The Best Current Accounts for Use Abroad

Last updated on 4th February 2020

Current Accounts Comparison – Neobanks For Abroad:

Virtual Bank Current Accounts Bank Card Sign Up
SEPA – IBAN (DE)
UK account
US account
Transfer fees: 0
(0.5% for international currency conversion)
Account fee: 0
Debit Card, $29.95 / year
Shipping: up to 9 working days
ATM: £200/mo. toll-free; then 2%
Card payments: Free
Currency conversion: 0
(0.5% from £5000/mo spending volume)
Europe (EEA) Visit
Read our Review
Transferwise global current accounts SEPA – IBAN (BE)
UK account
US account
Australian account
New Zealand account
Transfer fees: 0 – EUR0.63 (other fees depending on target currency)
Account fee: 0
Debit Card, For Free
Shipping: UK & Singapore 2-6 working days, up to 2 weeks in Europe, up to 3 weeks to USA
ATM: $250 toll-free, then 2%
Card payments: Free for same curreny (currency conversion fee 0.24% – 3.69%)
Currency conversion: mid market range
Worldwide Visit
Read our Review
Monese current account from UK SEPA – IBAN (GB)
Transfer fees: 0
(0.5% for international currency conversion)
Account fee: 0
Debit Card, For Free
Shipping: up to 5 days in UK, up to 14 working days internationally
ATM: 2% (after free limits)
Card payments: EUR2000 toll-free, then 2%
Foreign currency payments: 2% (EUR2 min.)
Europe (EEA) Visit
Read our Review
Bunq European current account abroad SEPA – IBAN (NL)
Transfer fees: 0
(Transferwise rates for foreign currency / outside SEPA)
Account fee: €7.99
Credit Card (Travel Card) + Debit Card,
€9 per card + €2 to €3 /mo.
Shipping: Around 10 working days
ATM: EUR0.99
Card payments: toll-free
Card Top Ups: 0.5-2.5%
Foreign currency payments: 0
Europe (EEA) Visit
Read our Review
Paysera current account SEPA – IBAN (LT)
Transfer fees: Depending on transfer
Account fee: 0
Debit Card, €3 to €5 per card; €0.45/mo
Shipping: up to 2 months
ATM: EUR1 to EUR1.50 + 1.8%
Card Payments: from 0 to EUR0.10 + 0.7%
Foreign currency payments: EUR0,10 + 1,2%
Europe (EEA) Visit
Read our Review
N26 German current account for Europeans, British and Americans SEPA – IBAN (DE)
Transfer fees: 0
Account fee: 0
Debit Card, For Free
Shipping: 2-3 working days
ATM: 1.7%
Currency Conversion: mid market range
Europe (partially),
UK,
USA
Visit
Read our Review

In the following list you will find at a glance at which Neobank you can get an account, depending on where you are located:

Foreign Current Account For US Americans Abroad:

Foreign Current Account For UK citizens Abroad:

Foreign Current Account For Australians Abroad:

  • Transferwise
  • N26 (as soon as you’ve moved to one of the countries where residents are accepted)

Current Account For Canadians Abroad:

  • Transferwise
  • N26 (as soon as you’ve moves to one of the supported countries)

Current Account For Europeans In General:

For longer stays abroad, it can make sense to get a bank account in the other country. Especially if it isn’t just a holiday, but a temporary residence or secondary residence due to temporary work or studies.

Students who are planning a semester or internship abroad, employees who have to join a work project in another country or people who simply travel a lot can benefit from having a bank account in the other country.

Before the period abroad, there is a lot to organize. The spectrum ranges from booking travel tickets to accommodation to health insurance. In addition you should also take care of a suitable current account for use abroad. Otherwise there can be high fees for collecting money abroad or for cashless payments.

If you are in such a situation and think about getting a local current account for your stay abroad, you should consider a few things when choosing a bank account.

Traditional Local Current Account or Virtual Bank Account

In the first place, you have two options:

  • You can open a local bank account when you are on hand
  • You can immediately open a virtual bank account online

Of course you could possibly get a local bank account for the time of your stay, where you would then pay no or low fees for national transfers and payments. However, to open a traditional bank account in your destination country, you will need to be there first.

You will need to go to a local branch and open the account locally, which takes a certain amount of time. You may not have this time immediately on weekdays because you have to be at work or your studies take up a lot of time. You can of course take this time. But it is much easier to take a modern virtual bank account if the conditions make sense. Whether this is the case, we will discuss in the following.

On this page we will look at the alternative to the real local current account:

Bank accounts with virtual banks (modern FinTechs). Those companies are specialized in banking solutions for travelers, people who stay abroad long term or for international online business owners who need cost-effective cross-border banking solutions.

On this page you find a list of the best financial services for such virtual “local” current accounts for abroad, in your destination.

Benefits Of Virtual Banks

For Whom Are Virtual Banks mainly?

