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4 min read 27.04.2022 124
Ese Precious
Ese Precious
Fintech writer at AskWallet.io
Best Online Banks for Expats

Best Online Banks for Expats

The United States of America and the United Kingdom are two of the popular destinations for expatriates, or expats for short, and economically powerful hosts for migrants. Among these expats are young people who emigrated from their home countries in Europe, Africa, Asia, and other parts of the world. The most common reasons for their emigration to these countries include to work, do business, further their education, or seek safety/asylum abroad. When they get to their host countries, the first thing they usually do after settling at their places of residence is to try to open bank accounts. In that way, they participate in cross-border banking.

Therefore, we have prepared this guide to help old, new, and prospective expats in the UK and USA to understand cross-border banking and make the best choice of online banks in these parts of the world. 

Cross-border Banking and its Increasing Importance

Cross-border banking refers to sending money from one bank account in a particular country to another in a foreign country. This practice is becoming more important due to the high rate of cross-border movements of people and their increasing demand for banking and payment solutions that facilitate their expatriate lifestyles.

Consequently, the global banking industry is responding to the needs of expats through a continuous and significant digital transformation. The number of traditional banksneobanks, and FinTech companies providing international banking and online payment services is increasing every day. Most of them also render services to freelancers and digital nomads. You can find more information about the current trends in banking and digital payment services on our website.


 

Opening an Account with a FinTech Company

It is typically faster and way easier to open a FinTech account than a traditional bank account. Most of them allow the creation of accounts through their mobile apps or online platforms, which can be accessed using smartphones or personal computers. The process might require you to upload some documents to verify your identity, depending on the country and its legal requirements.  

Best Online Banks for Expats

We have put together the best online banks for expats. They include those for expats in the UK and the USA, as well as those with special products and services for Muslims, Jews, and Christians.

Online Banks for Expats in the UK

Expats in the United Kingdom and those intending to relocate to this part of the world need to have a set of documents to open UK bank accounts. Usually, you will be required to provide:

  • Your passport/identity document, which should contain your full name and your age (16-18 years or above).
  • Evidence of your place of residence in the UK.
  • A proof of your income.
  • In some cases, you may need to present your visa information.

Now, listed below are the best online banks for expats in the UK – they are secure, safe, cheap, and offer a lot of innovative features for your benefit.  

Starling Bank

To enjoy online banking in the UK, you need to create an account with Starling Bank. It is a fully licensed award-winning neobank that was launched in 2014 and is operating digital-only. In other words, it has no physical branches. It is regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA).

For four consecutive years – 2018 to 2021 – Starling Bank was awarded the Best British Bank by Smart Money People. Who knows? It might win the award again this year. At present, this neobank (which also has a powerful mobile app), has more than 2.8 million customers across the UK.

Residents in the UK, including expats, can choose to open any of the following current accounts with Starling Bank: Personal, Joint (shareable), Euro (IBAN), Starling Kite (a debit card for kids 6-16 years old), and Teen (an account for teens between 16 and 17 years old). However, we want to assume that you are more interested in the Personal and Euro Current Account options, hence, we will tell you more about them in brief in the next two paragraphs. (Meanwhile, you can find the best apps and bank cards for your kids and teens on our website).

A personal current account, which is available for free, is very easy to open with Starling Bank. You will need your smartphone with an internet connection, a valid photo of your identity card (passport or driving license), and about 5 minutes of your time.  This account allows you to do all that you used to do in a physical branch of a bank on your smartphone. It makes it easy for you to manage your money through its smart budgeting and saving tools. Besides, its customer support team is available to attend to you 24/7 in the app.  It also offers environmentally friendly Mastercard debit cards and allows you to use them at ATMs for free domestically and internationally.

Now, with a personal Euro Bank Account from Starling Bank, you can receive, hold, and send euros for free in the UK. You can send financial assistance to your friends and family members in Europe. Also, you can use the app to make pounds-to-euro and euro-to-pounds conversions at an exchange fee of 0.4%.

However, if you are an entrepreneurial expat or freelancer looking for an account for your business, Starling Bank offers four different kinds to choose from: Business Account (for limited liability companies, partnerships, and other registered businesses), Sole Trader Account (for self-employed people), and Multi-currency Accounts (for US dollar and euro bank accounts for your business). Among these accounts, we want to guess that you are more interested in the one for sole traders.

