yesterday and tomorrow !

With Euros you can invest in things like Livrets and Assurance vie's both of which are tax efficient and will likely earn you more than anything the UK currently has to offer, and without the risk of any gains, plus possibly capital too, being wiped out in an instant by relatively minor falls in the value of Sterling.


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[quote user="AnOther"]If your move is to be permanent then what real need have you of UK or offshore bank accounts ?[/quote]

It's a good question, but there can be reasons. 

My wife has a modest sterling pension, and we visit the UK from time to time, so we kept our UK bank account open and have the pension paid into it.  We thus have sterling to pay for expenses in the UK, and we save a few useful quid each year by not exchanging the pension into euros and then changing euros back into sterling when we travel.  I'm sure that what we save in transaction costs is more than any interest that we might have earned, especially at current rates.

For anyone who no longer has a UK account and can't open one because he has become non-resident, this could be a good reason to open an offshore account in sterling.

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[quote user="AnOther"]Currently the Halifax Clarity card is the pick of the bunch.


Is it me or has NW's skim risen to 2.5%, I'm pretty sure it was 2% when they delivered the kick in the teeth initially.


Think that is using their credit card.

Their site:


still shows 2%.

I did do a comparison using the Visa site on the above page to calculate the rate and taking the 2% and £1 in to account and it was overall better than Travelex advance order.

Personally, I cannot blame NW for doing this - at present we only use the account to dump money in just before we go to France. However, our intention was to make this our main account when we retire. Perhaps I will stick with First Direct for my main account as I very much like the service and carry on dumping money into NW before a trip.


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Most people retiring in France will need a sterling account for their pension to be paid into (UK State pensions can be paid in euros direct to a french account, but company and personal pensions usually can't). I haven't tried to run a sterling account with a french bank, but I imagine their charges would be even worse than for a euro account.

You can't open a UK sterling account once you're here, but there's no problem keeping an existing one going indefinitely. I opened a sterling account in Jersey which works well, but is increasingly scrutinised whenever I make a transfer to France, so it's important to declare it and pay tax on any interest received (you should be so lucky!). You have to fill in a tedious two-page questionnaire (ref.3916) for each overseas account you hold, every year, so it's not a good idea to have too many separate accounts. There are heavy fines if you fail to declare any account, even if you don't use it or recieve interest.

I was with HSBC in Jersey initially, but they wanted to levy excessive monthly charges unless we kept a high level of cash in our non-interest bearing current account. We moved to Bank of Scotland who have been excellent and with no silly restrictions. You have to go through all the anti-money laundering performance of course, with certified copies of documents, but I guess that's the same with any new account now.

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Mikep says:

You have to fill in a tedious two-page questionnaire (ref.3916) for each overseas account

I think it was SD who told me that, alternatively, I could simply list all overseas accounts on a separate piece of paper and submit that.

I have done just that for the last 3 years without any problems.  Mind you, I don't have mega bucks and they probably aren't that much interested in any of my accounts.

I keep a photocopy of the account details and don't even need to dig out the details every year.

Thought I'd pass on that excellent tip. 

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The Osborne-Merz negotiation is expected to modify taxation of accounts in suisse, similar to the case of US and german nationals.

So on saturday under registered cover I received a very rude letter inviting me to close my account and move my "mega-bucks" elsewhere, not later then 30/11/10.

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