  • Students abroad
  • Interns abroad
  • Project workers abroad
  • Expats
  • Frequent / Long-term travelers

Those smartphone banks without branches have a lot of benefits compared to traditional banks:

Instant Current Account Opening

First of all, it’s super easy to open such a current account as it works all online.

No excessive hidden Fees

Another quite big difference are their fees and money exchange rate models – as those FinTech companies (international virtual banks) are specialized in cheap cross-border transfers without any brazen hidden rates – other than most traditional banks who charge incredible fees for international transfers.

Overall, the fee models of virtual banks are very advantageous, at least below certain thresholds.
(In the context of normal use, not for large sums such as six-figure transfers or so.)

No Credit Check

Virtual banks don’t even perform credit checks. They don’t need to as they are usually not in the loans business.

Debit Cards

Those virtual bank accounts work exactly like a “real” current accounts abroad. So you have an account number for local payments or income and you get a bank card for ATM withdrawals and card payments.

These Are The Best Neobank Current Accounts for Use Abroad – Virtual Banks:

Revolut

RevolutRevolut is a neobank, or virtual bank as we call it, based in the UK. Founded in 2014, the FinTech offers comprehensive banking services in Europe. This includes a IBAN (SEPA) bank account, a UK bank account, a Swiss bank account, free currency exchange between 28 currencies, a free debit card (prepaid) and peer-to-peer transfers within Revolut.

In addition, Revolut offers free stock trading and cryptocurrencies.

The Revolut current account even supports standing orders.

+ Overseas Insurance: Another benefit is the overseas insurance that comes with the premium plan for £6.99/mo. This paid bank account version includes a range of attractive features, the insurance being just one of them. For travelers this plan can be quite appealing as even the toll-free ATM withdrawal is doubled to £400 per month in this plan. Check out all features here.

Revolut currently accepts citizens of the EEA (European Economic Area), USA, Switzerland, Canada, Australia and Singapore.

So if you come from the USA, Canada, Australia or Singapore and have a longer stay in Europe, you will immediately get a European IBAN (SEPA) bank account with debit card for withdrawals and card payments. For stays in the UK you will also receive a British GBP account. Revolut also supports toll-free bank transfers within Switzerland, Poland and Norway in CHF, PLN and NOK currency.

Transferwise

TransferwiseTransferwise is a money transfer service provider founded in 2011. The FinTech specializes in low cost to free international or global bank transfers.

Transferwise’s clients receive bank accounts around the world under the so-called Boderless account. These include a US bank account, a UK bank account, one in Australia, one in Canada, a European IBAN account and even a Swiss account.

So you can easily send or receive payments locally in any of these countries, such as salary or rent payments. In total, over 50 currencies are supported, making it possible to make payments all over the world. Transferwise also offers a Mastercard debit card for ATMs and card payments.

bunq

BunqBunq is a Dutch neobank, or virtual bank, which offers Europeans a Dutch IBAN account and up to 3 account cards. Among them a real MasterCard credit card. Unlike debit cards, the real credit card can be used to block amounts, for example from car rental companies or hotels. However, the amount to be blocked must be available on the card, as it is still a prepaid card.

Bunq only accepts customers from Europe, but the Mastercard can be used all over the world. Therefore the Bunq account or Bunq Travel Card is a good option, especially as a second card, if you are from Europe and go abroad.

Monese

MoneseMonese is a UK virtual bank founded in 2015, which also only accepts European customers. However, you can also get a EUR and GBP account for cheap or free transfers within Europe in the 2 supported currencies by instant registration. The account is accompanied by a debit card. Also, it supports direct debit and recurring payments, e.g. rent etc.

What is especially cool about Monese is that they are the only neobank not to require a proof of address. So you can even get the account and card as a digital nomad with no permanent residence.

Monese is therefore suitable for British people who are going abroad within Europe and for Europeans who will be spending some time in the UK.

N26

N26N26 is a German neobank where customers from Europe including UK and Switzerland as well as US Americans (US citizens) receive a German iBAN account. N26 also offers a Mastercard that works all over the world, for withdrawals in foreign currencies as well as for payments abroad. The card is not a credit card, so no amounts can be blocked by car rentals etc. It only works for normal direct payments.

So if you’re from the US coming to Europe or the other way round N26 is a suitable banking solution with a lot of benefits.

PaySera

PaySera PaySera is a virtual bank that enables cross-border banking in the modern Internet world. The company enables international payments and transfers for online business. It also offers its own payment gateway for online shops.

EUR transfers are free for private customers. International transfers in other currencies are quick, easy and much cheaper than with traditional banks. PaySera supports 30 currencies that can be exchanged at favorable exchange rates.

Again, only EEA residents are accepted and you can get an IBAN account in Lithuania. There is also a debit card to the account, but delivery can take up to 14 days.

The PaySera current account is suitable for Europeans who are going abroad for a longer period of time.