As usual, Starling Bank offers a free Sole Trader Account that expats in the UK can open using the app. It offers a Sole Trader Toolkit (that costs £7 per month) and other features that can help you efficiently manage cash and cheque deposits, instant payments, capture receipts, automate expenses, and link your account to Xero and other accounting software or insurance services. However, Starling Bank will have to conduct some eligibility checks on you before allowing you to own this type of account. The checks include understanding the kind of business you do and examining your credit data.

Generally, to create an account for your business with Starling Bank, you will need a smartphone with a stable internet connection, a valid photo ID (such as your passport or UK driving licence), documents that confirm the nature of your business (trade registration or bank statement), and about 10 minutes of your time.

Barclays Bank

Take care of your daily banking in a safe, secure, and convenient way with Barclays Online Banking services. The journey begins with having a personal computer or smartphone with an internet connection so that you can create a Barclays account.

On the one hand, the current account options available at Barclays are quite many. They are as follows: everyday current accounts (Barclays Bank Account and Premier Bank Account); accounts in up to 12 foreign currencies (Foreign Currency Account); student and graduate current accounts (Student Additions Accounts and Higher Education Account); and accounts for those under the age of 18 (Children’s Account – BarclayPlus, and Young Person’s Account).

On the other hand, Barclays has some savings account options. The basic ones are the Instant-Access Savings and Children’s Savings. With the former, you get to open your savings account with a minimum of £1 and earn interest from 0.01%-0.40% with free or occasional access to your money. Whereas, with the latter, you can use a minimum of £1 to create a savings account and earn about 1.50% interest with no withdrawal restrictions.

Expats who are aged 18 or over in the UK can open current accounts with Barclays bank at no monthly costs. Through its app, they can enjoy a wide range of services that include a loyalty programme, cashback, personal IBAN accounts, multicurrency accounts, SWIFT/SEPA transfers, bank cards, and insurance.

The requirements for you to open an account with Barclays are simple. All you need to do is to download the app or use the online form, enter your details, and upload your ID for verification. Give the bank some time to run a quick credit check on you and, if everything goes fine, your account will be ready in a short time.

Revolut

Revolut was established in 2015. After operating in the UK as an FCA-regulated electronic money institution (EMI) for about seven years, it was until 2021 that it was allowed to submit its application for a UK banking licence. Nevertheless, Revolut has long gained recognition as a neobank among users of digital banking services in the UK, the European Union, and beyond. It has Mastercard and Visa cards for its customers.

Expats in the UK can get maximum value for their money by using Revolut’s Saving Vaults. It is a savings account that allows account holders to make instant withdrawals at any time, get 1% cashback, and earn 1% annual interest.

Furthermore, you can use Revolut to make fee-free international money transfers in more than 30 currencies. It has no transfer limits for most currencies and any limitations that might be placed on any transfer can be seen in the Revolut app in advance. However, a transfer fee of 0.5% will be charged when you have sent up to £1,000 before the end of a month. Find out more about Revolut in our overview.

Monzo

Monzo is a UK bank that is fully regulated by the FCA. Once you live in the UK and have a UK residential address, you can open an account with Monzo. The main available options are personal and business accounts. Other options include Monzo Current Accounts, Monzo Plus Accounts, Monzo Premium Accounts, Monzo Joint Accounts, and Monzo 16-17 Accounts.

The Monzo Current Account is a UK account that is protected by the Financial Services Compensation Scheme to a secure deposit of up to £85,000. You can open it with a minimum deposit of £10. This account also comes with loan and overdraft features so that you can enjoy peace of mind while banking.

You can also grow your savings through Monzo Savings Pots. This account is equipped with features that can help you to save money automatically in pots. 

Find more information about Monzo on our website.

Online Banks for Expats in the USA

Normally, you are expected to be not less than 18 years old to open any bank account by yourself in the United States. Nevertheless, if you are under 18, you will have to get your guardian to co-sign the account. In most cases, to open an online account in the USA as a non-resident, you must present:

  • Your personal and contact information – full name, residential address in the US, email address, and US phone number.
  • Some valid government-issued identity documents which must be verified by the bank – passport, or driver’s licence.  
  • Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN) or Social Security number.
  • Utility bill that contains your current residential address.
  • Initial deposit – cash (as some may require).
  • Now the following are the leading online banks for expats in the United States.  

