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Planning to move to Europe for work, study or adventure? Perhaps you’re launching a business in France, have a holiday home in Italy or are a digital nomad working while you travel across the country.
In any of these circumstances, a European bank account could be very useful to have. It’ll let you get paid and spend in euros, which are used across the eurozone area. This means no need for currency conversion, so you can manage your money just like a European local.
In this guide, we’ll be focusing on how to open a European bank account online. This could be convenient, especially if you’re still in the UK.
We’ll also show you some of the best EUR accounts, and will look into a bank alternative such as the Wise account which works all over the world.
The short answer to this is yes - it is possible to open a European bank account online. But it depends on the country and the bank, and what type of account you’re trying to open.
Many European banks these days offer an online application process, but some are a little more old-school. You may need to make an appointment to visit a branch in person, to hand in your documents or verify your identity. So, this may require a trip over to your chosen country.
If you want to complete the process fully online, your best bet may be a digital bank which operates throughout Europe.
Yes, it is possible to open a European bank account as a UK citizen. However, some countries and banks restrict access to their accounts to residents only. So you might need to wait until you move to the country to provide proof of address.
There are also special non-resident accounts available at some European banks. These may require minimum deposits and come with restrictions, but they should give you access to at least basic EU banking services.
The first step is to find a bank in your chosen country that accepts applications from non-residents. Alternatively, one which has a specialist non-resident account available.
These can be hard to find, so you’ll need to put in the time to do some research - and perhaps contact a few banks.
If you’re a customer with a bank that has an international presence, you may have better luck. If they operate in the European country you’re moving to, they may be able to help you open up an account there - either online or over the phone.
Major international banks often have an expat division, specially designed for people in your position – for example, HSBC’s expat account.
|📚 Read more: The best UK bank accounts for travelling and travel insurance|
To help you get started, we’ve put together a list of some of the best European bank accounts for foreigners. These are accounts denominated in EUR that are available to UK citizens.
Open an HSBC Currency Account in EUR (one of 14 available currencies) and you can store, send and receive money just like a European local. It doesn’t have a debit card however, so you won’t be able to shop and spend in euros.¹
HSBC also has a Global Money account and debit card, which lets you send and spend in multiple currencies (including EUR) with no HSBC fees. You’ll need to be an existing HSBC customer to apply.
British banking giant Barclays has a Euro Account available. You can open it in the UK, and then send and receive euro payments whenever you please (although fees may apply). You’ll need to be an existing Barclays customer first.
Spanish-owned bank Santander also offers a Euro account. It has branches and ATMs both in the UK and Spain, along with a handful of other countries.
Become a Santander private banking customer (eligibility criteria applies) and you can open a Global Currency Account in euros. This is available as both a current and savings account, comes with a debit card and access to a whole host of private banking services.²
If you need a full-service international banking solution, this could be a good fit.
But, getting a local bank account isn’t the only way to manage your money in Europe.
Consider checking out Wise, a money services provider, and the Wise account which allows you to send, receive, and spend money in multiple currencies, including in British pounds and euros, around the world. What’s more, all currency conversions are automatically done using the fair mid-market exchange rate.
The requirements to open a European bank account vary from bank to bank, and from country to country.
But most banks will require a core set of documents. Here’s what to have ready, just in case:
- Valid ID, such as your UK passport
- Proof of address, such as a recent utility bill or rental contract. Most banks will require this to be an address in a European country, so you might need to wait until you move.
- Residency documents, such as your visa or work permit
- Proof of employment or income
- Proof of enrolment at a university (for a student bank account)
- Documents relating to your business (for business accounts).
If you go for a digital bank, the list of required documents is likely to be much shorter. You may simply need to provide your ID and a selfie photograph.
The time it takes to open a European bank account can vary considerably between banks. If a bank offers an online application process, it should be pretty quick and easy to complete your initial application.
Once you submit an online application for a bank account, the standard process is for the bank to send you a confirmation email. This will explain what will happen next, including how to access internet and mobile banking if available.
If your application is successful, you’ll receive your new debit card through the post along with details such as password, PIN numbers and account details.
If you have any problems, you’ll need to contact the bank’s customer services department to seek help or check on the status of your application.
A bank account isn’t the only way to manage your finances in Europe, or in euros. Many expats, international students and digital nomads use Wise instead.
Wise is a money services provider, offering a multi-currency account, international money transfer services and a debit card. Open a Wise account online and you can manage your money in multiple currencies, including GBP and EUR.
And, you can spend like a local in multiple countries with your Wise card, including in France, Spain, Germany, Italy, Switzerland, Austria, Poland, Greece and all across Europe.
Still have questions about opening your new European bank account? Read on for some frequently asked questions and answers.
While the process for opening a bank account is similar across Europe, a couple of countries make it ever so slightly easier for non-residents and foreigners.
One of these is Spain, where you can get a foreigner identification number (known as an NIE) to get round the requirement to have a local residential address.
Once you’ve applied for your NIE, you should find it pretty straightforward to open your account. Some Spanish banks such as BBVA even offer a basic bank account you can open online.
The following UK banks have a presence in Europe:
If you can navigate the application process and provide the required documents, it could be useful to have a bank account in another country. If you have ties to that country, whether it’s family, work, business or another connection, a local bank account can make it easy to make and receive payments in the local currency.
But a bank account isn’t the only option. You can make multi-currency payments throughout Europe with alternative providers such as Wise.
After reading this, you should have a better grasp on how to open a European bank account online.
However, this is just an overview, as the process, required documents and other terms can vary between banks and across the continent. So, it’s a good idea to do a little research of your own, focusing on banks in the country you’re moving to.
|📚 Read more: Online banks and alternative providers in the UK|
Sources last checked on date: 14-Sep-2023
This publication is provided for general information purposes only and is not intended to cover every aspect of the topics with which it deals. It is not intended to amount to advice on which you should rely. You must obtain professional or specialist advice before taking, or refraining from, any action on the basis of the content in this publication. The information in this publication does not constitute legal, tax or other professional advice from Wise Payments Limited or its affiliates. Prior results do not guarantee a similar outcome. We make no representations, warranties or guarantees, whether express or implied, that the content in the publication is accurate, complete or up to date.
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