Tips On Money Handling Abroad:

Register with a virtual Bank in good Time

so the card can arrive before you leave. The delivery times vary depending on the provider, so you have to take this time into account if you get such a virtual bank account before you leave.

Pay in local Currency

With virtual banks you can usually hold several currencies in your currency account. It is recommended to always make card payments (or payments in general) with the local currency to save exchange rate fees.

Have Cash

It is always a good idea to carry cash with you as a backup. In an emergency, cash just always works.

Have 2 Cards

You can pay everything with your virtual banks account’s debit card, except in case a “real” credit card is needed. This is always the case when a sum is only to be blocked but not debited directly. For example, in the case of car rentals or at some hotels. With your debit card you can only make payments that are debited immediately.

Information about Card Blocking always at Hand

If you lose your bank card or someone steals your wallet, you should be able to block your card immediately. Always keep this information in a different location than your debit card and make sure you have it with you.

Tips On Traditional Local Current Accounts Abroad:

In case you decide for a “real” bank account with a local Bank or in case you decide for any other traditional bank that advertises bank accounts for travelers, consider the following:

Avoid the Cost Trap

If you have the wrong current account for a longer period of time, you could incur enormous costs.

An example: With the credit card of Deutsche Bank, customers pay 2.5% of the respective sum for withdrawals, but always at least €5.75. For withdrawals outside the EU, a further 1.75% and at least €1.50 are added for a foreign currency. Paying can also be expensive. Only within the euro zone do bank customers not have to pay any fees.

In other countries, on the other hand, many institutions charge a so-called foreign assignment fee. At Deutsche Bank, this amounts to 1.75% of turnover and at least €1.50 per payment transaction. It is easy to understand that these fees can add up to considerable expenses over several months.

Comparing those cost is important as it can save you a lot of money. If you haven’t checked those fees and rates at your signature bank yet, you should.

With a current account change a considerable saving potential can often be realized, the best virtual banks have low to no fees for the use of their bank cards or money transfers and exchanges. With some services, customers can even use their credit card to withdraw cash free of charge from almost any machine in the world.

Prefer a Toll Free Current Account

In addition to these special fees for foreign assignments, other costs are of interest. A good bank is characterized by the fact that it waives the monthly account maintenance fees for students. There are three models: Some only offer a free current account to students up to a certain age.

For others, the account is free if the holder receives a certain minimum amount of money each month, such as a salary above a certain limit. The third option is best for students: unconditionally free student current account offers. This is another aspect where customers can save a lot of money, especially with branch banks where they often pay high double-digit amounts a year.

Free Credit Card and other Services

Especially abroad, a credit card often makes sense. Customers can use it to collect money from numerous ATMs and pay in many shops. Outside the euro zone, a VISA or MasterCard credit card is even indispensable.

Many hotel operators and car rental companies, for example, require a credit card for security reasons. That’s why people should consider this topic when choosing a current account.

The first step is to compare credit cards and find out whether the banks charge an annual basic fee. Second, before issuing cards, banks check their creditworthiness. They should also offer students a credit card and not insist on a certain minimum income. Thirdly, there are different types of credit cards. All transactions can be settled once a month, but this usually requires a high credit rating (Charge Card).

With other credit cards, the bank debits the transactions directly from the current account associated with the credit card (debit card). There are also prepaid credit cards that require customers to top up their credit in advance. Since the banks do not take any risks with this form, even people with very poor creditworthiness receive these cards, for example with a negative credit score. Those affected should concentrate on this variant when doing their research.

FAQ On Current Accounts Abroad With Neobanks (Virtual Banks)

What’s the Benefit of Neobanks compared to local Banks?

There are couple of benefits, such as the instant registration online, super simple and intuitive mobile apps, low bank transfer fees, also international ones, currency conversions at interbank exchange rates and no hidden conversion top ups.

What Kind of Services do Neobanks support?

Those banking service FinTechs offer bank accounts with real IBAN numbers (or real account numbers in the case of US or UK current account), toll-free SEPA transfers in EURO countries, cheap SWIFT transfers (cheaper than with traditional banks), Bank cards for ATM withdrawals and card payments.

How secure are Neobanks?

Customer deposits are usually insured up to a certain level, as is the case with normal banks. FinTechs are regulated and licensed by finance authorities i.e. that the company management is being monitored. But you should read the details at the respective virtual bank to be sure.

Can you get a Neobank Current Account with a bad Credit Score?

One of the good things about banking service FinTechs is that they don’t have to check credit scores as they aren’t involved in loan business. Customers can only spend what they have deposited, so the FinTechs don’t carry any financial risk. This is the reason why a sudden bankruptcy of such companies is rather unlikely as their business model is quite solid. Exception: N26.

Can you Overdraft such Current Accounts?

You can’t get an overdraft on these currency accounts as the companies aren’t involved in credit business. There is one exception to this – N26. They do offer overdraft limits (which is why they also have to perform credit checks).


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