Capital One 360

Capital One is a full-service online bank. In the USA, expats can open a Capital One 360 Checking Account and earn a 0.10% annual percentage yield (APY) on their money, which is higher than that of Bank of America (0.01% APY). Alternatively, to earn more, you can open a Capital One 360 Performance Savings Account with a 0.60% APY — which is an interest rate that is way higher than the national average (0.06% APY).

Both types of accounts are safe and insured by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC). They allow you to use the Capital One mobile app to access your money and bank from anywhere in the United States without paying ATM fees, maintenance fees, or a minimum deposit. Also, you can use your debit card abroad for free. Besides, you can use your Capital One 360 Checking Account to easily transfer money or pay bills online with Zelle.

You can open a Capital One 360 account in-person or online. To open it in person, you need to present your identity documents. There are two kinds of identity documents required. The first kind is a document that identifies you (for example, your passport, birth certificate, Individual Taxpayer Identification Number, Social Security card, or driver’s license). The second is a document that identifies your place of residence in the United States (which could be a utility bill, lease document, or mortgage statement that has your name and address on it). Upon submitting these documents, the bank will proceed with creating your account. 

For those who would prefer to open their account online, this bank allows you to enter just your date of birth and the numbers on any of your valid ID documents on the online application page. Also, you will need your email address and telephone number. When these documents are ready, you need to go to the website of Capital One using this link and choose to open a Checking or Savings Account. Follow the corresponding prompts to fill out and send an application.

Ally Bank

With no monthly maintenance fees and free bill paying, Ally Bank is an online-only financial institution that offers US expats an attractive and robust online banking experience. You can open an online interest Checking Account or an online Savings Account with Ally. Your deposits are insured by the FDIC.

Ally Bank’s Interest Checking Account has a way of making your everyday banking count. It is a safe, low-fee, and low-cost account that comes with no overdraft fees, allows you to deposit checks using your smartphone, and grows your money with interest that is compounded daily. It has no minimum balance requirement, no monthly maintenance fees, and offers you a debit card that can be used for free at over 43,000 Allpoint ATMs in the US. The APY on your checking account deposit is 0.25%, which is better than that of Capital One and Bank of America. 

The Ally Bank Online Savings Account is fully equipped with tools that can help you quickly grow your money and manage your budget. An example of the tools are buckets (like digital envelopes) that help you organise your savings and easily see what you are putting money aside for. However, it charges a 1% transaction fee for currency conversion, debit card payments and ATM withdrawals abroad. Notwithstanding, this online savings account has an APY of 0.50%. In a word, it could serve as a cool investment platform for expats who are learning to grow their money.

The requirements and procedure for opening an account with Ally Bank are simple and similar to that of Capital One. This should be expected because both online-only banks operate under the same US laws and regulations. Nonetheless, we choose to remind you to make available your government-issued valid ID documents with your full name, ID numbers, date of birth, residential address, email, phone number, and other vital personal information on them to begin the application process in person or via its website (using the link for opening a Savings Account or Checking Account).

Charles Schwab Bank

The Schwab Bank High Yield Investor Checking Account, offered by the Charles Schwab Corporation (SCHW), is a good option for expats in the United States. It pays rebates on all ATM charges and processes transactions in foreign currencies at no charge. In terms of its performance in currency conversion, it uses the mid-market exchange rate. It also does not charge service fees and has no minimums. All these together make it worth giving a try if you are an expat seeking a low-cost checking account for international use. Moreover, interest is paid on the account – 0.03% APY. It is also possible to link it to Apple Pay.

To keep this account operational, you must have a US postal address, just as you would with any other bank. In addition, when you create a checking account with Schwab Bank, you must open and connect a Schwab One brokerage account. Why? In that way, you can purchase and sell stocks, bonds, mutual funds, and other long-term assets. This account can serve as an easy-to-use long-term investment platform.

As regards registering an online account with this bank, you need to get the formal documents and required information ready. They are similar to those of Capital One. Next, use this link to create a High Yield Investor Checking account.

NovoBank

Now here is a bank for the entrepreneurial and self-employed expats in the US. Although Novo does not officially recognise itself as a bank but as a FinTech company, it, however, offers deposit account services through Middlesex Federal Savings, an FDIC-insured full-service bank in Massachusetts, United States.

With its free business checking account for your business, you can make free ATM transactions abroad, and enjoy having no minimum balance requirement. It can also be used to budget for taxes or other business expenses. However, for overdraft, you will be charged a fee of US$27.

Novo also offers virtual debit cards that you can use from your account instead of its physical cards. New users of Novo find its virtual card very helpful while waiting for their physical cards to be mailed to them.

Novo has a number of web application integrations. They include the ability to connect your bank account to payment service providers like Stripe and WooCommerce to make it more convenient for your customers to pay for your goods and services as well as make it easier for you to manage receipts. Furthermore, if you have a certain balance, it offers you free trials, credit toward a specific service, and more.

You can use the browser on your personal computer or mobile phone or download its app to create an account with Novo. When you are ready, there are three simple steps involved in creating this account. The first is to tell them about yourself by sharing some of your personal information: a signed valid personal ID card, US mobile phone number, Social Security number, US residential address, and a proof that you are not less than 18 years old). The second is to tell them about your business; they have separate requirements for Sole ProprietorshipsLimited Liability CompaniesPartnerships, and Corporations. While the last step is to get your Novo Account running by depositing money in it. Mind you, you will have to use your business email address to create your Novo account.   

SoFi

SoFi is a financial services company that offers Checking and Savings accounts — a single account (and an optional upgrade from SoFi Money). With your SoFi Checking and Savings account, you save, earn, and spend money conveniently. SoFi boasts of having the best APY for anyone interested in creating an account on its platform, including expats in the US. With 1.25% APY, which is more than 30 times the national average interest rates, SoFi is designed to give you so much in return for your deposit. 

SoFi partners with several banks in the United States, including HSBC Bank and MetaBank, to create innovative products, accounts, and services for its customers. It offers accounts with no overdraft fees (that can be unlocked after US$1,000 of monthly direct deposits), no monthly fees, no minimum balance requirements, fee-free ATM withdrawals within the Allpoint Network of ATMs, two-day-early paycheck according to some terms and conditions, up to 15% cashback for paying with your SoFi debit card at local establishments, and features for automatic savings. Also, you can be reimbursed for the ATM fees you were charged while using your card anywhere in the world.

Apart from serving as a savings and investment platform, it also gives loans, such as travel loans. SoFi loans are fee-free compared to other travel credit cards. It also provides 24/7 customer support via a chatbot. 

You can create an account with SoFi online. The documents and information needed to open a Checking and Savings account with SoFi are similar to that of many other online-only banks for personal accounts.

Citibank (CitiGold)

Citibank is headquartered in New York, the United States, but has over 2,600 branches in more than 15 countries. A secure checking account with Citibank is a good option for expats who frequently travel to different countries and can keep a monthly balance of not less than US$1,500 in their checking accounts.

At Citibank, you do not need to worry about your deposits because they are FDIC insured. The insurance covers up to US$250,000. Meanwhile, you will get a 0.05%–0.25% APY on your Citibank checking account and 0.50% on your savings account with the regular Citi Elevate package.

Furthermore, the bank offers you convenient online banking and bills payment. It also lets you have fee-free access to cash at more than 65,000 ATMs across the US, seamless money transfers, and an option to add your Citi Debit Card to any supported mobile wallet for easy payments. Moreover, from your Citi checking account, you can use Zelle to send and request money directly.

Citibank offers a fast application process for opening a checking account online. The first thing you must do is to choose an account type (Checking or Savings), submit basic information about you, such as your address and social security number, and fund your account. Once your request for a checking account has been granted, you will receive a confirmation via email, and your account will be ready for use. 

However, in terms of fees, Citibank is not the best option, especially if you cannot maintain the minimum required balance for your account package which helps you to avoid some fees. So, it charges a range of fees that are not the cheapest on the market and not so easy to understand. For instance, for its various packages of checking accounts, Citibank charges from US$10-US$30. You can acquaint yourself with the various account packages and fees here.  

Online accounts for Muslims

Though Islamic banks are open to all people regardless of their religion, they comply with Sharia financial rules and hence attract more Muslim customers. For instance, it is forbitten to apply interests on mortgages or loans because money must be treated as a pure exchange by the rules of Islam. Thus, many devout Muslim expats would prefer not to bank with any of the aforementioned banking options in the UK and the USA.

So, the following are some of the best online Islamic banks for expats.

MyAhmed

MyAhmed is a digital bank and money app that was founded by some Muslims to allow all Muslims bank in accordance with their faith. It was launched in the United Kingdom but plans to expand to countries in the European Union and the Middle East and North Africa (MENA). It currently has more than 15,000 users.

Why choose MyAhmed? It is absolutely free of riba (that is, interest). The goal of the bank is to help Muslims spend less while saving more and keeping it Halal (which means permissible). It offers GBP Accounts and Visa Cards as well as EUR Accounts and Visa Cards which are provided by FCA-authorised Contis Financial Services Limited and UAB Finansinės paslaugos “Contis” (authorised by the Bank of Lithuania), respectively.

In addition, expats can use MyAhmed app, which is downloadable from the App Store or Google Play for free, to open a MyAhmed account and card, make payments, save and budget via Savings Pots, calculate yearly Zakat (which means charitable donations), download bank statements, and chat with the support team. However, it is not available to persons below the age of 18. That is why interested users must pass identity checks to have unlimited access to the app and card.  

To create an account with MyAhmed, use its website or download the app and provide the required personal information (name, phone number, email, and address), read and accept the Terms and Conditions, and upload a scan of your ID (passport or driving licence) and selfie photo for verification. That’s all you are required to do; leave the rest for MyAhmed.

Islamic Wallet

Choose Islamic Wallet to enjoy innovative mobile financial services that provide rigorous security, comply with international standards and all regulatory requirements, as well as obey Islamic principles. It is the Shariah-based service of Al-Arafah Islamic Bank Limited, Bangladesh. 

The services of Islamic Wallet include cash-in, cash-out, bill payment, merchant payment, money transfer, mobile recharge, money request, and donation. You can gain access to these services when you download and install its iPhone or Android mobile app available on App Store and Google Play.

PayHalal

PayHalal is a well-developed payment gateway for processing digital transactions in line with the fundamental principles of Islam. It is headquartered and registered in Malaysia. All payments made through this platform are Shariah-compliant and free from riba (interest), gharar (uncertainty), maysir (gambling), and other haram (forbidden practices).

The features of PayHalal payment gateway include online payment processing for Islamic merchants, online payment information storage (encrypted) for Islamic customers, recurring billing, PCI compliance, API tools and developer information to help you customise your payment gateway, and integration with accounting software and other tools.

PayHalal is ideal for everyone who manages Islamic eCommerce and electronic charity sites for Muslims: merchants, billers, charities, and so on. This means that even expats can use this platform to buy and pay without breaking Islamic rules. To create an account with PayHalal, use this link.

Online account for Jews

Similar to Islamic banking, Jewish laws (The Torah and Talmud) do not permit a Jew to be involved in any transaction that charges a fellow Jew interest. Banking, borrowing, and lending are to be interest-free to other Jews only. Below is a good option for Jewish expats.

Isracard

Isracard is the leading credit card company in Israel. It issues Mastercard cards (including Eurocard) and offers attractive loans and credit plans. These include immediate loans, billing layouts, an all-purpose loan, and fixed monthly repayments to its customers.

Through its immediate loan plan, Isracard offers instant online loans of up to 100,000 Israeli new shekels (NIS) with no documents, no guarantor, and no collateral. However, this offer is subject to the company’s approval and non-compliance with the loan repayment may lead to charges of arrears interest and law enforcement proceedings.

Online account for Christians

When it comes to banking and finance, the Jews and Christians share similar beliefs.  Here is an example of a good online payment system for Christian expats.

Cornerstone

Are you a Christian expat in the United States or Canada? Create an account with Cornerstone for a processing solution that is right for your traditional retail, online, home-based, as well as a not-for-profit organisation. This payment system serves leading ministries and businesses without allowing the processing of credit card transactions that are against Biblical principles.

Cornerstone uses its virtual terminal to process both credit card and ACH payments over the internet. It offers one-time recurring payments processing, online sales reporting, flexible automated payment scheduling, and fast customer approvals.

Conclusion

Today, expats can have a great banking experience, thanks to several options for online banking in the US, UK, and many other countries. Moreover, there are options that can allow you to bank in accordance with your religious faith. We discussed the best options in this article. Try them now and enjoy banking every day.